Photo: Mathieu Bitton
Blue Note Jazz Festival 2022 Highlights: Robert Glasper, Snoop Dogg, Chaka Khan & More
Artist-in-residence Robert Glasper brought an eclectic group of musicians, artists, and performers to Napa Valley for the three-day Blue Note Jazz Festival. GRAMMY recaps the highlights, including Dave Chappelle's and Kamasi Washington's appearances.
"This is the kind of s— I like being a part of," Snoop Dogg told the crowd on the second night of the Blue Note Jazz Festival in California's Napa Valley. "This s— is fly."
Over the July 29-31 weekend, artist-in-residence Robert Glasper and Blue Note Records left an undeniable impression upon wine country. Held at Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, the intimate festival for hardcore audiophiles attracted a notable grown-and-sexy audience, which included the likes of Oakland collective SOL Development, actor Anthony Anderson, hip-hop icon Nas, and others.
One of the more diverse happenings to hit Napa Valley, Blue Note Jazz featured performances by Chaka Khan, Maxwell, Snoop Dogg, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and many more. The atmosphere was open, positive, and noticeably laid back.
Backstage on Friday saw casual conversations between Terrace Martin, D Smoke and Madlib, while Dwyane Wade, festival host Dave Chappelle, and "Black-ish" star Miles Brown showed off their best moves on a makeshift basketball hoop. Originally scheduled as a two-day event, the late addition of the Friday lineup made attendance sparse. Still, it didn’t stop musicians from making surprise cameos during each other’s sets, sharing their mutual admiration and giving love to the crowd.
Chaka Khan had already breezed through classics like "Tell Me Something Good," "Sweet Thing," and "I’m Every Woman" during her Friday headlining set. But when she got into the Prince-crafted "I Feel For You," with everyone already bouncing to the beat, Kamasi Washington returned to the stage after his dynamic performance to hit a saxophone solo hard. "The inaugural festival brought together great cultural icons both through their love of outstanding music and the camaraderie of their artistic community," said Alex Kurland, Director of Programming at the Blue Note, via press release.
Looking as gorgeous as ever, Chaka Khan’s songs were repeated by the crowd, who fully engaged with the sonics and her bubbly on-stage presence. Khan’s performance was buoyed by her band and backup vocalists, who were on fire from start to finish. It was a party from that point on, so when Dinner Party — the jazz/hip-hop hybrid supergroup started by Glasper, Martin, Washington, and GRAMMY-winning producer 9th Wonder — took the stage, it served as the cherry on top of a truly excellent evening.
Yasiin bey and Talib Kweli arrived ahead of their Saturday performance as Black Star and joined in on Dinner Party's tribute to Herbie Hancock. They were later joined by Chappelle and Katt Williams, who passed legalized joints. Almost immediately, a signature scent permeated through the crowd, signaling the start of the main event: Snoop Dogg. Chappelle called the Long Beach legend a "miracle of culture" for his transition from genuine gangster to a pop culture icon, which led to Snoop digging into his bag of hits, including "Next Episode," "Gin and Juice," and "Beautiful."
Although Erykah Badu did not perform as scheduled on Saturday, the multi-stage event still was jam-packed with an electrifying mix of hip-hop, jazz, funk, and comedy. Phony Ppl, the Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn-based progressive band, gave a hallmark performance despite a small audience. Lead vocalist Elbee Thrie would jump off stage a few times to engage with the cooler-than-cool listeners, ramping them up to dance and groove to songs like "Before You Get A Boyfriend" and "Why iii Love The Moon." When they got into their Megan Thee Stallion-featured single, "Fkn Around," everyone there was moving in unison.
Thundercat and Flying Lotus were also in rare form, as the two put on a virtuosic display. "I used to be a raging alcoholic," Thundercat told the crowd, celebrating his third year of sobriety, "as we sit here, surrounded by Napa Valley wine." The Bass Gawd went into "I Love Louis Cole" from 2020’s It Is What It Is, displaying his prodigal playing with a mouth-water six-string bass solo. FlyLo was in his bag, performing a collection of mixes and crowd favorites, which had set the stage for the full excursion into rap ahead of its 50th anniversary.
As the sun set, Chappelle kicked off the first-ever live audience recording of his award-winning podcast, "The Midnight Miracle" — the second season presented by Luminary and co-hosted by yasiin bey and Talib Kweli. "We are all witnesses to history," said Chappelle. "This is the best that America has to offer in music. What a festival. What a weekend."
Most people on the grounds grew up with Black Star's 1998 debut album on constant rotation. As "Astronomy (8th Light)," "Brown Skin Lady," and "Definition" played under the night’s sky, it was a curfew-breaking opportunity to see two masters of ceremony get busy on the microphone. By the affair's end, as the two got into newer songs from No Fear of Time and solo tracks like "Umi Says" and "Get By," the Saturday night, anything-goes spectacle became a who’s who of luminaries on stage. BJ the Chicago Kid, James Poyser, J. Ivy, Christian Scott (Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah), Derrick Hodge, Keyon Harrold, and Isaiah Sharkey all took part in the adulation of a job well done.
The 6,000-strong crowd was eager to see Maxwell share his baby-making vibes on Sunday. Dressed impeccably, the Brooklyn good guy dedicated his headlining set to all the lovers in the audience. His connection with the crowd was beautiful, and as we all enjoyed being in his Urban Hang Suite, songs such as "Pretty Wings" and "Stop the World" brought the Blue Note Napa Valley festival to a sweet close.
