Greg Glassman,
Into the Wild
(Etoile, 2006)

One usually reliable way to tell whether or not young musicians are worth hearing is to see who they've been able to attract to their recording sessions. But in spite of guest appearances by Marcus Belgrave, perhaps Detroit's best resident trumpeter, and jazz legend Clark Terry, Greg Glassman's latest album is mildly disappointing, especially after his promising earlier effort, Onward & Upward.

As I said in a review of that album, he has a gorgeous trumpet tone that's particularly effective on ballads. Here it's on display in an unusual harmonic treatment of Ellington's "I Got It Bad" and again in the lesser-known but beautiful Mal Waldron tune, "Soul Eyes." I remain less impressed with Glassman's up-tempo work and, unfortunately, most of the tempos are medium to fast on Into the Wild.

It's certainly not that he lacks technique. There's never a flubbed note or chord change on even the fastest, most harmonically complex tunes. But, as in the more upbeat improvisations of the earlier album, there's not a lot that's striking, and too much that's repetitive in melodic and rhythmic phrasing. The same characteristics flaw some of his originals. "Nexxt" features a candidate for most annoyingly repeated riff of the year. "Jazz from Rock Central" may be runner-up.

The composer's brief and melancholy "New Orleans" on the other hand, encourages wonderfully mellifluous sounds from the unaccompanied brass trio of Glassman, Belgrave and Terry as they open the program. "The Moon's Axis" is another successful Glassman original and benefits from a strong appearance by Stacy Dillard on tenor. Dillard, a fine young player, joins Glassman's regular quartet on this and one other track.

The quartet, in addition to the trumpet playing leader, includes Dave Pier on piano, Danton Boller on bass and Quincy Davis on drums. They've been together now for several years and it shows. It's a pleasure to hear how responsive they are to each other's playing.

The guest trumpeters appear for just the second time on the concluding track, Clark Terry's joyful "Phalanges." This time they get to stretch out some with the full rhythm section urging things along. It's the best cut on the album.

Into the Wild has a few things going for it -- Glassman's work on ballads, strong guest appearances and wonderful interplay among the members of the quartet. But, like the earlier outing, it falls into the category of "promising." Here's hoping the still young Glassman absorbs some of Clark Terry's magic and realizes the promise more fully next time out.

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review by
Ron Bierman

3 November 2007

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