Greg Glassman Quartet,
Onward & Upward
(Soluna, 2002)

Greg Glassman is a 26-year-old trumpet player with an unusually strong performing and academic background for his age. He's on the jazz faculty at the State University of New York. His quartet plays contemporary, mainstream jazz with a sometimes edgy feel at faster tempos. He often stays in the trumpet's lower range and has a rich, full tone that suggests the more mellow sound players such as Ruby Braff and Nat Adderley get on a cornet rather than a trumpet. He is also like Braff in staying closer to the melody than many improvisers, though it's less obvious in the complex rhythms and harmonies of Glassman's more modern style.

The young trumpeter has technique and an ear to go with that phat sound. His work is beautiful on ballads such as "May Day," written for his mother's birthday, and the old standard "If I Had You." Slower tempos make up about half of the album. That's all to the good because his up-tempo improvisations are less consistent, sometimes making too much of uninspired melodic phrases, some of them appearing on multiple tracks. A near quote of Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring" on Tashi was closer to the right idea.

Glassman is a talented composer of both ballads and up-tempo, boppish tunes and wrote much of the material on this, his second album. Most tracks feature trumpet backed by the solid rhythm section of Dave Pier (piano), Danton Boller (bass) and Quincy Davis (drums). Pier has a fair amount of solo time and consistently makes the most it. Tenor player Donald Walden provides fine solos on two tracks with a tone reminiscent of Joe Henderson. Vibist Bryan Carrott is a tasty addition on two other cuts.

I recommend the album for those who like to keep up with promising young jazz players. Glassman is in good company and his smoky tone, compositional skill and way with a ballad make Onward & Upward worth a listen.

- Rambles
written by Ron Bierman
published 1 February 2003

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