Monday, June 20, 2011

CD of the Week - "Bob Gluck: Something Quiet"

CD of the Week
Bob Gluck: "Something Quiet" (FMR) 2011

Think of Ornette Coleman playing piano! Also think of Paul Bley meets Andrew Hill, and invites Steve Lacy to sit in. Yes, you got the idea. Harmonically and aesthetically intriguing as long as you live. All tunes composed by Gluck, except the re-construction of Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance."

Featuring: Bob Gluck (acoustic piano), Joe Giardullo (soprano sax) & Christopher Dean Sullivan
(acoustic bass)

Recorded (May 18, 2010), Mixed and Mastered by Will Schillinger @ Pilot Recording Studios, Monterey, MA
Assistant Engineer: Stephen "Stitch" Keech
Cover art: Ewan Rigg
Produced by: Bob Gluck and Will Schillinger
Produced for FMR by Trevor Taylor
In loving memory of Milton J. Schubin

The latest release from pianist/composer Bob Gluck, "Something Quiet" presents this multitalented musician in a completely new setting. The new CD intrigues the listener with a startling new side of his inventive approach to music making. Gluck is an eclectic artist of astonishing breadth, best known for his years of work in the forefront of electronic music. His previous outing in a jazz setting was the critically acclaimed 2008 recording, "Sideways," with bassist Michael Bisio and drummer-percussionist Dean Sharp, Gluck here introduces his newly formed drummerless trio - featuring soprano saxophone master Joe Giardullo and versatile bass artisan Christopher Dean Sullivan.

"Something Quiet" delivers on the calming promise of its title. But it does so in an ever-shifting sonic environment where silence and space are complemented with clamorous sound and intensity. The results are a sonic ebb and flow within which structure and freedom happily coexist.

Gluck’s life story is as interesting as his music. Raised in New York City, the political activist/Julliard trained pianist eventually developed an interest in the revolutionary acoustic jazz of Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett’s American quartet (featuring Coleman alumni Dewey Redman and Charlie Haden, as well as innovative drummer Paul Motian) that was much affected by the altoist’s groundbreaking improvising conceptions. The influence of Jimi Hendrix, seventies era electric Miles Davis groups, Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band and Weather Report had already spawned an enduring interest in electronic music that has persisted to this day. Following a long absence from the music scene, during which time Gluck was engaged in a religious life as a rabbi, Gluck began uniting his philosophical, spiritual and aesthetic pursuits in the world of academia and electronic music. Then in 2005 he returned to the piano as his primary means of musical expression, employing electronics in conjunction with the acoustic instrument.

Although "Something Quiet" is Bob Gluck’s first entirely acoustic outing since the start of his much delayed recording career, its music is an organic development of his earlier work, displaying a scrupulous attentiveness to sonic nuance. While some may place Gluck within the context of the avant garde, following in the tradition of Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Andrew Hill, Paul Bley and Don Pullen, his music reveals an abiding affection towards the more pastoral and pensive aspects of impressionism and late romanticism. His approach as a pianist, composer and improvisor is one that intuitively merges intuition with a broad sonic palate where lyricism and abstraction find a shared home. The results are a kind of organic chamber jazz that eschews traditional song form without abandoning melodic beauty or structure.

"Something Quiet" opens appropriately with Gluck’s solo piano delicately introducing his “Waterway”, reexamining anew a song previously heard on his "Sideways" release as if hearing it for the first time. The piece embodies the pianist’s compositional style, which exhibits an ebb and flow, carrying the music through various currents, from meditative to tumultuous. Somewhat inspired by the landmark Herbie Hancock - Wayne Shorter "1 + 1" album, the unique sound of Giardullo’s soprano becomes deftly woven into the musical tapestry. Soon, Sullivan’s distinctive bass enjoys a brief solo spotlight before the dynamic intensity rises as each musician expresses himself in the moment, individualistically and collectively. Shifts in volume, tempo, rhythm and tone move the music through various phases (there is even a boogie influenced piano section) that a come to a decisive, final melodic resolution.

