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Glenn Spearman: Blues For Falasha

Glenn Astarita By

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The untimely passing of Saxophonist Glenn Spearman in October 1998 was a tragic loss for the Modern Jazz community. Spearman’s refreshing approach to jazz ideology was engaging and significant. Glenn Spearman embraced concepts pioneered by the likes of Albert Ayler and Frank Wright with vigor and poise.

“Blues For Falasha” is perhaps Glenn Spearman’s last recording along with his powerhouse “Double Trio” which features Rova’s Larry Ochs on Tenor and Soprano Saxophones. The perceptive liner notes by Ochs allude to a notion that Spearman was onto something new in his career. “Blues For Falasha” is a passionate and heartfelt rendering of The Falasha Tribe which according to Och’s liner notes – “The Black Jews of Ethiopia who have always consciously lived apart from their neighbors in order to maintain their ethnic purity”. Spearman’s Mother was White and Jewish and it seems that this important aspect of his roots prompted him to explore the cultural “state of being” of this distinct Ethiopian tribe.

Opening with “The Old Book” Spearman recites text that coincides with the tone of the subject matter at hand. “Rituals” takes us to an enigmatic and foreign place. The saxophones of Spearman and Ochs supply subtle dialogue as Chris Brown utilizes the piano pedals which serves as an eerie backdrop suggesting notions of uncertainty or doubt. This apparent mysticism segues into the piece titled “Cold Water and Dirt” which continues with the ambient feel presented thus far. “Cold Water and Dirt” is a quiet, almost solemn piece which develops into a rousing 28-minute extravaganza “Seed Sounds” that typifies the hard blowing manic pace of the Double Trio. Percussionist’s Willie Winant and Donald Robinson rip through startling yet coordinated rhythms. Ochs and Spearman breathe fire while bassist Lisle Ellis and pianist Chris Brown alter the proceedings with an introspective duet featuring Ellis’ skilled arco bass work. Spearman and the Double Trio finalize this project in stirri! ng fashion.

“Blues For Falasha” hits you from many different angles and reverently displays the tranquillity and inner character of Spearman’s music, which up until this point may have signified a new direction for Spearman as Larry Ochs imparts in the liner notes. “Blues For Falasha” mapped new territory for Spearman yet the essence of his intensity and determination prevails. Glenn Spearman will be sorely missed.


Title: Blues For Falasha | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Tzadik


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