Robert Hurst

Robert Hurst

 Detroit, Michigan, USA
BandJazzR&B

Robert Hurst is a 7x Grammy & 4X Emmy Winning Bassist. Hurst has received RIAA certified Gold (5) and Platinum (3) albums. He was a member of the NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Saturday Night Live, CBS This Morning, ABC Good Morning America, ABC Live: Regis and Kelly Show and many others.

Robert Hurst is an Associate Professor of Music at The University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance and Director of Chamber Jazz Ensembles.

Band Press

Robert Hurst discusses new album ahead of free concert this week – AnnArbor.com

Accomplished jazz musician, composer and educator Robert Hurst recently released a new album called "BOB a palindrome."

On this album, the multiple Grammy Award winner and University of Michigan faculty member showcases both bass playing and also his skills as a bandleader, leading an impressive jazz ensemble through 10 original compositions. AllMusic Guide calls the recording "modern jazz at its finest."

The Ann Arbor area gets a rare chance to hear Hurst in his home environment on Friday—and it's free. He will play as part of the WEMU- Sesi Motors 501 Jazz Series at Rush Street, 314 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor, from 5-7 p.m. Friday, May 3. His band for the show is set to include Andrew Bishop, sax; Rick Roe, piano; Nate Winn, drums; and Naval Singh, tabla.

Hurst agreed to answer a few questions via email:





The material on "BOB a palindrome" was originally recorded in 2001. Did it get any release at that time? What led to this release, at this time?

I'm ready for people to hear it now. The record has never been released. I now have the time to dedicate to this project; I certainly didn't want to put it out and have it to just go away. I feel it's an important work; one I'm very proud of.

The heart of the album is the three-part "Middle Passage Suite." I take it the title is a reference to the slave trade? Was there a particular impetus for you to address that subject in music?

The title is in reference to the Slave Trade. I think the magnitude of the American Slave trade gets overlooked or taken for granted. I think its important to let people know the journey that Black Folks have experienced. And, what a truly amazing triumph over adversity we have accomplished during our stay in America.

You mention in the liner notes that Duke Ellington has been an inspiration, especially in regards to tailoring his compositions to the members of his band. Do you approach the writing process any differently when you know exactly who is going to be playing the piece?

I don't necessarily compose for specific projects, outside of film scoring. My writing is more of a continuum. After finishing certain pieces, I think, wow Marcus Belgrave on flugelhorn or Branford on soprano sax—and then I save it for them. I don't really sit down and write for any specific musicians; at some point the music tells you what it needs!

The band on this album includes big names like Branford Marsalis, Marcus Belgrave and Jeff "Tain" Watts. When you're leading a band that includes several people who are themselves bandleaders, is that either more or less of a challenge?

Maybe that's true with some leaders, but that's not the case with these artists. The entire cast of leading musicians including Robert Glasper, Bennie Maupin and Adam Rudolf are like Family to me. They brought fire and far exceeded my expectations. I am truly grateful to them for so brilliantly interpreting my music.

What projects are you working on now, and what comes next?

I have many varied projects in the works within the University of Michigan setting, and those including another Unrehurst Vol. 3, the release of our debut trio band D3 featuring Geri Allen and Karriem Riggins, and of course the phone rings requesting my services and I enjoy that too. These recent unexpected opportunities which lead to my seventh and eighth Grammy noted performances in 2013 with Sir Paul McCartney and Chris Botti. I'm really looking forward to what's ahead!

Final Sesi Motors/WEMU 5:01 Show For This Season with Robert Hurst – WEMU 89.1

WEMU 89.1 FM and Sesi Motors present the 5:01 First Friday Series dedicated to the memory of the late Dr. Jan Winkelman.

Robert Hurst plays @ Rush Street, Friday, May 3rd 5:01 pm to 7 pm (
World renowned jazz bassist, educator at the University of Michigan, former band member for The TonightShow, multiple Grammy Award winner, and Detroit native Robert Hurst performs at the final Sesi Motors/WEMU 5:01 show for this season. The show is at Rush Street, 314 S. Main Street in Ann Arbor, Friday May 3rd 5-7 p.m. Admission is free.

Hurst has played with many contemporary jazz greats, including Wynton & Branford Marsalis, drummers Tony Williams and Jeff “Tain” Watts, vocalists Dianne Reeves and Diana Krall, saxophonist Charles Lloyd, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, keyboardists Robert Glasper, Geri Allen and Mulgrew Miller, guitarists Kevin Eubanks and Russell Malone, the SF Jazz Collective, and Paul McCartney. He was heard originally in the Blue Note all-star group of young musicians Out Of The Blue.

His new CD for his BeBob label “BoB - A Palindrome” is receiving across the board critical acclaim. It is his sixth recording as a leader.

Here is a recent annarbor.com review…

http://www.annarbor.com/entertainment/robert-hurst-q-and-a-bob-a-palindrome/

Hurst will be joined by keyboardist Rick Roe, drummer Nate Winn, Naval Singh on tabla, and some surprise special guests.

This show concludes the Sesi Motors/WEMU 501 series for 2012-2013. We will be back in September 2013.

Open to all ages!

Note: Rush Street does not offer a menu but we will have snacks available during this free jazz show, and the bar will be open!

See you at the 5:01!

Bob: A Palindrome – allmusic.com

Robert "Bob" Hurst's 2013 album Bob: A Palindrome follows up the bassist's 2010 studio album Bob Ya Head. Recorded in 2001, the album's release was delayed by 9/11, as well as Hurst's own busy career as a highly sought-after sideman and professor of music at the University of Michigan. Joining Hurst here are such longtime associates as saxophonist Branford Marsalis, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, flutist and bass clarinetist Bennie Maupin, pianist Robert Glasper, and percussionist Adam Rudolph. With all the songs composed and arranged by Hurst, including the epic mid-album Duke Ellington-style three-part "Middle Passage Suite," Bob: A Palindrome is a superb showcase for Hurst's improvisational skill, songwriting ability, and talent for assembling an all-star band. This is urbane, highly creative, and straight-ahead modern jazz at its finest.

