Bob Gluck – Something Quiet
FMR Records 294
Pianist/composer Bob Gluck's 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 goes 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” will be heard on an upcoming 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.
Label Website: www.fmr-records.com