Emerging from the darkness of Koko’s majesty, broke Mark Colenburg’s relentlessly fizzing drums around which Casey Benjamin’s saxophone lines knotted themselves in increasingly dexterous patterns. Robert Glasper’s oblique piano responses tripped through Derrick Hodge’s rampant bass line with an avant-bop urgency that seemed to teeter on the precipice of control. Appreciative arms and triumphant cheers were raised a few minutes later when the break-neck swing imploded and settled into a hip hop groove that would last the rest of the night.
The evening’s material was predominantly from the band’s last album Art Science built of grooving vibes with occasional glimpses of Glasper’s jazz heritage breaking through. The latest incarnation of the Robert Glasper Experiment is an all-star collective of musicians assuredly delivering hook-laden anthems for the feet and soul. Benjamin’s snowy beard, crimson dread locks and wide-brimmed hat made an enigmatic centre-piece, whose vocoder vocals funked easily over soulful beats.
A handful of technical lapses were papered over by Glasper’s impromptu and mischievous musings with the crowd. Initially these were embraced, but extended biographies of each band member and their discographies whilst technicians feverishly scurried around the stage caused some restless stirrings amongst the audience. When Glasper’s hands re-connected with the layers of synthesisers surrounding him all was forgiven and heads bobbed in appreciative resolution.
The evening had begun with an intriguing but unexplained video extract of Bruce Lee contemplating upon martial arts as a means of expressing oneself honestly. If there had been some mis-footings earlier in the evening, a surprise collaboration with black-belt Lianne La Havas delivered the ultimate hip-hop karate chop.