Matthew Herd & Will Glaser – Climbing in Circles
(Download only via Bandcamp. Review by Patrick Hadfield)
There are relatively few saxophone-and-drums duos; and for those that there are, the “vulcanism” of John Coltrane and Rashied Ali in Interstellar Space sets a powerful exemplar. Matthew Herd and Will Glaser, on saxophone and drums respectively, have chosen to follow a gentler path.
Glaser and Herd have worked together in a variety of more usual contexts before; this collection of tracks, recorded live, grew out of the duo experimenting in the studio. Gathering together five standards and four freer improvisations, they chart a course between tradition and modernism.
The standards are fresh and lively – even a number as familiar as Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek avoids cliche, as well as demonstrating the duo’s capacity to swing. Each of the standards acts as a jumping off point, the start of a conversation between the two. Ellington’s Purple Gazelle takes a Latin rhythm, carried by Glaser’s unfussy drumming – he’s doing a lot, but doesn’t let the percussion sound too busy. Herd’s saxophone has a light, deft quality. The result is a lively number which, like their Cheek to Cheek, is eminently danceable. Well, they had me bopping around the kitchen anyway. Another number associated with Ellington, Billy Strayhorn’s A Flower is a Lovesome Thing is much slower. Herd’s exploration of the theme is heartfelt and anguished over Glaser’s gently rolling toms.
The four improvisations (cunningly named 1 to 4) give Glaser more freedom to express himself. The rhythms are more abstract: Improvisation 1 opens with cymbal work reminiscent of sacred bells whilst Herd conjures up bird calls, before Glaser lays down a solid, funky groove. Improvisation 3 generates a real blues feeling, starting from Herd’s impressionistic saxophone lines before the duo take off on another groove-rich flight.
This duo is a long term project, and Herd and Glaser are planning to record some more tracks in the next few months. It’ll be interesting to see how they develop – they’ve certainly set the bar high with this first recording.