Robert Glasper thrives on performing

The award-winning composer and musician returns with live shows at City Winery.
Common, left, and Robert Glasper pose in the press room with the award for outstanding original music and lyrics for "13th Song Title: Letter to the Free" during night one of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Credit: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Credit: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Common, left, and Robert Glasper pose in the press room with the award for outstanding original music and lyrics for "13th Song Title: Letter to the Free" during night one of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

The stress from the coronavirus pandemic last year caused Robert Glasper to not touch his piano for weeks at a time after he sheltered in place at home. He and his musical peers couldn’t tour, so the accomplished pianist and producer tried sending many of them tracks, hoping that they would be inspired enough to collaborate on music together.

Glasper was trying to do whatever he could to keep the people around him encouraged. “It was hard because you’re dealing with a bunch of artists who were depressed, not feeling creative, or in the right headspace when COVID hit,” he said. “We thrive off of performing, writing and doing music because that’s how we live and breathe.”

Now, the carefree, multi-talented musician is slowly getting back into his element. Glasper is headlining a three-night residency at City Winery Atlanta from September 22-24. Tickets range from $45 to $65.

Performing two shows each night, Glasper’s trilogy of intimate show dates are coming fresh off his annual run playing at the Kennedy Center. “I feel like it’s gonna be a family reunion,” the Houston native said. “Something always pops up whenever I play in Atlanta.”

The leader of the Grammy-winning outfit The Robert Glasper Experiment will be joined at City Winery Atlanta by drummer Marcus Gilmore, bassist Burniss Travis, and his resident DJ Jahi Sundance. He’s concentrating on keeping each show raw and intuitive: letting whatever vibe that comes from the crowd determine each individual run-of-show.

“I don’t be knowing what I’m gonna play honestly until I feel the audience,” Glasper, 43, said. “That way, everyone that sees me will have their own personal show. That’s the beauty of going to one of my shows.”

Robert Glasper will be in Atlanta for a three-night stand at City Winery Sept. 22-24.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Biz 3

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Credit: Photo courtesy of Biz 3

“It’s just about people and being in front of the audience,” the keyboardist adds. “All musicians and artists appreciate even more what the audience does for us. It’s a give and take. That makes the show, vibes, and spirit of it that much better.”

Earning his fourth Grammy earlier this year for “Better Than I Imagined,” his collaboration with H.E.R. and Meshell Ndegeocello, Glasper performed a few livestream sets but still longed to be in front of his fans. He normally performs “about 200 shows a year,” so he’s planning to use his time in Atlanta as “a dress rehearsal” for his month-long, 66-show residency at the Blue Note in New York from October 1 to November 7.

“It’s getting me more acclimated to the stage and being out. It feels so good because I miss it,” Glasper said. “It’s a crazy time and people are still skeptical and low-key risking their lives to come out and enjoy music. When people come out to see artists, it gives us our mojo back, makes us wanna write songs. It’s better across the board for all people.”

The time away from actively touring pivoted Glasper to further explore scoring for film and television. The Emmy winner completed music for “The Photograph” just before the pandemic and worked with bassist and bandmate Derrick Hodge on the soundtrack for Starz’s “Run the World.” Glasper put his touch on the Dave Chappelle documentary that premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and featured singer Lalah Hathaway on “Show Me Your Soul” from “Mr. Soul!,” a documentary profiling the first Black variety show.

Along with producer and musician Terrace Martin, Glasper is composing original music for the reboot of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” for Peacock TV. The instrumentalist also portrayed jazz pianist Art Tatum on National Geographic’s “Genius: Aretha” miniseries.

Also one-third of the trio August Greene with Common and Karriem Riggins, Glasper treats scoring the same as his concerts; he abandons sticking to a formula to prepare and create. Instead, he likes to concentrate primarily on getting on the same page with the filmmaker.

“I watch as much as I can to fully digest the vibe, and do what comes to my head first,” he said. “I do things off the cuff and record as I go. You have to really try to make people see and feel what the director wants people to see or feel.”

Now based in Los Angeles, Glasper recently opened a recording studio with Martin, his bandmate in the supergroups R+R = Now and Dinner Party. He’s gearing up to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his “Black Radio” album with its third installment, “Black Radio 3,” set for release in early 2022.

The Robert Glasper Experiment, "Black Radio": They say you can't really criticize something if you don't have a solution to fix it. Well, with "Black Radio," the jazz pianist offered his take on how the often stagnant medium could be improved — and it was dreamy.

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

Glasper, who co-hosted weekly YouTube series “Black Radio Broadcast” in 2020, never intended on making “Black Radio” into a trilogy of albums, but appreciates using the moment to further his artistic evolution and creative autonomy.

“I’ve been learning so much more than I did before because I have more at my disposal,” Glasper said. “I can do whatever I want whenever I want without worrying about the hourly rate or rushing to get stuff done.”

Readjusting to touring again along with making “Black Radio 3” has been a “different, harder experience” for Glasper. It’s made him that much more determined to keep his passion for music and staying connected with fellow performers and musicians.

“I couldn’t get everybody in the studio like I normally do,” he said, “so I had to send files, write songs for people not in the same room, and pray that they actually make it to a studio, and record. We made it through, and I’m glad that we were able to get it done.”


Robert Glasper

7 and 10 p.m. Sept. 22-24. $45-$65. City Winery, 650 North Ave. NE, Ponce City Market, Atlanta. 404-946-3791,