Dave Sumner’s Jazz Picks – emusic.com

Robert Hurst, Bob a Palindrome: A monster of an album in terms of musicianship and the strength of the compositions building upon one another as the entirety of the album’s scope comes into view. Straight-ahead jazz, but the nature of it changes, as does the era from which it’s straight-ahead sound is influenced by. That makes sense, actually, as these compositions were written by Hurst over a period of time spanning decades. A serious all-star line-up of With Robert Hurst on bass, Branford Marsalis on tenor and soprano sax, Robert Glasper on piano and keys, Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, Adam Rudolph on percussion, Bernie Maupin on alto flute, bass clarinet & saxes, and Marcus Belgrave on trumpet. The 3-part “Middle Passage Suite” is worth the price alone, recalling that potent mix of spiritual Jazz and avant-garde of the Coltrane period. Highly Recommended.

Robert Hurst: ‘BoB: A Palindrome’ – The Jazz Line

Bassist Robert Hurst‘s sixth album, Bob: A Palindrome is proof that good music never gets old. The album, released March 12, was originally recorded in 2001; but a number of events, including his recording and touring schedule, pushed the album back longer than planned. Hurst, who hails from Detroit, is one of the most in-demand bassists in the country, and for good reason.
His virtuoso skills on the bass is unparalleled and he continues to elevate his craft as a musician and composer. He has toured with a who’s who in Jazz, including Diana Krall, Chris Botti, Sir Paul McCartney, and Wynton Marsalis. Hurst has also released a number of exceptional records within the last 10 years including Unrehurst, Volume 1 & 2 as well as his 2010 record Bob Ya Head, which is an invigorating mixture of colorful, Afro-centric musical pieces that showcase his eclectic musicianship.
He continues his creative streak on Bob: A Palindrome, in which he pays tribute to a number of icons and influences in his life. He is joined by a stellar list of jazz all stars including saxophonist Branford Marsalis, drummer Jeff ‘Tain” Watts, percussionist Adam Rudolph, pianist Robert Glasper, clarinetist Bennie Maupin, and trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. The band gels incredibly well together and are totally in sync, which may be due to the deep musical history that he shares with his band mates. Belgrave, for instance, served as his mentor and also hired Hurst to play in his band when he was just 15. On the album, Hurst honors another mentor of his, drummer Lawrence Williams with the light, upbeat waltz “3 for Lawrence.”
The boisterous “Big Queen” is a dedication to his wife and features a fierce solo by Marsalis while “Little Queen,” a song written for his daughter, features a more subtle, light-tempered melody.
Midway through the album, Hurst takes a theme-centered approach on the mini suite ”Middle Passage,” which meditates on the origins of African American history and was inspired by Charles Johnson‘s novel of the same name. Hurst gives a chilling opening solo on Part 3 of the suite and a number of energetic, improvisational solos by Watts and Marsalis close out the finale. Another dedication is the elegant, mid-tempo homage “Tigers on Venus,” a tribute to the historic victories of athletes Tiger Woods and Venus Williams.
Enlightening, technically innovative, and soulful is how I would describe Bob: A Palindrome. Hurst gives listeners a deeper look into his personal life through his music and continues to elevate the standard of creative expression in jazz.

Capsule reviews of Detroit Music Factory recordings and more – The Detroit Free Press

Robert Hurst, "Bob: A Palindrome" (Bebob): Recorded in 2001 when the Detroit-bred bassist was living in Los Angeles, "Bob: A Palindrome" is exceptional. Hurst, who now lives in metro Detroit and teaches at the University of Michigan, assembled a starry cast -- Branford Marsalis, Bennie Maupin, Marcus Belgrave, Robert Glasper, Jeff Watts, Adam Rudolph -- for a program of his own meaty compositions. This is the most rewarding kind of post-bop: melodic and structurally intriguing material, personalized improvisations and an aesthetic both rooted and exploratory. The 21-minute "Middle Passage Suite" offers a cathartic journey into black history, and everyone is firing on all cylinders, including Belgrave, the Detroit trumpet hero and Hurst's mentor.

Discs: How to Destroy Angels, Handel, Robert Hurst, Philip Glass – The Buffalo News - GUSTO

Jazz

Robert Hurst

Bob: A Palindrome

[Bebob]

3½ stars

If the first thing you did with this CD is look at the personnel, you’re likely to be moved to mutter a thoroughly involuntary “wow.” Hurst was one of the Marsalis family’s bass playing retainers when Branford Marsalis brought him aboard in the first all-star jazz band of Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” That doesn’t quite prepare you for the high-level assemblage on this Hurst disc: Marsalis on tenor and soprano saxophones; Bennie Maupin on alto flute, bass clarinet and saxophones; Robert Glasper on piano; Marcus Belgrave on trumpet; Adam Rudolph on percussion and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums.

That’s all fine and dandy but it doesn’t begin to tell you what the piece de resistance of the disc is, which is the gorgeous and sometimes wild contrapuntal playing by the horns on several of the pieces on the disc. It’s a modern, post-Coltrane update of the original contrapuntal music of Marsalis’ native New Orleans.

There is truly spectacular playing all through this disc – by Marsalis, Maupin, pianist Robert Glasper and, as expected, the great drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts.

There are two secrets here: The music was originally recorded in 2001 when such an assemblage was still possible. And second, as Hurst says, “master drummer and composer Tony Williams once told me that he felt the best bands were always multigenerational. Robert Glasper represents the younger (hip-hop) generation on this project. I love his no genre lines approach to playing. Whether we are swingin’, funkin’ or playing ballads, Glasper always brings the fire. No matter what direction the music goes, Robert can always find a soulful musical solution.”

