Keyboardist Robert Glasper may have the most extensive cellphone contacts of any musician. He's worked with everyone from Kendrick Lamar and Wayne Shorter to Christina Aguilera and H.E.R.
Imagine Glasper recruiting for his overdue return to Minneapolis this weekend.
Stokley Williams lives in the Twin Cities. He's on Glasper's 2012 Grammy-winning record, "Black Radio." He'll get a call.
When Glasper phoned a couple of weeks ago from Miami, he was about to co-host the annual Blue Note at Sea jazz cruise in the Caribbean. Singer José James, a Minneapolis native scheduled for the cruise, will get an invite. Glasper wrote material for James' 2012 album.
How about former Glasper bandmate Taylor McFerrin, who went to high school in the Twin Cities? Minneapolis drummer extraordinaire Dave King of the Bad Plus is always willing to sit in if he's around. And Ice Cube, the rapper-turned-actor, will be performing in the area the same weekend.
That's the thing with Glasper — there are no musical boundaries, no rehearsals necessary. He just plays with whoever shows up, whether he invited them or not.
"Jump up, go with the moment, jam out. See what happens," said Glasper, who last performed in Minneapolis in 2015 at Walker Art Center with jazz keyboardist Jason Moran.
For his three-night, six-show engagement at the Dakota this weekend, Glasper will be accompanied by drummer Justin Tyson, bassist Burniss Travis and turntablist Jahi Sundance — and whoever else shows up.
Glasper identifies with jazz, R&B and hip-hop, but he dwells in the spaces in between.
"It came from my mom," he said this month. "My mom was a musical mutt. During the week she was playing in all the nightclubs — R&B clubs, jazz clubs. She even sang in an actual country barn. And she did Broadway plays. Then on Sunday morning, she was the minister of music at church. That's what I grew up with. There was no boundaries. From minute to minute, it was something different even with what my mom played on the record player. I have musical A-D-D."
Glasper's latest album, last year's "Black Radio III," is nominated for Grammys for best R&B album and best engineered album (for, among others, engineer Qmillion, aka as Keith Lewis when he worked with Jesse Johnson in Minneapolis in the 1980s).
The third installment of "Black Radio" was not planned. Glasper ran into H.E.R. at the premiere for the 2020 movie "The Photograph." They both contributed music to the movie's soundtrack.
"She turned around: 'Robert, what are you doing next?' We went in the studio that night [and cut the song "Better Than I Imagined"] and we got a Grammy for it for best R&B song. The song wasn't connected to anything. So I decided to go ahead and do 'Black Radio III.' "
During the pandemic when major studios were inaccessible, Glasper took things into his own hands in his Los Angeles home.
"I feel like a musical first responder. Let me give the fans what they've been asking for for eight years," said Glasper of the gap since "Black Radio 2." "My landlord moved out of the apartment in the back of my yard and Terrace Martin and I turned it into a studio."
Working remotely, he recruited the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Killer Mike and Esperanza Spalding to contribute.
Glasper's concept for the "Black Radio" series was twofold: 1) to be a melting pot of Black musical styles that he'd envision hearing on a radio station and 2) to create timeless music, like items in a black box that survives an airplane crash.
"Great music never dies," he proclaimed.
Songs on each installment in Glasper's "Black Radio" trilogy have led to an R&B Grammy, plus he won another for a soundtrack to a Miles Davis documentary. Those trophies have found separate homes — with his dad, aunt, manager and under his own bed.
On Glasper's schedule for this year are soundtracks for Peacock's "Best Man" series and the second season of HBO's "Winning Time" about the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers; a new album by Dinner Party (his supergroup with saxophonist Kamasi Washington and multi-instrumentalist Terrace Martin), and an overdue album he recorded with Herbie Hancock.
High school with Beyoncé
Glasper, 44, grew up in Houston, attending Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (Beyoncé was a freshman there when he was a senior) and then New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. He started gigging with jazz combos led by Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove and Terence Blanchard and also plugged into the neo-soul and hip-hop scene thanks to classmate Bilal.
Since 2004, Glasper has issued 11 albums under his own name and worked in such all-star groups as R+R=Now and Dinner Party as well as creating soundtracks for the documentaries "Miles Ahead" and "The Apollo" and the TV series "Run the World" and "Winning Time." He also has produced recordings for Common, Ledisi, Leon Bridges and others.
The pianist has been so ubiquitous but undefinable that he sells a popular T-shirt emblazoned with "Who the [expletive] is Robert Glasper?"
"I like to hear other people's answers. That question is wide open."
The best answer might be a genre unto himself.
Glasper demonstrates his skills, openness and contacts every fall at his monthlong, nightly "Robtober" residency at the Blue Note club in New York City that celebrated its fourth year last fall.
"A lot of times, the special guests, I really don't know they're coming until the day of or minutes before I go on. People pop up in the dressing room," he said. "It keeps me on my toes."
Glasper never got to work with Prince. He wanted to interpret the Purple One's "Sign o' the Times" for his 2015 album "Covered," with renditions of songs by Joni Mitchell, Radiohead, John Legend and others. Prince vetoed the cover.
"Prince was epitome of a walking middle finger," said Glasper. "He was everything he wanted to be. I totally admire that."
When: 6:30 & 9 p.m. Fri.-Sun.
Where: The Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.
Tickets: $55-$70, dakotacooks.com