Take Five With Adam Glasser

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Meet Adam Glasser:

Adam grew up in South Africa influenced by township jazz. He took a UK English Literature degree, started gigging as pianist in Paris 1980, with a semester at Berklee in 1981. He gigged around London '80s/'90s with own trio and commercial gigs, tours with Jimmy Witherspoon, Martha Reeves, and for Manhattan Brothers, and produced their album Inyembezi. Harmonica on films, played with Sting, Joe Zawinul, Eurythmics, Carl Orr Band, Incognito, some orchestral gigs, and his own first album Free at First was released last year.


Harmonica, keyboards.

Teachers and/or influences?

Self-taught, main influences include South African township jazz/pop, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Weather Report, Wynton Kelly, Toninho Horta, Ivan Lins, Tom Jobim, Stevie Wonder, Jonas Gwangwa, Barney Rachabane.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

... I heard Miles Smiles and Mysterious Traveller.

Your sound and approach to music:

Improvising on changes and beyond while aiming to make a heart connection to my own personal listening history

Your teaching approach:

Guide the student based on how much they sincerely love a particular kind of music.

Your dream band:

Would love to work with: 1) Herbie Hancock 2) Ivan Lins.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

Last October '09, touring with the African Jazz Allstars, we had finished the gig at the Southport Music Festival and were heading in the tour bus back to the hotel. The driver turned round and said that the gear stick was broken and could one of the musicians come and change the gears. So we made the short journey (safely!) back to the hotel with a musician crouched on the floor changing the stump of a gear shift that the driver could not reach.

Favorite venue:

Kettle's Yard, Cambridge for the Cambridge Jazz Society run by Joan Morrell for over 30 years. Packed attentive audience, great sound, fabulous piano and wonderful welcome/food.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

The first thing that comes to mind right now is the track 'Unstoppable' from Carl Orr's album Absolute Freedom on which I played Fender Rhodes. Billy Cobham guested on several tracks with no rehearsal and took us on a musical journey I have rarely experienced.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Bobby Hutcherson Happenings.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

Joining up the harmonica, South African jazz and the tradition of improvising on standards/changes and also a few original compositions

Did you know...

I have made two documentaries about cycle racing and was a cycling journalist part time for quite a few year.s

CDs you are listening to now:

John Coltrane, Best of John Coltrane;

Jimmy Witherspoon, Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1972.

Desert Island picks:

Weather Report, Mysterious Traveller;

Zawinul Syndicate, World Tour 1997;

John Coltrane, Plays the Blues;

Miles Davis, The Sorcerer;

Wayne Shorter, Native Dancer.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Absolutely flourishing creatively... there is something for everyone, and the internet/YouTube has enabled musicians to share ideas and communicate like at no time before.

The real problem is how to sustain live venues and get people out of their homes to listen to jazz. And also to find sustainable ways for jazz musicians to make a living playing live without going down a totally commercial route.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Play and listen and try and get gigs, and keep in touch with fellow musicians, support gigs, keep making your own initiatives, get together and play with other musicians on the same wavelength, be generous, optimistic if you can.. and communicate that to the audience

What is in the near future?

Going to South Africa March/April 2010 to promote my album Free at First which has been released out there by Gallo/Sun records, and hopefully find a local rhythm section compatible with what I am doing musically to set up a future tour.

By Day:

Part time teacher.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Journalist/writer of musicals.


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