– Jeff Simon

FLANAGAN BYARD, HURST AND MEDESKI HAVE NEW ALBUMS ON DECK – Charles L. Latimer

Robert Hurst Bob a palindrome (Bebob Music)
“Bob a palindrome” is jazz bassist Robert Hurst’s sixth studio recording and his best yet. That’s a big deal. In 2010, Hurst released two masterworks “Bob Ya Head” and “Unrehursted Volume 2”. Honestly, no one was banking on another major work from Hurst for a while. Those excellent contributions to the jazz cannon gave Hurst immunity. But Hurst isn’t the brand of jazz musician who depends on his laurels.

The core of Hurst’s band on “Bob a palindrome” is the pianist Robert Glasper and the drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts who have proven over time to be Hurst’s kindred comrades. There’re a handful of special guests here trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and saxophonists Branford Marsalis and Bennie Maupin. It’s impossible to do anything short of astounding with that kind of firepower. Hurst understands that and he got a lot of mileage from the band. Hurst isn’t just the best jazz bassist on earth right now.

Hurst is also a killer composer. Something he’s never received credit for. On this album more than his others, Hurst’s composing is the focal point. All 10 cuts here are award worthy, but the best is the three suite movement “Middle Passage Suite: Part I For Those of Us Who Made It, Part II For Those of Us Who Didn’t Make it, Part III For Those of Us Still Here. The last movement is 12 plus minutes of prime choice swing.

Robert Hurst Bob a Palindrome – @CriticalJazz

If you are a regular member of the touring bands for both Diana Krall and Chris Botti then you know the musical gods are smiling down on you. Now...Hurst smiles at us with his sixth release and arguably his finest work to date as a leader in Bob a palindrome which is due to drop on March 12th, 2013.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Hurst is joined by Branford Marsalis, Jeff "Tain" Watts and Robert Glasper among others? This cat is definitely the real deal as both bassist and composer with his most recent gig as a key player in Sir Paul McCartney's Grammy winning Kisses on the Bottom. Similar to a plethora of artists, Hurst has discovered he is a tremendous cultural by product of his own experience and this is the inspiration he chooses to draw from on this somewhat cathartic release.

Robert Hurst plays with an elegant soul and the precision of surgeon. Some of the highlights, as they are all most too numerous to mention include "Big Queen" and "Little Queen" which pay respect to both his wife and daughter. We move from the more reflective to the adrenalin rush of "Icabad" which is essentially a funked out throw down with no head. Take a look at the title of the tune again and tell me jazz musicians don't have a sense of humor. One of the more creative moments of Bob a palindrome would be "Middle Passage Suite" a keenly melodic three part meditative suite on black history inspired by the novel of the same name by Charles Johnson. "Tigers on Venus" is another tune of significance acknowledging a day when both Tiger Woods and Venus Williams shared major triumph which is certainly a momentous occasion in sports as well as a significant moment for African Americans. Sadly the Woods fall from grace takes a little luster off a stellar tune on mere reflection but throwing stones in glass houses is never a good idea. Williams has had her share of controversy so the irony of the underlying back story certainly should not go unnoticed.

The musical pedigree of Hurst is long and distinguished performing with such luminaries as Wynton Marsalis, Jeff "Tain" Watts as well as part of the 1985 young lions from the Blue Note label which featured Kenny Garrett and Ralph Peterson.

Robert Hurst may be the most underrated bassist working today however his incredible contributions as both a leader and a sideman have all led him to an incredibly entertaining, thought provoking if not enlightening release. At times the Marsalis influence is undeniable but Hurst has the talent to push through with an impeccable performance of compositions that are intriguing and highly original.

4 out of 5 stars!

Tracks: 3 For Lawrence; Picked From Nick; Big Queen; Tigers on Venus; Middle Passage: Suites I-III; Little Queen; Indiscreet in da Street; Jamming - a.k.a Ichabad.

Personnel: Robert Hurst: acoustic bass; Branford Marsalis: tenor & soprano saxophones; Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums; Marcus Belgrave: trumpet & flugelhorn; Adam Rudolph: percussion; Bennie Maupin: alto flue, bass clarinet, tenor & soprano saxophones; Robert Glasper: acoustic piano & rhodes.

Robert Hurst - BoB, A Palindrome (2013) – Somethingelsereviews.com

Around the same time Robert Hurst recorded the trio document Unrehurst, Vol. 1 with Robert Glasper (piano) and Damion Reid (drums), the bassist/composer and bandleader had convened a sort of summit meeting of some of the best and brightest jazz musicians from two or three generations for another kind of recording session. In addition to Glasper, Hurst called in a couple of old bandmates from Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis’ bands, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (drums) and Branford himself (saxes). Marcus Belgrave, who had appeared on prior Hurst records, again lent his trumpet and flugelhorn, Adam Rudolph contributed percussion and the great Bennie Maupin brought his alto flute, bass clarinet, tenor & soprano saxophones. The sessions were taped in October of 2001, but Hurst got too busy to finish the process and see it through release. Next week, this memento from that special meeting will finally see its day in the sun as BoB, A Palindrome.

Palindrome confirms what’s already apparent from Unrehurst, both volumes, and the contemporary experimental Bob Ya Head, which is that Hurst has a reach and musical conception that can match those of his more celebrated mentors and peers. The discovery of this record really has more to do with him putting together a program of varied songs and arrangements that capitalizes on the array of talent at his disposal.

With this seven-piece band, Hurst is able to split the difference between a proficient small ensemble and a fuller, formal large band. The layered, intelligent arrangements worthy of a jazz orchestra manifests itself on the bouncy, waltzing “3 For Lawrence,” the sophisticated harmonic development of the smooth “Little Queen,” and especially the three part, “Middle Passage Suite,” which is somewhat remindful of Duke Ellington, George Russell and Gil Evans in its grandeur and imagination. Other times, the band sounds smaller: “Picked From Nick,” with Glasper on Rhodes, has that early 70s CTI groove, while “Big Queen” is a samba but with interesting chord progressions not often heard in Brazilian music.