The inclusion of Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance”, the one track not composed by Gluck himself, is an indication of his longstanding interest in the music of the iconic pianist, the subject of his forthcoming book "You’ll Know When You Get There: Herbie Hancock and the Mwandishi Band" (University of Chicago Press). A duet with bassist Sullivan, Gluck opens by kaleidoscopically exploring a succinct motif from Hancock’s classic composition, subtly revealing multiple implications of its chordal and melodic aspects. Only then does Gluck state the well-known melody. His reharmonized interpretation places a personal stamp on the piece, building upon Gluck's personal distinct musical characteristics. Sullivan’s emotive bass interacts with the piano in a manner that alternately reinforces and alters the tenor of the tune in surprising ways.

“October Song” is another Gluck original, played here for the first time. The composer again cites the influence of Herbie Hancock on the music, specifically his “Sleeping Giant” from the Mwandishi album "Crossings." An episodic piece, it is a built around several different “markers” that inspire divergent improvisations by the members of the trio. Beginning peacefully with Giardullo’s soprano in the foreground, Gluck’s keyboard is heard spaciously behind. A second marker dramatically introduces a powerful percussive piano section reminiscent of Don Pullen in its rhythmic intensity. As the music progresses, each player are heard individually in a manner that blurs the traditional lines between soloist and accompanist. This feature gives the track an organic narrative quality as it moves through segments of development and recapitulation, generously displaying a broad dynamic range.

Part of a pair of compositions, “Going Away” (its complement “Returning” can be heard on another FMR release featuring the trio from his previous recording) is one of the more delicately delivered constructions on "Something Quiet," much indicative of the date’s title. Developed horizontally, the tune's barely detectable harmonic shifts move slowly and subtly from chord to chord, creating a sensation of floating. This nearly ambient mood is contrasted briefly by a swinging piano moment that serves to emphasize the nearly static quality of the track as a whole.

“Still Waters” takes a different approach to the opening “Waterway”; more melodically focused than either of its previous interpretations on this or the "Sideways" album. Giardullo’s soprano is prominent in directing the melodic line, as Gluck’s piano and Sullivan’s bass move the piece dynamically and rhythmically with solo interludes and divergent shifts in volume and tempo.

The title track of Gluck’s previous trio release, “Sideways” is similarly given a fresh and new treatment, this one more angular in nature. An exercise in contrast, it begins as Gluck and Giardullo play the appealing melody in tandem, before each one heads into his own personal - often consciously opposing –territory, disparate in tonal and/or dynamic mood, with Sullivan’s bass often serving as the bridge between the divergent passages.

The concluding “Lifeline”, like the earlier “October Song”, is an episodically written composition in which the mood shifts from section to section. Opening with Gluck’s lyrical Monkishly rhythmic motif reminiscent of the pianist’s “Thelonious”, the piece moves into a meditative segment featuring Giardullo at his most expressive before briefly returning to the melodic opening for a satisfying final resolution.

A record of persuasive individuality and integrity, "Something Quiet" skillfully demonstrates the prodigious talent of Bob Gluck as a pianist, improvisor and composer in the tradition of jazz’s truly great creative individualists. The music here is as satisfying as it is personal – focused in its goal to tell one person's unique stories in a manner that will have broad appeal. It will engage a broad range of listeners. This is music that convincingly attunes the ear to the fascinating possibilities of music that builds unfettered on the concept of intelligently directed freedom of expression, sparkling with the allure of lyricism and beauty.
Bob Gluck is an intuitive, expressive pianist, always listening closely to the world around him. He has been described as " accomplished and passionate pianist in the most elusive tradition of avant-garde masters Cecil Taylor, Andrew Hill, McCoy Tyner, and Don Pullen." (Chronogram) and "...a brilliant improviser." (Cadence)

Gluck's journey through life has been like a labyrinth in which spirituality, politics and music-making all come together in his creative consciousness. Raised in New York as a conservatory student and political activist, Gluck spent many years away from music, leading a life as a rabbi. His return to composing in 1995 and to the piano in 2005 marked the beginning of unique, continually unfolding career as a musician, educator and writer. With influences as diverse as Herbie Hancock, Jimi Hendrix, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gluck discovered a way to marry interests in electronic music with his love of jazz.

