CD review

Will Glaser – ‘Climbing in Circles’

Will Glaser –  Climbing in Circles
(Ubuntu UBU0075. CD Review by Jon Turney)

Adventurous drummer Will Glaser neatly sidesteps the repertoire problem that trips up lots of emerging players. This cleverly programmed trio set relies neither on the leader’s own new compositions nor on a selection of over-familiar standards. Instead we have a choice set of less obvious tunes, and four freely improvised pieces.

There’s a pleasing logic behind the personnel, too. Glaser has made separate duo recordings in similar vein with saxophonist Matthew Herd and mercurial pianist Liam Noble, who here join forces to complete an exceptionally resourceful trio. You can hear their mutual regard in the confidence each shows proposing new directions for a tune, knowing the others will respond.

The pieces that benefit from this treatment include compositions by Tom Waits, Don Cherry, and Paul Motian. Noble leads off a distinctly Monkish Mood Indigo, the only recognised standard. The final written selection, I’m an Old Cowhand, is the comically loping Johnny Mercer tune Sonny Rollins had fun with on Way out West (and Joshua Redman has since revisited).

Glaser himself reproduces Shelley Manne’s clip-clop beat on Cowhand with gusto, and is impressively versatile elsewhere. He adopts Paul Motian’s best rubato on Mumbo Jumbo and catches some of Ed Blackwell’s New Orleans bounce on Cherry’s Mopti. The latter has a splendid unaccompanied soprano introduction. Herd is new to me, but the quality of his contributions in this set invites exploration of other work, and he has a lovely sound on the the straight horn. Noble is his excellent self throughout. Here, on a tune he has recorded before, he even supplies the majestic bass rhythm originally held down by Charlie Haden.

The completely improvised cuts are as varied as the oven-ready compositions, but have a different flavour. They start more tentatively, then build thicker textures as they go. Prepared piano and skittering cymbals open the set on the brief Pre Lewd, which turns into a lop-sided romp for soprano sax, interrupted by fusillades from the whole trio. The others run longer, and open each opens out in its own way. They stand as spontaneous inventions that are no less interesting or rewarding than the treatments of already existing music

It is easy to imagine a successful set from three such well-attuned players that was entirely created extempore, or one devoted entirely to “non-standard” tunes. I’d happily hear them at greater length in either mode. But leaving one wanting more remains excellent showbiz advice.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. jonturney.co.uk.  Twitter: @jonWturney

LINK: Interview with Will Glaser by John Fordham 

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