Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

372

Adam Glasser: Free at First

Raul d'Gama Rose By

Sign in to view read count
Of all the harmonica players who have followed in the footsteps of legendary harmonicist Jean "Toots" Thielemans' wizardry, Adam Glasser may be the only proponent of this instrument—so little used that it only features in the "Miscellaneous" instruments lexicon of jazz discography and literature—who has brought a truly unique voice and idiom to the constantly evolving language of jazz. Stevie Wonder, Gregoire Maret and Hendrick Meurkens are all virtuosi non-pareil. Glasser does something more.

On Free at First—his debut record as leader—Glasser has opened up the whole South African music scene to the world, evincing the excitement of its music, from mbqanga jazz to the sophisticated contemporary sonic expeditions that began with Dudu Pukwane and Chris McGregor and continued through the music of Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela and the late Bheki Mseleku. The line joining all of these musicians is blurred and curvilinear, but it certainly now draws Adam Glasser into that sanctum sanctorum.

Adam Glasser is a sublime virtuoso yet different from all of his peers. His is a unique artistry born of a magic that combines the voice with each breath that shapes the very syllables that make up the wordless phrases, metaphors and idioms forming the lines and circles in his music. Thus Glasser appears to breathe melodiously and sing through his chromatic harmonica. And his breath and phrasing are exquisite and perfect, much in the way Satchmo's was whether he sang or played his horn. "Tourmalet," "How Deep is the Ocean" and "On Green Dolphin Street" are perfect examples of how Glasser can make music out of mouthfuls of air.

"The Low Six" sees Glasser joined by South African griot and poet, David Serame, to tell a powerful, moving story of the damnation of apartheid in South Africa. The two artists return later to send the spirits soaring with Serame's recalling of a jazz tour of concert halls in "African Jazz and Variety." Very wistful and utterly unforgettable. Another fascinatingly colored vocal track is "Mjo," with the beautiful tones of singer Pinese Saul. This is rousing and absolutely South African rhythm, as is the treatment of Jackie McLean's "Little Melonae," with a scat vocal by British vocalist, Anita Wardell. To the South African palette of sound, Glasser adds his own composition, "Kort Street," an infectious township dance-inflected track that holds up very well with the classic Ciaphas Semenya chart, "Part of a Whole".

The album "chokes" (in Platonic wonder) "with gold." Monk's "I Mean You" gives an all too rare showcase for the song, with Glasser channeling not only Charlie Rouse's tenor saxophone, but also Monk's angularity on his chromatic harmonica. And before there's a chance to catch a sense of balance from the dazzling experience, comes the breathtaking close: a tribute to Joe Zawinul, with the hauntingly beautiful "Remembrance." Free at First will be a challenge to equal for sheer scope of virtuosity, musicality and surprise.

Track Listing: Tourmalet; How Deep is the Ocean?; On Green Dolphin Street; The Low Six; Mjo; Quickly in Love; Kort Street; Maos de Afeto; African Jazz and Variety; Little Melonae; I Mean You; Part of a Whole; Remembrance.

Personnel: Adam Glasser: chromatic harmonica, all percussion, synthesizer (1), all piano and keyboards (4, 5, 7, 9); Robin Aspland: piano (2, 3, 6, 8-12), synthesizer (8, 12); Steve Watts: double-bass (2-5, 7, 9-11); Andy Hamill: double-bass (1, 6, 8, 12); Tristan Mailliot: drums; Pinise Saul: vocals (5); Anita Wardell: vocals (10); David Serame: narrative (4, 9).

Title: Free At First | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Bricks CD/LP/Track Review Bricks
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 17, 2017
Read Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns CD/LP/Track Review Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review Song of No Regrets
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Sounding Tears CD/LP/Track Review Sounding Tears
by John Sharpe
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Kill The Boy CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read "Constant Change 1976-2016" CD/LP/Track Review Constant Change 1976-2016
by John Sharpe
Published: July 19, 2017
Read "Compass" CD/LP/Track Review Compass
by Edward Blanco
Published: May 28, 2017
Read "Möbius Strip" CD/LP/Track Review Möbius Strip
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 11, 2017
Read "Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 40 - Zurich 1959" CD/LP/Track Review Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 40 - Zurich 1959
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 9, 2017
Read "Day After Day" CD/LP/Track Review Day After Day
by John Eyles
Published: July 21, 2017
Read "New Jazz Standards, Volume 2" CD/LP/Track Review New Jazz Standards, Volume 2
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 8, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!