The performances, as one can imagine from this bunch, are consistently exemplary. The budding talent Glasper was already displaying much maturity with a crisp piano solo on “Tigers On Venus” and a Rhodes solo on “Little Queen” that’s cool, reserved, and lets the notes resonate like an experienced pro. The under noticed Belgrave puts in some articulate solos especially on flugelhorn in several spots, while Maupin and Marsalis are often explosive. The peak moment comes during Part III of the “Middle Passage Suite” when the two are engaged in a soprano/tenor epic sax battle pushed along by Watts’ unbelievable polyrhythms. This album ends on a relaxed note, with the head-less funk vamp “Jamming – A.K.A. Ichabad” where everyone seems to be improvising at once but in an orderly fashion.

To top it all off, that sessions were superbly recorded and mixed. Hurst’s bass is prominent but never overbearing, and when the horns combine, they make a sweet, unified sound. It’s a surprise that Hurst didn’t prepare these recordings for release much sooner, even accounting for the fact that today’s jazz superstar Glasper was unknown back then, but the effort and time put into post-production made what was probably already a fine record even better, and well worth the wait.

Jazz bassist Robert Hurst releases new album, now calling Ann Arbor home (Sept 2010) – AnnArbor.com

Robert Hurst’s life has come full circle in more ways than one.

Newly relocated to to Ann Arbor, the acclaimed jazz bassist and composer has returned to southeast Michigan, near where he was raised in the city of Detroit.

But the relocation goes deeper than that. As an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Music, Hurst is also completing a jazz arc that started when he was the young child of jazz-loving parents.

“I guess you could say that this is a lifelong endeavor, in terms of being a product of this environment here in Michigan” he said. “My parents weren’t musicians, but my father was lifelong friends with people like (jazz pianist and educator) Barry Harris.

“So jazz — and the idea of teaching jazz — is something that’s very natural to me.”

Hurst, 46, who just released a new record, “Bob Ya Head,” on his own BeBob Records label and is currently on tour in South America, arrives in Ann Arbor with about as impressive resume as one can achieve in jazz.

He got his professional start in Detroit trumpeter Marcus Belgrave’s rhythm section, where, following a 4 a.m. jam session with A-list drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, he hooked up with trumpeter Terence Blanchard and, ultimately, came to the attention of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who brought him on tour.

The stint with Wynton Marsalis led to a gig in saxophonist Branford Marsalis’ band, and, when the saxophonist became the bandleader for the “Tonight Show” Orchestra, Hurst began a six-year job both playing and arranging for what is arguably the most recognizable jazz band on the planet.

Not bad for a bass player who, at the time, was barely out of his teens. But, as it has throughout his career, the Motor City and it’s amazing pedigree of jazz musicians, has both kept Hurst humble and given him the drive to thrive in a difficult business.

“It was always like,’ I’m from Detroit,’” he said. “Same place as (legendary bassists) Paul Chambers and James Jamerson.

“I was like, ‘I can do this.’”

Hurst stayed with the “Tonight Show” Band until 1999, seeing it through the transition in leadership from Marsalis to guitarist Kevin Eubanks. Meanwhile, he was gigging in clubs and immersing himself in a West Coast jazz scene that was totally different from the ones he emerged from in Detroit and New York.

“I wasn’t crazy about the club scene,” he said. “But I really got a chance to do a lot of playing for the sake of playing and a lot of the things I picked up from other guys out there found their way onto the new record — things like using elements of African percussion and electronic music.”

As is the case with most bassists, the bulk of Hurst’s work comes as a sideman. As a first-call bassist, he’s performed with such artists as Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Tony Williams, Mulgrew Miller and Diana Krall.

And, of course, there’s also the matter of the four Grammy Award sitting on his mantle.

“I’ve just been so fortunate to have had so many great opportunities to play with so many amazing people,” he said. “Good things have come from those chances and I’m very grateful.”

And now, with a new gig on the U-M Music School faculty, Hurst said he’s in a unique position to pass some of his good fortune forward.

I think something that is very undervalued — even in classroom — is the question of how you actually make a living when you leave college,” he said. “I think that’s my strong point as far as what I bring to campus.

“These kids might be the greatest players ever, but they can still look to experienced, working musicians like myself and realize that we can help them pay the bills.”

Of course that’s something that Hurst realized for himself as a kid. And now, the student has become the master.

“I know that my exposure to people like Barry Harris all happened for a reason,” he said. “What I’m doing now just reinforces the fact that we’re all part of a longer tradition and we have to do what we can to keep it moving forward.”

Will Stewart is a free-lance writer who covers music for AnnArbor.com.

Two Helpings of Hurst: Bob Ya Head and Unrehurst Volume 2 (May 2011) – Jazz Times

Robert Hurst has been an in-demand bassist for more than a quarter century, yet his leader dates have been sporadic and scant. Hurst came to prominence in the mid 1980s, first as a member of Out Of The Blue and then as a key figure in bands lead by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and saxophonist Branford Marsalis, but he significantly broadened his experiences when he joined Branford in the The Tonight Show band. When the saxophonist departed, Hurst stayed on with the new leader—guitarist Kevin Eubanks—for another six years, and racked up an impressive list of studio credits that covered soundtracks—Men In Black (1997) and Ocean's Eleven (2001)—and other high profile work.

Though Hurst left The Tonight Show at the turn of the century, he's kept busy in the ensuing years. His résumé since that time has featured work with a diverse crowd of A-listers that includes everybody from singers Diana Krall and Bette Midler to reeds player Charles Lloyd and trumpeter Chris Botti. All of this activity, coupled with live recording and his role in education—as an Associate Professor of Music at The University of Michigan—explains why his pre-2011 leader dates can be counted on one hand...with a few fingers left over.

Hurst's role as a leader may have taken a back seat to his other work in the past, but those days seem to be done. Hurst has simultaneously released two discs on his own Bebob label, and each one shows off a different side of his musical persona.

Robert Hurst
Bob Ya Head
Bebob Records
2011

Bob Ya Head is a highly produced outing that speaks to Hurst's studio savvy and deals with musical areas on the fringe of jazz. Hurst touches on tribal tropicalia with a two horn front line ("Forty Four"), appealing Afro-pop with children's voices cheerily chanting away ("Optimism"), Afro-soul with a sleek sound ("Comes You Comes Love"), and a variety of other far-reaching material.

