Bob Gluck – Something Quiet – FMR CD294-0810, 67:41**** [1/4/11]:
(Bob Gluck – piano; Christopher Dean Sullivan – bass; Joe Giardullo– soprano saxophone)
Bob Gluck has had an intriguing arc leading to his first entirely acoustic effort, the trio release Something Quiet. Gluck may be best known for electronic realizations combining avant-garde inclinations with his interest in electric jazz (Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Weather Report are some of his influences) as well as progressive jazz (Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett are two other inspirations). During the past decade Gluck returned to piano while continuing to fuse electronics into his aesthetic.
On his new 67-minute excursion Gluck omits electronics to focus on his original acoustic music while showing his abiding attraction to abstract jazz with a unique trio approach: Gluck on acoustic piano, Joe Giardullo on soprano saxophone and Christopher Dean Sullivan on standup bass; as well as a broad stylistic scheme that merges chamber jazz with tempo changes, differing tonalities, varying volume and a musical tapestry where anything can and often does happen.
The threesome excises expectations on “Waterway,” a reinterpretation of a tune Gluck introduced on his previous album, Sideways. The extended piece begins with Gluck’s soft painterly piano notes with a hint of dissonance similar to Cecil Taylor’s harmonic maneuvers. Giardullo’s soprano sax enters to provide a lyrical pattern that becomes a solid polished layer that Gluck and Sullivan – who undertakes a brief but potent bass spotlight – use as a base for their shifts in phrases, improvisations and free jazz designs. The trio also tackles the title track from Sideways, offering a more angular rendering than Gluck formerly presented. The new arrangement is a conduit of contrasts: Gluck and Giardullo commence with a melodic duet aided by Sullivan’s single bass lines. Before long, piano and sax head off into almost opposite directions, with Sullivan often the only sonic connection between Gluck and Giardullo’s contrary courses.
Gluck’s aquatic framework carries on with a reharmonized version of Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance,” the sole cover, done as a bass/piano duet. This rendition has a subtle shape that reinforces Hancock’s original objective while including chordal and melodic adaptations that deliver a distinct edge to Gluck’s translation. While Gluck is in the limelight most of the time, Sullivan supports with underpinned emotive interaction.
“Still Waters,” the longest track, takes a separate but parallel path to “Waterway,” with Giardullo again contributing strong melodic statements while Gluck and Sullivan carve out rhythmically individual moments that actively diverge in volume, tempo and harmonics.
The most varied pieces are “October Song,” prompted by Hancock’s “Sleeping Giant,” and “Lifeline.” Like Gluck’s other material, “October Song” opens peacefully but rapidly intensifies, hammered along by Gluck’s percussive piano changes suggestive of Don Pullen’s dense solo fluctuations. Just as quickly the work moves back to a lyrical development that initiates a narrative attribute brought forward at times by piano, sax or bass, each player effortlessly adjusting from accompanist to soloist and back. This expansive improvisational tactic is echoed on the concluding “Lifeline,” which is episodically written to emphasis mood alterations, modifying rhythmic motifs and both pensive and dramatic ideas.
Some jazz fans prefer listening to music that is familiar and recognizable. With Something Quiet, Gluck delights in surprise, uninhibited structures and thoroughly modernistic art that can be difficult for those critical of free or avant-garde jazz but is tailor-made for adventurous ears.
2. Dolphin Dance
3. October Song
4. Going Away
5. Still Waters
— Doug Simpson