We saw Robert Glasper and Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def, but he’s way beyond that now) at The Blue Note on Saturday, October 5. Last we year we saw them at the later show, also in October. Both shows spun me around, but much differently. This year, my husband bought tickets for the eight o’clock show and wanted us to get there at six o’clock to get good seats. And we did.

Below is a picture Manny took of me after an hour of waiting. When DJ Jali Sundance appeared on stage and began setting up–I recall hearing a digable planets song–he asked that no one take photos or videos.

That's me at the Blue Note, 05/10/19, Saturday, waiting for Robert Glasper and Yasiin Bey
Me at The Blue Note waiting for Robert Glasper and Yasiin Bey, 05/10/19

To me, keeping the cell phone off and locked is critical for any live performance. For these musicians–DJ Jali Sundance, Chris Dave on drums, Derrick Hodge on bass, led by Robert Glasper on piano, and special guest, Yasiin Bey–the samples, effects, mics, dynamics, etc. are finely tuned for improvisation. Trying to record the deeply layered sounds from your seat results in disrespect and distortion. Especially because they respond to the other in the moment. A version of Glasper’s residency shows up in his new mixtape, Fck Yo Feelings.

Each set offers a unique experience. What you hear, ideally, includes the vibe in the room, in other words, us, the audience. Yasiin Bey addressed this last year, and requested that we, “Put your robots away.” Many did not.

This year, he asked us to focus–stay alert and participate in the miracle of the here and now. Then, becoming playful, he said, they didn’t want to “enforce” the rule. In whole-hearted agreement, I perhaps misread the mood. Because surprise! He said, “All right, let’s get it over with! One minute.” The women near me shouted, “Thank you, thank you!” Robert Glasper struck a Megan Rapinoe pose. Yasiin took off his hoodie and slowly turned.

After that? Yasiin started one of his hits and transformed it. A huge admirer of his word play and repetition, I recall variations on, “All that’s real isn’t true. And, all that’s true isn’t real.” He elided words, whistled, mimicked birds, and danced. The song “Treal,” included on Robert Glasper’s mixtape, rose and dipped, intertwined with new lines and rhymes. He pronounced “Treal” (true and real) to rhyme with kill. “The one thing death can’t kill–life!” Life, death, kill, trill! Yet he also spelled it clearly, T-R-E-A-L.

The lyrics, the different meanings, and layered rhymes and rhythms resonated inside me like iambs with a spondee on the fifth (Shakespeare), but more so! I cannot convey the shifts and sheets of jazz converging with cosmic intonations, except that it grew ever more ecstatic.

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