Alto saxophonist Dave Glasser is an old-schooler. This album swings through eight tracks in just over forty-five minutes, which is close to perfect. (I, too, am an old-schooler; I like the 1950s and ’60s Blue Note approach of five or six tracks in thirty-five to forty minutes. Hour-long CDs are too much music for one sitting, and once you get past seven tracks or so I start losing my ability to tell them apart.) The music is rooted in hard bop tradition; hell, it’s a modern manifestation of hard bop tradition, no different than Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ approach to soul. The album opens with “Monkish,” which lives up to its title, bouncing and rattling through permutations of a Thelonious-esque melody. That’s succeeded by “Minor Madness,” which has the feel of a cross between the classic John Coltrane quartet and Joe Henderson’s mid ’60s Blue Note albums, with Glasser playing very Trane-like phrases despite being on the alto. Similarly, the rhythm section (bassist Jeff Campbell, drummer Rich Thompson) goes for a churning Jimmy Garrison/Elvin Jones groove as pianist John Nyerges chops at the keys before sliding into a very McCoy Tyner-ish solo. Toward the piece’s conclusion, Glasser begins snarling and squealing, releasing distorted, rasping flurries that come close to Charles Gayle or Albert Ayler territory, albeit obviously much more subdued.

Calling a ballad “Tranquility” goes beyond traditionalism into cliché, but the performance is very nice, verging on loveliness at a few points. Despite its title, “Monk’s Blues” is another track that reminds me of Coltrane, specifically Crescent (the album, and maybe the piece). The group’s take on “It Could Happen to You,” barely driven by Thompson’s gentle brush work and Campbell’s thick, Charlie Haden-esque bass, is a soft but sure-footed dance. By the time the group gets around to tackling a Thelonious Monk composition (“Rhythm-a-Ning”), their own identities have been well established and they can—and do—take it in dance-band fashion, utilizing its fanfare-like melody as a jumping-off point for fleet solos by Glasser, Nyerges and Thompson, not to mention a suspenseful sax-drums duo section. Evolution ends with another ballad, “Blue Iridescence,” which is straight from the ’50s, if not the ’40s. Glasser’s warm, buzzing tone, burbling from the lower end of the alto’s range, perfectly complements the stately swaying of the rhythm section.

When playing in a deliberately old-school/classic style, there’s a fine balance to be struck between pointlessly rehashing the past and striking vain, pseudo-iconoclastic postures. Dave Glasser makes the past his own on this unpretentious but self-assured release. Highly recommended to those who enjoy hearing experienced players “make it new.”

Phil Freeman

1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? Absolutely.

2. Should you buy this record? Definitely.

Link to purchase, if you’re so inclined…

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