Vocal samples of Malcolm X ("X Static") and, both President Bush and President Obama ("Unintellectual Property") are slipped into the album, and Hurst touches on a variety of rhythmic elements to flesh out some of his music. Aspects of electronica and drum 'n' bass are mixed into funky foundations on several pieces, and vocal beatboxing ("Oral Roberto") even plays a part.

While a good amount of the material doesn't let the instrumentalists roam free, both horn players earn their stripes when they get some space ("Forty Four" and "Alice And John") and Hurst lets it all hang out on a few occasions ("Obama Victory Dance" and the arco introduction to "Comes You Comes Love"). While some might criticize the bassist for trying to cover too much ground on this one album, few can argue that Hurst knows his way around a studio, and the strongest material ("Optimism" and "Alice And John") also makes an argument for Hurst's prowess as a producer and composer.

Robert Hurst
Unrehurst Volume 2
Bebob Records
2011

Bob Ya Head is a work befitting somebody with great experience in the studio scene, but the in-the-moment magic created on a bandstand can be found on Unrehurst Volume 2. This trio album comes nine years after the first volume and presents a set of music that crackles with energy and power. It was recorded live—without rehearsals—at New York City's Smoke and, as the saying goes, where there's smoke, there's fire.

The five lengthy performances on this disc are constantly remolded and born anew as Hurst, pianist Robert Glasper and drummer Chris Dave collectively cut and slice through the material with the skill of surgeons, the reflexes and stamina of professional athletes, and the minds of mad geniuses. One listen to the opening track—Cole Porter's "I Love You"—is enough to truly understand what this trio can do. Unaccompanied solos, overlapping and interlocking motifs, cross rhythms that rub against one another, paranoid piano lines and agitated elements of all kinds are mixed together into a seventeen minute tour-de-force display of trio mastery.

The band continues on their journey with a Glasper-penned jazz waltz with an attractive piano introduction. Dave delivers some terrific drum work, shifting constantly from high to low energy episodes over his trio mates, but he gets even more space to shine on his introduction to "Bob's 5/4 Tune." Dave's drum work starts things off, but Hurst's thick, ringing bass tones take over. While the rhythmic direction comes off like a blurry, lopsided waltz at first, the band settles into a comfortable feel in five and they continue with their provocative rhythmic pursuits. "Monk's Dream" features Glasper's rippling right hand runs, authentic Thelonious Monk-isms and fine solo trading between Glasper and Dave, and Hurst's own "Bob's Blues" brings the album to a close.

Of the two albums, this setting seems to suit Robert Hurst best, and certainly warrants the idea of a volume 3. But both helpings of Hurst are nutrient-rich programs that provide a well-rounded view of his immense musical gifts.


Finely Tuned (Aug 28, 2011) – Detroit Free Press

Bassist Bob Hurst was only 15 when he started playing gigs around Detroit with his mentor, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. The teen got schooled by his elders nightly, and not just those on the bandstand. It takes a village to raise a jazz musician, and one reason why Detroit has produced so many front-rank players is that the villagers are as hip as they come.


The cognoscenti always reminded Hurst that he was already a part of a Detroit jazz bass tradition that included such heroes as Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Doug Watkins and a gaggle of others.

“Everyone let me know this was a bass town,” Hurst remembered. “They’d say to me over and over, ‘Paul Chambers, Ron Carter and Doug Watkins.’" He repeats the names, slapping his right hand into his left on the beat. "‘Paul Chambers. Ron Carter. Doug Watkins.’ That’s all I heard growing up. It was this Mt. Rushmore of people you needed to know.”

More than 30 years later, Hurst, who will perform three times at the Detroit Jazz Festival beginning Friday, has earned his own spot in the Detroit pantheon. A leading figure of his generation at 46, Hurst approaches the Platonic ideal of a contemporary mainstream bassist. He marries a fearsomely swinging pulse, espresso-rich tone, enviable technique and a sweeping authority in matters of rhythm, harmony, melody and form.

“The bass is hard to play with total clarity because of the nature of the instrument, but Bob is one of the very best,” said Christian McBride, a star bassist influenced by Hurst. “You can understand every note he plays, even at fast tempos. That clarity applies to his thinking too, which is on a really high level. If you can’t think it, you can’t play it.”

Under the radar

Hurst had a jackrabbit start, joining Wynton Marsalis at 21 in 1985 and later cementing his reputation with Tony Williams and Branford Marsalis. Hurst was a charter member of the Young Lion generation of jazz traditionalists that emerged in the 1980s. Still, his post-Marsalis career path and self-effacing temperament have kept him under the radar of the jazz press and fans.

Hurst spent eight lucrative years on television with “The Tonight Show” band from 1992-1999, followed by a period of freelancing in Los Angeles. He returned to metro Detroit in 2008 as a tenured professor at the University of Michigan, and while he balances teaching with extensive touring, his recent work with vocalist Diana Krall and crossover trumpeter Chris Botti are Cadillac gigs that reward a sideman’s bank account more than his critical standing.

But Hurst is pushing for more visibility. He released two wildly different CDs on his own label this year, his first as a leader in nearly a decade. “Unrehurst, Vol. 2” offers animated post-bop, loose and improvisatory. “Bob Ya Head” marries African and Caribbean rhythms, funk, hip-hop, vocals, electronics and spoken word with a political edge; the populist aesthetic will surprise anyone who still thinks he is wedded solely to acoustic jazz.

Though he’s not leading a band at the jazz festival, Hurst’s appearances will cover the waterfront. He anchors the percussion ensemble led by Jeff (Tain) Watts, his colleague since the Marsalis years, and he joins Detroit-born drummer Karriem Riggins’ collaboration with the rapper Common. Hurst also will play with the U-M student big band.

