Altoist Dave Glasser continues to build his reputation with Above the Clouds, a well-realized album that's equally divided between Glasser originals and visits to the Great American Songbook. Glasser's group includes pianist Larry Ham and the veteran rhythm section of bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Carl Allen.
I had the pleasure of hearing Glasser (along with Larry Ham) on an early 2006 Arbors album, Swinging The Blues, which was led by bassist Earl May. There, Glasser delivered most of the melody statements and really added to the project through his playing on both up-tempo tunes and ballads, where he allowed the alto notes to curl inward and underscore the melody. Likewise, pianist Larry Ham proved not only an effective foil, but also a fine soloist.
Glasser is a New Yorker who went to the specialized Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music and the Arts and later earned a master's degree from the Eastman School of Music. His experience includes a three-year stint with the Count Basie band (then led by Frank Foster) beginning in 1989, the Illinois Jacquet Big Band in the early 1990s, and the Clark Terry quintet starting in 1995. This is his fourth album; his previous efforts were released by the Artemis, Nagel-Heyer, Chiaroscuro and Arbors Jazz labels.
On Swinging The Blues Paul Desmond seemed to influence Dave Glasser's style. There is, however, an equally significant element of Johnny Hodges, and to a smaller degree, Benny Carter, in his intonation. While he is adept at playing post-war swing (like many among the Arbors stable of musicians), he is equally skilled at bebop and blues playing. Opening with the Leroy Lovett piece "Can I?", Glasser is right in the Hodges/Carter wheelhouse, emulating the music of an earlier era. Soon afterwards, he is booting his original "Stitt's Bits" in a up-tempo bebop tribute.
"A Little Funky" is just what the title describes, demonstrating a taste of the blues and the leader's elegance on the alto sax. There are several points of interest on the album, including an unexpected stop for Irving Berlin's "Easter Parade," a beautifully rendered take on the Ellington classic "In A Sentimental Mood," and a bit of fun with the traditional "I've Been Working On The Railroad." For me, the high point of the album is the original "Blues for Mat," where Glasser provides a soulful Hodges solo and Larry Ham almost matches him on his own bluesy solo.
Personnel: Dave Glasser: alto saxophone; Larry Ham: piano; Dennis Irwin: bass; Carl Allen: drums.