His approach as a pianist and composer is like a creative caldron that intuitively merges intuition with a broad sonic palate. Lyricism and abstraction find a shared home. It should come as no surprise that the title of his upcoming book is "You'll Know When You Get There: Herbie Hancock and the Mwandishi Band" (forthcoming, University of Chicago Press). Gluck's two new recordings on FRM records plus an Innova release of music by Neil Rolnick, coming in January 2011, add to his previous four CDs. These include The Bob Gluck Trio, "Sideways" (2008). Gluck, a natural communicator, teaches music at the University at Albany. Keyboard magazine named him June 2009 "Unsigned Artist of the Month." observes: "Gluck never uses a sound in isolation - each tone is part of the picture, providing context and comprehension."

Joe Giardullo is a soprano saxophonist/ composer whose work encompasses avant jazz, new complexity, indeterminate and new music genres. Although he began his music studies in elementary school, he is primarily a self-taught instrumentalist, with isolated studies with Don Cherry and Leo Smith. However, in 1967 he began his study of Indian music. Those studies, over a period of seven years, became primarily focused on rhythm. At the conclusion of those studies Joe began intensive private study of the Lydian Chromatic Theory of Tonal Organization as developed by composer George Russell. In 1976, Joe began composing what he considered to be "experimental" works; those pieces remained unplayed for 2 years. A chance meeting, however, with pianist Paul Bley, resulted in a recording of those compositions, collectively called "Gravity" (1979), works for Creative Chamber Ensemble. That recording met with both commercial indifference and critical acclaim. At the same time, unknown to Joe, his Indian music teacher sent copies of the Gravity scores to Nadia Boulanger, her former teacher. Madame Boulanger responded by inviting Joe to attend her classes at the Paris Conservatoire. However, Joe's circumstances prohibited him from attending.

From 1977 to 1980, Joe divided his time between New York and Europe, working on his Gravity compositions in private and publicly performing as an avant jazz instrumentalist. He became involved with the composer Anthony Braxton, doing pre-production work on Braxton's Music For four Orchestras (Arista) and through his association with Braxton, became familiar with the work of Stockhausen and Berio, among others. Joe received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1979, sponsored by Mr. Braxton. Joe retreated from public performance in 1981 and did not emerge again until 1991. During this time, he played privately and the evolution of his Gravity compositions for Creative Chamber Ensemble continued. It was again a chance meeting, this time with the internationally known multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee that brought Joe back to performance, and also introduced his music to composer Pauline Oliveros. Ms. Oliveros has commissioned 2 works from Joe and she has performed numerous of his compositions in the last 15 years. A series of residencies, commissions, recordings and international performances have followed. As an instrumentalist, Joe has performed throughout the US, Canada and Europe, and with artists Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, The Deep Listening Band, Joe McPhee, Steve Lacy, Carlos Zingaro, Milford Graves, Bill Dixon, Marilyn Crispell, Vinny Golia, Bobby Bradford, Thomas Buckner, and Lori Freedman, among many others, including Lester Lanin and Peg Leg Bates.

Christopher Dean Sullivan is a renowned bassist of many musical languages: Jazz, Funk, Reggae, Latin, Fusion, Caribbean, Indian, African, and Eurocentric perceptions, rock, country, and more. He has shared the stage with Stanley Jordan, Pete Seeger, Archie Shepp, Charli Persip, Yusef Lateef, Grant Green, Horace Parlan, Joe McPhee, Sonny Simmons, Cecil Payne, Joe Lovano, Roy Campbell Jr., to name a few, and led his own ensembles within the U.S. and abroad. Sullivan can be heard on records and CDs from jazz and blues to acoustic folk, funk and gospel. He has recorded with reedist Michael Marcus and drummer Codaryl Cody Moffett; reedist Joe Giardullo, singer Sheila Jordan, as well as Carl Grubbs, Odean Pope, Newman Taylor Baker, and others.

Chris Sullivan also performs with the Cotton Club All Star Orchestra and he has toured with 50's/60's groups including the Marcel's, The Drifters, and the Sharelles. He is also an educator and actor. He has been producer/host of his own Warner Communication award winning television show, "The Tree of Arts Alive," which features performances and interviews with musical figures including Max Roach, Chick Corea, Stanley Clark, George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Chaka Chan, Lenny White, and Betty Carter. Chris Sullivan has received several community and arts services municipal and congressional awards.

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