Take Five With Glenn White

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Glenn White:

Described as "a brilliant gem," Glenn's modern jazz compositions and skilled, interactive playing have been called "a thoughtful, remarkable style," which "stems from a deeper understanding." A graduate of New England Conservatory, Glenn has performed alongside many notable musicians including Cuneiform artist Jamie Baum, Impulse! artist Greg Tardy, ECM Records artist Art Lande, and more. In addition to his own recordings, Glenn can be heard on recordings by Huevo Imaginary Records artists I'm In You, Matador Records artists Julian Plenti, and more. Glenn's recording, Sacred Machines (OA2 Records), is featured on radio stations and satellite radio internationally.

As an educator, Glenn has lectured at a variety of colleges and high schools throughout the US. During the 2005-06 school year, Glenn was Instructor of Woodwinds and Jazz Studies at University of Alaska Fairbanks and Director of the 2006 UAF Jazz Festival.

Glenn lives in New York City, where he performs regularly with his own group, Time in Transit, which has been featured at the Underground Big Apple Jazz Festival and elsewhere.


Tenor saxophone.

Teachers and/or influences?

Studied with Steve Lacy, Tony Malaby, Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, and more.

Occasional lessons with David Binney, Donny McCaslin, John O'Gallagher, and more.

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

As soon as I was old enough to join the concert band in grade school.

Your sound and approach to music:

I'm not one to go on about grand visions or the greatness of my art. I like what I like, I listen to what I listen to, and when I write music, some amalgamation of where I came from and where I am comes into being. I am hopeful that my improvising is also reflective of this, although my own attachment to my music renders me unable to say if this is the case.

Your teaching approach:

I don't teach a lot. I taught college for a while, which I really enjoyed. I enjoy teaching adults, because most of them go at music as if it is something to bring them in touch with something important, as opposed to treating it like an assignment. I think it's important to help my students break music down to it's basic building blocks, with the intention of showing them how the music came into being to begin with. This will hopefully steer them in the direction of creating their own, instead of learning to mimic.

Your dream band:

I've already performed and recorded my own music with some of my all-time heroes. Jamie Baum is one of my favorite musicians, as well as Jeff Hirshfield and Roberta Piket. I listen to a lot of Jim Black and Hilmar Jensson, but I also listen to a lot of Brian Blade and Scott Colley. I'm sure it would be great to play with these musicians, but I'm pretty happy with the circle of musical friends I've made at present.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

I was playing in a variety band in a trailer park in Casa Grande, Arizona. As the band leader's wife was singing in the middle of a tune, the band leader, who had a well-established reputation as a lush, stopped playing his drum kit (everyone noticed the drums missing and looked up), and walked off to a storage room at the side of the stage. As we continued playing without him, he staggered back to his drum kit after a couple of minutes, and he sat down to finish the tune with us.

It took me a minute to recognize that, as he was walking into the storage room, he had an empty soda bottle with him. And as he returned, the soda bottle was missing. Yes, in the middle of a song featuring his wife on vocals (she lived for these gigs), the band leader walked off the stage to urinate in a plastic bottle, and returned to his kit to finish the song.

Favorite venue:

I like Zinc Bar. Alex, the owner, is a great guy. And Beth, who books me, has become a good friend.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

I'll have to say that, at this point, Sacred Machines is probably my best recording. It was challenging, I was nervous, and there are a bunch of things that I'd like to do over again differently, but I'm glad I was able to document that moment in my life.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Blue Train (the 24 karat CD pressing).

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

Composition. I think it's important to create new music. I have a great amount of respect for players who can also compose. Composition allows for reflection, which fosters growth.

Did you know...

I hate onions, which is a drag because they are the one food that you'll find in just about every type of cuisine you can think of. Chinese food, Italian food, Mexican food, Indian food. Onions, onions, onions!

CDs you are listening to now:

Alas No Axis, Houseplant (Winter & Winter);

Gabriel Johnson, Fra_tured (Electrophone);

Warne Marsh, Release Record, Send Tape (Wave);

Donny McCaslin, Declaration (Sunnyside);

David Binney, Third Occasion (Mythology).

Desert Island picks:

Sigur Ros, Takk... (Geffen);

Joy Division, Closer (Factory);

The Cure, Faith (Fiction);

Warne Marsh, Release Record, Send Tape (Wave);

David Binney, Welcome to Life (Mythology).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Flexible. Matthew Shipp once said, "Jazz has to evolve, or it will die." Reinforcing this, Kenny Werner once said, "You know the death of a music when it resides mainly in the universities."

Just as has been the case with classical and rock music, there have become many subsets of jazz over the years. There are now more than ever, and this will hopefully continue to grow in to more to come. If we allow journalists, radio stations, and club owners to tell us what is and is not jazz, we will simply continue to make the same music over and over again, until performance is less about creation and more about mimicry.

It is only with the incorporation of what are usually considered to be non-jazz elements, and also through the invention of new elements, that jazz will survive alongside hip-hop, hardcore metal, serial composition, and anything else that is expected to be treated as more than a fad.

If we refuse to recognize the validity of these other styles of music and what they can contribute to jazz, then we have already sealed the coffin on this music and it's time has already passed.

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

Expansion, growth, inclusion.

What is in the near future?

I definitely have enough compositions to make a new recording. I'm hoping to do this soon, but the current economic climate has not made this easy. But we are performing the new music regularly, which is only helping us to get it ready for recording. We have a few gigs outside of the New York area, and look forward to more down the road.

By Day:

I have a day job, but I make every effort to separate the two worlds as much as possible. This separation makes me better at both jobs. After all, when I'm playing music, I want to be listened to as a musician, not as an office worker. And when I'm in the office, I want to be taken seriously there, as well.

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

Rock musician.


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