“It does bother me a bit sometimes that I’m not mentioned in the magazines,” Hurst said. “I would like to be spiritual and say it doesn’t, but it does. I look forward to contributing a lot more. I stand by everything I’ve done. It’s all quality. But I look forward to realizing more of my artistic vision.”

Hurst at home

Hurst lives with his wife, Jill, and their 14-year-old daughter in a palatial home with cathedral ceilings between Plymouth and Ann Arbor. Natural light floods the house. African masks line the living room, and Jill Hurst, who is a trained architect, contributed the drawings that grace the formal dining room.

Bob Hurst is 6 feet 3, handsomely mustached, with a sturdy build and fleshy cheeks. He speaks in an easygoing baritone. Jill Hurst, who manages her husband’s business, talks at least twice as fast as he does, and at times he seems barely able to get a word in; but he respectfully waits his turn and then has his say. After 21 years of marriage — 28 years as a couple — they are a team in every respect.

One day last spring they hosted a party for the celebrated bassist Buster Williams, 69, in town for a U-M residency. In a 50-year career, Williams has worked with nearly every important musician in jazz.

After dinner, Hurst grabbed a bass from the living room and brought it into the dining area, where he talked shop with Williams and Ralphe Armstrong, 55, a Detroit bassist with a big-time career. They passed the bass back and forth like a baton, and Hurst wore a beatific grin.

“Wow!” he would say later. “Buster Williams was in my house. He played my bass!”

The threesome swapped war stories and coached each other, comparing alternative fingerings for various scales. “See, I would do it this way,” Hurst said, demonstrating. “There’s too much movement your way. I wouldn’t shift.”

Armstrong, built like a bulldog, waxed lyrically about a bass he once played in Italy as if it were a lost love. Williams, a distinguished man with a gentle manner, recounted how gut strings in the old days would often break and he’d have to play the set on three strings. “You still had to swing,” he said.

Hurst recalled a gig with Belgrave when he was 15 and the trumpeter called “Quasimodo,” a Charlie Parker tune based on the harmony of Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.” Hurst didn’t know it. “Marcus came back and grabbed the bass and started pounding out the roots to ‘Embraceable You.’ It was a small bandstand, and I couldn’t leave. I just had to stand there and look stupid.”

Belgrave, who calls Hurst the most naturally gifted of all his protégés, laughed with the other guests seated nearby. “That’s because I trusted you,” he told Hurst. “I knew if I played it once, you’d get it.”

Family values

Robert Leslie Hurst III was born into a well-to-do family. His father, Robert Hurst II, rose from sales manager to become president of Michigan Bell and then president of Ameritech Network Services. He was a trailblazer, the first African-American head of a local company as big and prominent as Michigan Bell. He died of a heart attack at 51 in 1994.

His father’s work ethic and sense of personal responsibility left a big imprint on Hurst, who says the clarity of his music and his life choices relate to values nurtured by his parents.

“My father took care of his business at home, and every male figure in my family owned their house — my grandfathers and uncles,” Hurst said. “They owned their homes, and their thing was getting a Cadillac. To see everybody do that meant something to me.”

That’s why Hurst had an IRA account at 20 years old and why, when he was making serious money on “The Tonight Show” — mid-six figures annually — he had no trouble sidestepping Hollywood temptations.

“Bob is a well-studied person,” McBride said. “A lot of musicians don’t have that kind of sophistication, but he balances that with a lot of street cred. He can talk politics, business. But you sit at the bar and he starts to feel comfortable and the needle starts to shift.”

Hurst grew up listening to his parents’ jazz LPs — Miles Davis, Modern Jazz Quartet, etc. — and his father taught him that jazz was a glory of black culture. He started guitar lessons at 7, then switched to electric bass at 9. The family moved to Grand Rapids briefly, returning when Hurst was 12 and settling in Rochester. He studied acoustic bass with Dan Pliskow, a seasoned Detroit jazz musician and noted teacher.

A turning point came when Belgrave came to Rochester High for a master class and concert. Hurst, a precocious sophomore, asked if he could play a duet with Belgrave, choosing the bebop standard “Confirmation.” He stunned Belgrave by playing the demanding melody instead of a routine bass line. Belgrave asked Hurst’s parents if he could work with their son. That led to countless gigs and all-day rehearsals.

“Marcus didn’t treat me like a student,” Hurst said. “He treated me like a fellow musician and a man. In classical music there’s this hierarchy with the teacher up here and the student down there, but we’re all students and we’re all teachers. That’s the most beautiful thing Marcus instilled in me — that you’re a perpetual student.”

Rhyme and meter

Hurst was barely into his first year at Indiana University when Wynton Marsalis first offered him a spot in his band, but Hurst said his parents would have killed him had he left school so quickly. He stayed three years, studying jazz and classical music, before leaping into the fray.

Marsalis’ quartet with Hurst, pianist Marcus Roberts and drummer Jeff (Tain) Watts still is regarded by many as the trumpeter’s best band, certainly his most aggressive and liberated. The rhythm section, which pianist Ethan Iverson once admiringly compared to a pack of wild dogs, was deep into the hide-and-seek games of rhythm and meter pioneered by Miles Davis’ landmark 1960s quintet.

Ron Carter was Davis’ bassist, and you can hear how strongly Hurst was influenced by Carter’s architectural thinking on the Marsalis record “Live at Blues Alley.” Without betraying the foundation of a swinging groove, Hurst’s bass lines add layers of melodic counterpoint and harmonic depth and contribute to a rousing juggle of rhythm and meter.

The play of tension and release — of spontaneously disguising the beat, harmony or form of a song but resolving the abstraction convincingly — ignites this style of jazz. Hurst brought his own ideas to these expressive and exhilarating games from the get-go.

“Bob was a key, because his mind would instantly recognize the grouping we were working with and create a new pattern on the spot,” Watts said. “He knew in his mind, ‘OK, we’re now in 5, so I have to resolve to the next chord in the middle of my pattern. And now how can I elaborate on it?’?”

