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Despite past cancellations, Glasper says he loves St. Louis

Despite past cancellations, Glasper says he loves St. Louis

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Robert Glasper wants to get something off his chest regarding St. Louis.

The jazz artist wants to address back-to-back no-shows, cancellations that have perhaps labeled him an unreliable booking in St. Louis.

"I don't go to St. Louis a lot, but I love St. Louis," the pianist says.

Glasper says a February 2009 cancellation was necessary because his wife was pregnant and he didn't want to risk missing his child's birth.

"Everybody can understand that," he says.

The show was rescheduled for October 2009. Then, he got a call to tour with R&B star Maxwell for a year. Looking at his finances and weighing a big tour against a few club dates, he went with Maxwell.

"I didn't have a lot of work at that point," Glasper says. "To go on tour with Maxwell — I can't turn that down."

He'll surely make up for any sore feelings when the Robert Glasper Trio plays Jazz at the Bistro Friday and Saturday.

"Even with my trio, I think we separate ourselves from most trios. We play other songs from other genres, some hip-hop, some rock, some straight-ahead jazz, lots of different things, a gumbo if you will," he says of the trio that includes St. Louis drummer Mark Colenburg.

He's playing with a trio although his new album, "Black Radio," is his most guest-laden, featuring collaborations with Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Musiq Soulchild, Lalah Hathaway, Ledisi, Bilal, Stokely Williams of Mint Condition, Lupe Fiasco, Meshell Ndegeocello, King and Chrisette Michele.

"This record was supposed to be six guests and the rest of it instrumental, but I kept adding guests," he says. "I thought about who would mix well with my band and the vibe I was trying to do."

Glasper says label Blue Note Records didn't have Def Jam Records money to hire guest artists for his project, so he relied heavily on favors.

"Most of the people did it as a favor or we swapped, where I do something on their record," he says. "Some just did it for free as a friendly gesture."

"Black Radio" includes a few inspired cover choices, including David Bowie's "Letter to Hermione" featuring Bilal, and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

He and rapper Phonte originally played around with "Smells Like Teen Spirit" at a sound check, and Glasper kept it around.

"It's one of those rock tunes everybody knows, a really beautiful tune," he says. "And I did it a little slower and less hectic so you can hear the lyrics."

On "Black Radio," Glasper says he wants to attract people who may turn away from jazz.

"Jazz is so under the radar people don't know it exists," he says. "And if they know, they think of black-and-white photos of jazz cats. No one knows that the Robert Glaspers and Marcus Stricklands are around. There are young people playing this music, and it doesn't sound like Charlie Parker."

Robert Glasper Trio

When 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday • Where Jazz at the Bistro, 3536 Washington Avenue • How much $25 • More info

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