Don Was, president of Blue Note records no less, was just one of the Roundhouse crowd to brave the monsoon-like conditions for the jazz night of the month-long iTunes festival last night.

Live webcast the show was the full multimedia experience. So by the time you’ve read this you’ve probably seen the show, downloaded half the music, tweeted, and much more besides by now: the ultimate 21st century jazz experience, which of course is what real jazz people want unless you really like to be left behind. But let’s not leave all the fun to the marketing people who much more prefer headphones and ye olde ringtones anyway, eh?

José James, whose possibly career defining monstrously on-target new record No Beginning, No End will be released in early-2013 already has word of mouth on its side with the killer track from the album, ‘Trouble’, picked up as iTunes free single of the week, so the fit here was good. With drum compadre broken beats meister Richard Spaven, a hot horn section of trumpeter Takuya Kuroda and Van Morrison’s trombone player Alistair White plus electric bassists Pino Palladino and, later, Trio of Oz’s Solomon Dorsey (also on strong backing vocals) and pianist Kris Bowers playing piano and Rhodes, JJ settled in well.  Perhaps following the mighty ‘Trouble’ with Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ was not the best choice  but his wonderfully creamy baritone voice joins the dots between jazz and soul with an ear to hip hop and acid jazz like no other, and we saw this best on the extended treatment of Freestyle Fellowship’s ‘Park Bench People’, which goes back to The Dreamer days, particularly the bit when José killed the bass and faced off Spaven for a vocal/drums lock-down. Little quotes from Gil Scott-Heron crept in, and all in all this was an excellent showing full of fire and hope.

Glasper on next was half talk show host, half comic in the breaks between songs with some crazy hand gestures and little touches that worked to relax everyone, not that anyone seemed stressed!

With a parade of guests including notably Herbie Hancock guitarist Lionel Loueke playing the choice new cut from his fine album Heritage, the Glasper-penned ‘Tribal Dance’, for the first time on a UK stage, and his old Houston friend Alan Hampton was also on the bill singing a Derrick Hodge-written song. Rapper MC Fontaine was the hip hop diversion before the build-up to Bilal (the latter joking he was filling in for Bon Jovi) and MF Doom at the end, but mention should be made of Lalah Hathaway whose reprise of ‘Cherish The Day’, the Sade song that is one of the stand-outs on Glasper’s album Black Radio, as it was a wonderful interpretation. Her vocal linking to a strong polyphonically-treated sax break from Casey Benjamin was one of the little moments that counted. 

Glasper has had a great year, and it will be interesting to follow where he goes next. More producing might be one way, lots of great new records with or without singers as well for sure. Everyone wants that signature sound of his, the little licks and Glasperised Herbie-isms taking bebop to hip hop like no other.

Stephen Graham

Robert Glasper pictured top