Dream team band R+R=NOW has released “Change Of Tone,” the enticing lead track from their forthcoming debut album Collagically Speaking, which will be released June 15 on Blue Note Records. “Change Of Tone,” which is available today to stream or download, moves with ease between its various sections and styles, highlighting each of this remarkable collective’s members along with vocal contributions by Goapele.
In an era when every headline carries some new horror or fresh worry, we need music that can clap back with immediacy, skill, and heart. We need a band so at home in its skin that it can play without ego and lead with love—artists whose very existence attests to resilience and hope. We need R+R=NOW, a supergroup assembled by Robert Glasper but functionally egalitarian, in no small part because its members are visionary players, composers, and producers on their own: Glasper on keys, Terrace Martin on synthesizer and vocoder, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah on trumpet, Derrick Hodge on bass, Taylor McFerrin on synth and beatbox, and newcomer Justin Tyson on drums. This genre-mashing outfit moves as one and, as their name reveals, with great purpose.
“R+R stands for ‘Reflect’ and ‘Respond’,” says Glasper. The idea came to him via Nina Simone while he was coproducing Nina Revisited, a companion album to the 2015 film What Happened, Miss Simone? Facing backlash for her politics, Simone was asked, more or less, why she didn't just shut up and sing. Her answer: “an artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” Glasper adds: “When you reflect what's going on in your time and respond to that, you can't not be relevant. So ‘R’ plus ‘R’equals ‘NOW’.”
In that spirit, Collagically Speaking isn't some wonky thesis on the state of the nation. It’s a raw document that seamlessly adheres neo-soul to future-funk, West Coast jazz of the moment to astral electronica, instrumental hip-hop to musique concrète, avant-garde to classical—these are single-take songs, written live in the room, that go wherever this formidable crew's mood goes. Guest voices get caught in that mix as well: actors Omari Hardwick (Power) and Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine,Expendables); actress Amanda Seales (Insecure); MCs Stalley and yasiin bey (f.k.a. Mos Def); and singers Amber Navran (of Moonchild) and Goapele. The themes that bind it all together are both spoken and inferred: romantic love, universal love, systemic bigotry, the women's movement, quiet power, wild creativity, personal loss and growth.
The origin of the group came in 2017 when Glasper was asked to put together an all-star line-up for a SXSW show at Empire Control Room. With his history—producing for everyone from Common to Herbie Hancock to Seun Kuti, reinterpreting Miles Davis and Simone, exploding jazz boundaries with his Black Radio series—the Houston-born auteur could be choosy. Martin, of L.A., was best-known as a chief architect of Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly. NOLA native Scott turned heads with his socially charged 2017 Centennial trilogy, a comprehensive celebration of Africa's sonic diaspora. Philly's Hodge has scored for Spike Lee, music-directed for Maxwell, and won GRAMMYs alongside Glasper as the bassist on the Black Radio albums. McFerrin, born in Brooklyn, is Bobby McFerrin's oldest son and rolls with Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder camp. Grand Rapids native Tyson plays with Esperanza Spalding and became the drummer in the Robert Glasper Experiment. Their diverse wealth of experience melded with profound ease.
“There was no rehearsal and no plan. Just a quick soundcheck,” says Glasper of R+R=NOW's Austin debut. And yet, “We were vibing, listening to each other, and coming up with stuff on the spot that was so dope, when it was time to figure out what my next album for Blue Note would be, I was like, ‘We should do this.’ I needed to take that same band and method to the studio.”
So they came together for four days in Hollywood's Henson Recording Studio, setting aside any expectation of what would come next. Fittingly, it was NBA All-Star Weekend, but despite being a veritable dream team themselves, Martin says, “everybody understood that the biggest ego in the room was the music. In that type of project, with that type of band, it's easy for everyone to try and be jazz Olympic hero. The fact that we respected the air between us is something I think people will feel and see as an example: to display patience, to love each other, to move as one.”
R+R=NOW will play U.S. album release shows in Atlanta (Variety Playhouse, June 15), Washington DC (DC Jazz Fest, June 16), and Brooklyn (Celebrate Brooklyn, June 22) before launching an extensive European summer tour. The band will also perform a series of shows in Japan, and return to the US for additional dates in the late-Summer and Fall including an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival on August 3. Further dates will be announced shortly.
May 13 – St. Lucia Jazz Festival – Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
June 15 – Variety Playhouse – Atlanta, GA
June 16 – DC Jazz Fest – Washington DC
June 22 – Celebrate Brooklyn – Brooklyn, NY
June 28 – Leopolis Jazz Festival – Lviv, Ukraine
June 30 – JazzTM – Timisoara, Romania
July 1 – La Defense – Paris, France
July 4 – Vienne Jazz Festival – Vienne, France
July 5 – Warsaw Summer Jazz Days – Warsaw, Poland
July 6 – Istanbul Jazz Festival – Istanbul, Turkey
July 7 – Locus Festival – Locorotondo, Italy
July 8 – Montreux Jazz Festival – Montreux, Switzerland
July 11 – Vicar Street – Dublin, Ireland
July 13 – North Sea Jazz Festival – Rotterdam, Netherlands
July 14 – Dour Festival – Dour, Belgium
July 15 – Citadel Festival – London, UK
July 16 – Shephed’s Bush Empire – London, UK
July 17 – Nice Jazz Festival – Nice, France
July 18 – Mode Jazz Festival – Molde, Norway
July 20 – Pori Jazz Festival – Pori, Finland
July 22 – Black Sea Jazz Festival – Batumi, Georgia
July 24 – Jazz Festival at Barts – Barcalona, Spain
July 26 – Heineken Jazzaldia – San Sebastian, Spain
August 3 – Newport Jazz Festival – Newport, RI
August 28-29 – Billboard Live – Tokyo, Japan
August 30 – Billboard live – Osaka, Japan
September 1 – Tokyo Jazz Festival – Tokyo, Japan
January 26-February 2, 2019 – Blue Note at Sea