The speed and enunciation of Hurst’s first recorded solos turned heads, but his mature improvisations develop thematically. On “Monk’s Dream” on the new “Unrehurst” CD, Thelonious Monk’s loping melody remains in the DNA of the bass solo. “Bob is a great technical bass player, but his focus isn’t virtuosity,” said Branford Marsalis. “His solos are conceptual. He doesn’t play a boiler-plate style.”

'Tonight Show'

Question: What did you like best about “The Tonight Show”?

Hurst: “Thursday — that was payday” (laughs).

When Jay Leno replaced Johnny Carson, Branford Marsalis took over the studio band and offered Hurst a spot. There had never been a band of predominantly black musicians in such a high-profile TV role. Hurst enjoyed the job at first, less so after Marsalis left in 1995 and it became more of a grind.

Still, learning the ropes of TV and the cross-section of people Hurst met broadened his world view. Leno liked him, and he became the arbiter for whether jokes that touched on race were funny or offensive; Hurst got a workout during the O.J. Simpson trial.

He took his musical responsibilities seriously. “When Bob first got there, while I was unpacking boxes, he practiced eight hours a day,” Jill Hurst said. “He was committed to making sure that if someone like Dolly Parton came on and he had to play country or whatever, he played authentically. The checks came, but not without Bob doing his due diligence.”

A Detroit vibe

Back in Detroit, Hurst led a quartet recently at the downtown Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center. In a hat tip to Belgrave’s spirit, he used talented students on piano and saxophone, along with peer Riggins on drums. Many in the audience of about 60 people knew Hurst from way back when, and some were lifers who had heard all the legends in their prime — Miles Davis at the Bluebird, John Coltrane at the Minor Key and the rest.

Hurst clearly enjoyed playing for homefolk, Detroiters for whom hipness, to borrow a phrase from Cannonball Adderley, is not a state of mind but a fact of life. Hurst’s between-song patter was chatty, relaxed, and when he announced his tune “Detroit Red” with a reference to “the great, great, great Malcolm X,” he was greeted with hearty applause. Hurst beamed.

“That’s a Detroit vibe,” he told the crowd. “You can say ‘Malcolm X’ all over the world and nobody says anything, but in Detroit, they clap.”

Hurst, wearing a black shirt over jeans, stood as upright as his bass while his large hands moved efficiently over the instrument. His head bobbed to the groove: “My top priority is to make the music swing as much as humanly possible. Everything else is gravy.

“I tell my students to ask themselves every 8 or 16 bars, ‘What can I do to make the music swing harder?’?”

The band played a blues number, and Hurst found ways to shift into a higher gear chorus after chorus — digging into his basement register, leaping up to the balcony, ornamenting his walk with skip-a-de-do triplets, tucking his notes?ever deeper inside Riggins’ ?cymbal beat.

“You want to be melodic and inventive,” Hurst said. “Sometimes you can do it overtly, but it doesn’t have to be flashy, in the high register or fast. You can do things that are anonymous. Sometimes I have to step up, but usually I like to stay out of the way and just keep it feeling good. That’s the job. That’s what pays the mortgage.”

Bob Ya Head CD Review (Jan 2011) – MuzikReviews.com

When I saw that Robert Hurst's newest album was called Bob Ya Head, I assumed it would be a hip-hop album that would make me shake my head in a disgruntled way. I was wrong, however, because I spent my time listening to the album bobbing my head, tapping my feet and thoroughly enjoying it.

Bob Ya Head is actually Hurst's fifth headlining album. He's played bass on plenty of other jazz albums, and his experience shows. He plays bass is a jovial, lighthearted, but moving way. You can hear his love for music in every note that he plays.

Hurst employs Scott Kinsey on keyboard, Marcus Belgrave on trumpet, Vincent Bowens on tenor sax, Darryl “Munyungo” Jackson on percussion and Karriem Riggins on drums for Bob Ya Head, and their obvious connection makes the album even more enjoyable. Each instrument blends with the next and makes the overall composition not just pleasing, but interesting and exciting.

There aren't real vocals on Bob Ya Head, but occasional spoken word and background noise. It works, however, in the grand scheme of things, and doesn't detract from the music. Instead, when it's present, it acts as another instrument would, which is a fine substitute for real vocals.

Outside of mastering the bass, Hurst is also a music professor at the University of Michigan. He has some of the luckiest students in the world, to learn from someone who loves music enough to spend two years outside of class composing and recording a phenomenal album.

Robert Hurst: Unrehurst Volumes 1 and 2 (July 2011) – allaboutjazz.com

By C. MICHAEL BAILEY,
C. Michael BaileySenior Contributor - Since 1997
...wants to know if Gene Harris is playing "Summertime" in Heaven... 1,486 articles published | Recent:
Brian Morton & Richard Cook: The Penguin Jazz Guide - The...Daniel Beaumont: Preachin’ the Blues - The Life and Times...Ornette Coleman: This is Our MusicOrnette Coleman: Change Of The CenturyOrnette Coleman: The Shape Of Jazz To Come
Published: July 8, 2011
The jazz piano trio—piano, bass, and drums, also known as the "rhythm section"—is a fundamental unit in jazz ensembles. It is the motor that drives all combos greater than itself. Which instrument a trio "leader" plays often has a profound effect on the personality and temperament of the music produced. Bass-led trios often bring the bass out from behind the piano to play a more central melodic role in a performance. Paul Chambers liked to have his bass playing front and center with the piano, while Ray Brown typically positioned himself between the piano and drums of his numerous combos. Robert Hurst comes from the Chambers mold, expanding the bass' role in the trio from time keeper to stylistic foil to the piano.

Detroit-native bassist Hurst introduced himself as a member of the 1980s jazz ensemble Out Of The Blue, and then by collaborating with drummer Tony Williams, pianist Mulgrew Miller, singer Harry Connick Jr., pianist Geri Allen, guitarist Russell Malone, and bassist Steve Coleman. He fully came into his own during a 1986-1991 stint with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, the same band hosting pianist Marcus Roberts and drummer Jeff Watts. Hurst has remained busy in the studio and the bandstand, assembling two volumes of live material recorded in 2000 and 2007 respectively.

