Going into the second year of a global pandemic, lovers of live music around the globe are dealing with serious withdrawal. Despite the fact that 2020 produced some incredible recorded music that helped us persevere through various lockdowns, there is no real substitute for the vibrant energy of a live performance. Fortunately, the super group R+R=NOW has delivered a taste of what once was with a new release simply titled R+R=NOW Live. With a lineup featuring some of the most prominent artists in Black American Music like Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Derrick Hodge, Taylor McFerrin, and Justin Tyson, the new recording offers a glimpse into a magical night back in 2018 at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City where each of the artists was firing on all cylinders.
The live set features versions of tracks from the group’s debut album Collagically Speaking such as “Change of Tone,” “Resting Warrior,” as well as an astounding rendition of Kendrick Lamar’s “How Much a Dollar Cost,” which was co-written by Martin. While each artist possesses scorching individual talent that shows up throughout the album, the group also delivers moments of powerful melancholy throughout, such as on the opener “Respond.”
Aside from Glasper’s amusing MC work and Martin’s vocoder phrases, the only other moment that features vocals comes on “Needed You Still,” where Omari Hardwick seizes the microphone for some affecting, deliberately phrased lyrical contributions. The chemistry between Hardwick and the instrumentalists is palpable, with interplay that embodies the intersectional history of Black music.
R+R=NOW Live is a voyage into a time that now seems distant, when people could gather to witness the majesty of artists presenting their craft in real time. The exceptional musicality of the group makes for a proper depiction of an experience that now feels nostalgic. We hope that with each passing day we inch closer to being able to celebrate music in this way again, but until then, recordings like this one from R+R=NOW will have to suffice.
R+R=NOW Live is available now via Blue Note Records and can be streamed or downloaded here.
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