Alto saxophonist Dave Glasser might have been born at the wrong time. While he is performing and recording some terrific music in the 21st century, his stylistic preferences lean heavily on the music of the 1940s and '50s. Glasser spent ample time over the past two-plus decades performing with Clark Terry, Illinois Jacquet, and Barry Harris, learning about this music from the men who were there. While he continues to use this knowledge on the bandstand, he also pays it forward as a teacher at the New School in Manhattan.
Glasser's bebop background has always popped up in his playing, but two specific musical figures loom large over the performances on Evolution. Three out of the eight tracks on this album are connected to Thelonious Monk. Glasser's "Monkish," which starts things off, sounds like a lost Monk composition with its quirky melodic DNA and rhythmic bounce. Pianist John Nyerges also tips his cap to Monk with "Monk's Blues." This piece begins with an open feeling, featuring waves of piano and cymbal along with some saxophone sighs. Nyerges ups the energy ante when he solos and throws in some speedy lines. Although this piece is more of a Monk tribute in name than style, it still provides plenty of thrills. After two Monk-titled pieces, Glasser finally gets to a composition by the man himself and delivers some killer saxophone soloing over drummer Rich Thompson on "Rhythm-a-ning."
While Glasser's Monk tributes are an overt expression of his fondness for the pianist's music, a more subtle tribute to Johnny Hodges is noticeable on the ballads. Glasser's musical mannerisms and tender, heart-wrenching tone are a direct reflection of Hodges' playing on so many Duke Ellington recordings. Glasser's own "Tranquility," featuring some beautiful harmonies and subtle bass work from Jeff Campbell, and "Blue Iridescence" seem to be written in the style of Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, and Glasser hits home runs with both these ballad performances.
Despite the fact that Glasser is an old soul in many ways, he shouldn't be mistaken for a nostalgia act. The tumbling dissonance, angular expressions, and raunchy saxophone sounds on "Minor Madness" are indications that Glasser isn't trapped in another era. Glasser might love the music of a different time and place, but he lives in the here and now and his playing and writing continue to evolve, as ably demonstrated on Evolution.
Monkish; Minor Madness; Tranquility; Monk's Blues; It Could Happen to You; Les Is More;
Rhythm-a-ning; Blue Iridescence.
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