Robert Hurst
Unrehurst, Volume 1
Bebob Records
2002

Hurst's first trio outing with the then relatively unknown pianist Robert Glasper and drummer Damion Reid is a performance-pure, sonically challenged affair. Details regarding the venue are scarce, though the room sounds moderately small. Hurst and Glasper sound neck and neck with the drums slightly muted, the shine attenuated somewhere in the capture or engineering. Despite the murkiness of the sound, Unrehurst, Volume 1 delivers a powerful punch musically.

Volume 1 is made up of seven Hurst or Glasper originals. The pieces are well integrated and lengthy with the shortest clocking in at 5:00 and the longest at 14:20. The playing is inspired and often exceptional. Glasper is an iconoclastic pianist who pushes the envelop in a Don Pullen sort of way without the Cecil Taylor bombast. Glasper actively incorporates a greater freedom into his playing without losing his focus. He plays a perfect foil for Hurst, who prefers a stricter timekeeping, though even his time is relative and elastic.

Robert Hurst
Unrehurst Volume 2
Bebob Records
2010

Unrehurst Volume 2 was recorded five years after Volume 1, in 2007. Hurst heeded criticism of the muddy sonics of the first volume, recording Volume 2 cleanly and acutely. Again, this set is made up of lengthy considerations of two standards and three originals. Opening the very abstract "I Love You," Hurst morphs Cole Porter's chords into A Love Supreme-like mantra. Glasper plays abstractly, more by insinuation that frank statement. The musicians make the listener pay attention for the key musical landmarks, rewarding such to revealed facets of the songs.

Hurst's own "Bob's 5/4 Tune" is beyond angular, echoing the odd time signature of another, earlier tune in Paul Desmond's famous "Take Five." Glasper, here, rises to Hurst's challenge, turning out a compulsively creative solo section. Leave it to this band to turn "Monk's Dream" on its already bent ear. Glasper fairly hides the familiar theme, approaching it from an almost introspective direction, and in doing so achieves a certain tension in the otherwise overtly hard bop environment. This is a very interesting and forward thinking trio outing.


Tracks and Personnel

Unrehursted Volume 1

Tracks: Mr. Thomas; Bu Waynea; Unrehurst; April Foolproof; Unflurgenized Colorations; Dr. Bleuss; Throwed.

Personnel: Robert Hurst: bass; Robert Glasper: piano; Damion Reid: drums.

Unrehursted Volume 2

Tracks: I Love You; Truth Revealed; Bob's 5/4 Tune; Monk's Dream; Bob's Blues.

Personnel: Robert Hurst: bass; Robert Glasper: piano; Damion Reid: drums.

CD/LP/Track Review Robert Hurst: Bob Ya Head (Feb 2011) – allaboutjazz.com

By MARK F. TURNER,
Mark F. TurnerSenior Contributor - Since 2001
Considering himself a modern day 'Jazz Explorer' Mark continues to discover new and exciting music territories. 460 articles published | Recent:
The Mancy of SoundMaybe StepsHewlett-Packard TouchSmart 610 with Beats AudioBienestanWaking Dreams
Published: February 16, 2011

With a spirit of optimism and new direction, veteran bassist Robert Hurst returns with two simultaneous releases on his Bebob recording label, that further expound on his leadership. The first, Unrehurst Vol. 2 , is an all-acoustic date with drummer Chris Dave and firebrand pianist Robert Glasper, recorded live in 2007 at the Smoke in New York City.

An educator, composer and bandleader, Hurst's accolades also include directing, arranging and composing for The Tonight Show, with Jay Leno; Emmy- and Grammy-winning works in film soundtracks such as Ocean's Eleven, and recordings with Charles Lloyd, Sting, and Diana Krall. With Bob Ya Head , Hurst has a few new tricks up his sleeves, shifting directions and pleasantly surprising via some eclectic and electronic artistry. While Unrehurst is a riveting unrehearsed swing-fest, Bob Ya Head is studio-intensive, equally persuasive, and even more engaging.

The release balances technical wizardry with Afro-centric and urban themes. Hurst's commanding upright resonates in "Obama Victory Dance," directing its energy to the lively "Optimism"'s hint of things to come—a joyful chorus of childrens' voices, electronic keyboards, and Hurst switching to pizzicato bass. The sampled speech by Civil Rights leader Malcolm X is effective in the improvised groove of "X Static" and the intermingled (processed and real) voices in the hip-hopped vibe of "Da, Da, Da, Dah." In each track, the music is an outlet for musicians and technology to creatively coexist.

As strong as Hurst is, this is by no means a singular effort, as Darryl "Munyungo" Jackson's percussion creates an infectious tempo in "Munyungo In Da Jungle." Saxophonist Vincent Bowens and veteran progressive keyboardist Scott Kinsey trade fiercely in the India-vocal percussive "Oral Roberto," and Bowens, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and drummer Karriem Riggins ignite "Alice and John," a hypnotic track dedicated to Alice Coltrane and John Coltrane, donned with screeching horns and a bass loop of octaves and bowed strings.

Like Miles Davis's illustrious and at times criticized career, and other forward-thinking artists, Robert Hurst continue to affirm that jazz is not static; but a moving, living and evolving entity of self expression which can provide food for thought and the ability to dance in this appropriately titled release.

Track Listing: Obama Victory Dance; Optimism; X Static; Comes You Comes Love (Intro); Comes You Comes Love; Forty Four; Da, Da, Da, Dah; Munyungo In Da Jungle (Intro); Munyungo In Da Jungle; Oral Roberto; Alice and John; Unintelectual Property; When Drums Stop.

Personnel: Robert Hurst: acoustic and electric basses; Darryl "Munyungo" Jackson: percussion; Sy Smith: vocals; Vincent Bowens: tenor saxophonist; Scott Kinsey: keyboards; Marcus Belgrave: trumpet; Karriem Riggins: drums.

Record Label: Bebob Records