Jazz In The Present Tense
This year has been a stellar year for jazz music. The boundaries of jazz have been pushed ever since cornetist Charles Joseph "Buddy" Bolden laid down his first improvisational lick back in the late 1800s. So, who is continuing this trend today in the second decade of the new millennium?
Houston-born pianist Robert Glasper's star continued to rise this year with the release of Black Radio. The album made an indelible impression on young people (and the not so young) around the world. Over the years, Glasper has collaborated with the likes of Bilal, Terence Blanchard, Q-Tip, Meshell Ndegeocello, Jaleel Shaw, and Kanye West.
Best New Artist GRAMMY winner Esperanza Spalding continued to cast her spell on unsuspecting music fans this year with the release of Radio Music Society. Whether it is straight-ahead jazz or classical- and R&B-infused songs, Spalding delivered again in 2012.
Vijay Iyer's Accelerando, Christian Scott's Christian aTunde Adjuah, Tia Fuller's Angelic Warrior, Orrin Evans' Flip The Script, Euge Groove's House Of Groove, and Gregory Porter's Be Good are just a sample of the different styles and passions that made listening to jazz exciting for me this year.
On the digital home front, the venerable jazz label Blue Note Records broke new ground with an amazing Spotify app. Imagine being able to access the entire Blue Note catalog dating back to 1939. You can explore the label's music either through an interactive timeline or via an immersive experience within specific styles, artists, instruments and more. The coolest part of the app is called Blue Break Beats, where the app identifies the original source of all those samples you've heard but couldn't quite place.
On a somber note, the jazz community has lost legends and talented musicians such as Von Freeman, Bob French, David S. Ware, Byard Lancaster, Shimrit Shoshan, and Pete La Roca. Los Angeles-born pianist Austin Peralta, 22, died during the week of Thanksgiving. He was considered by many to be a talent beyond the "prodigy" label that was bestowed on him years ago.
But, to end the year in review on a high note, the 55th GRAMMY Awards will be the perfect place to see the very best in music — especially in jazz. I cannot wait to be in Los Angeles in February 2013 so I can share all of the excitement and surprises with everyone.
Stay for the ride — the best is yet to come.
Photo: Leon Bennett/Getty Images
Jazz Alive! Inside Robert Glasper's October Residency At The Blue Note
Seven lineups of today's jazz talent to be on display in an NYC residency like no other
On Aug. 14 the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City announced contemporary jazz exemplar Robert Glasper will host an exceptional residency in October, bringing together seven combinations of today's outstanding jazz talents for 48 shows on 24 nights.
GRAMMY winners sitting in on the multiple configurations include Chris Dave and Derrick Hodge, who've played and won with Glasper's group the Robert Glasper Experiment, as well as Bilal, Christian McBride and Nicholas Payton. Exclusive details are at Billboard, and previous nominees in the lineups include Terrace Martin and Christian Scott. This ambitious residency not only shows Glasper's devotion to the genre, but reminds us jazz is very much alive!
"I came to New York tracking other people's footsteps, and now it's me and the musicians that I came up with who are making footprints for the next generation to follow," said Glasper. "New York is the reason everything popped off for me. It's the only place in the world with this heavy traffic of quintessential, true jazz and quintessential, true hip-hop, the only place I could have met these people and made this music … I'm taking over the Blue Note to tell that story, my music milestones, in the place it all began."
Just last year Glasper won his first Emmy Award, along with Common and Karriem Riggins, in Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for "Letter To The Free" from the Netflix documentary 13th. His most recent GRAMMY win was for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media for the movie Miles Ahead at the 59th GRAMMY Awards. He has said he wants to win a GRAMMY in every genre. With soundtrack composing in his wide range as well, he seeks to join Common in Emmy-GRAMMY-Oscar territory someday.
Regardless of awards, jazz's rewards are legendary, spontaneous and rooted in U.S. cultural history, so these fresh fruits in October should be a welcome addition to anyone's musical diet.
Photo: Mancy Gant
Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Watch Robert Glasper Discuss Peculiar Fruits He Has Received Around The World
In this episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas, watch keyboardist, producer and composer extraordinaire Robert Glasper reveal what's on his backstage rider — which often involves fruits of unknown origin and toxicity
Robert Glasper has seen some strange things on backstage fruit platters. Depending on where he is in the world, he can either find something conventional or bafflingly exotic.
"It's like, 'I'm supposed to eat this?' And they're like, 'Yeah, you do this!'" he says in the below video, pantomiming a chef performing some obscure preparation ritual.
Sometimes, this goes as far as removing a potentially lethal poison — which gives the keyboardist, producer and composer pause. "I don't want to eat anything where if you don't do it the right way, you could die," the four-time GRAMMY winner quips.
In this episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas, Glasper expounds on more than just strange botanical poisons. He compares his rider today with the chips and water he received in the past, and expresses his love for a well-composed paella.
Before we find out if Glasper will win another GRAMMY at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards for Best Progressive R&B Album (for Dinner Party: Dessert), check out the video above.
Keep checking back for more episodes of Herbal Tea & White Sofas, where musicians reveal which goodies are in the green rooms of the world.
Photo: Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com
Robert Glasper Experiment In The GRAMMY Winner's Circle
(The Recording Academy asked a number of 55th GRAMMY Awards winners to share their thoughts on winning, performing and simply experiencing the excitement of the telecast.)
(Comprised of jazz pianist Robert Glasper, bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Chris Dave, and multi-instrumentalist Casey Benjamin, the Robert Glasper Experiment earned a GRAMMY for Best R&B Album for their debut effort, 2012's Black Radio, which peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200. Glasper was previously nominated in 2009 as a solo artist for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for "All Matter.")