Limited Noise – 29th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

With a CV that lists near-multitudinous membership and participation in bands (notably his regular gigs with Snack Family and World Sanguine report, but also contributing to Sly ands the Family Drone and countless others), renowned experimentally-minded jazz drummer and percussionist Will Glaser has taken some time out to continue his solo album sequence with the fourth instalment of Climbing in Circles.

Over the course of three previous releases, Glaser has explored jazz, folk, and beyond, through an experimental prism and with a methodology that’s very much about improvisation. This outing features long-time collaborator, Matthew Herd, on saxophones and piano, alongside trumpeter, electronic artist and producer, Alex Bonney, and was assembled over the course of five day. While the album is loosely constructed around two overarching ‘acts’, they consist of eleven separate and distinct pieces, and bookended by ‘Beginnings’ and ‘Endings’, there’s a narrative arc of sorts, here.

It begins with crawing birds and a gentle piano playing what one could readily describe as a charming melody with a quite conventional structure, and ends with a genuinely pleasant lilting piano tune – and yes, I mean tune in that it has all the conventional features of one.

In between, there is slow decay and infinite space. Rumbling, echoes, notes reverberate off one another at distance. Sax and trumpet trill and drone, sometimes at one, at others as if duelling. The percussion rolls and crashes, but more often than not, at distance, and creating texture and atmosphere and colouring the pieces with expression rather than maintaining rhythm.

The combination of instruments is relatively conventional in jazz, and, similarly, there’s nothing particularly radical about the way they’re played and interact on here. But there’s considerable joy to be had in simply listening to the musicianship and the way the musicians themselves interplay on the pieces. ‘Spiral Dance’ is a hypnotic serpentine spin, while ‘Bad Dream Machines’ is a drifting mass of fragmentation, dissonant, discordant, and above all, a work that exists in the spaces between the notes and in the reverb and echoes as in the notes themselves.

There will be some – perhaps many – who are deterred by the very mention of jazz, and there is a perception of there being a certain elitism about jazz – the idea that random notes and borderline unlistenable chaos is somehow a superior art form, and anyone who doesn’t ‘get’ it is clearly a philistine. But Glaser is a remarkably positive showcase for jazz, with a focus on the listener rather than purely the musicianship. Climbing in Circles Pt 4 is about atmosphere, about vibe, rather than indulgent wanking: this is jazz you don’t need to be an aficionado to appreciate. It’s listenable, and it’s varied, too.

On ‘Dead Fly Disco’, he and his collaborators play completely straight, a song with structure and swing, something you could even dance to, or at least nod a long to its toe-tapping groove in a basement bar late at night. ‘Ballad in the Jazz Style’ almost feels like they’re playing with and working within the tropes as an example of discipline, and it’s highly restrained and wonderfully moody in that sad, smoky jazz melancholy way.

There’s plenty going on, and enough to maintain interest, but not so much as to be chaotic or to lose the listener. Whether these things make it a good access point to jazz, it’s hard to say, but what it does mean is that Climbing In Circles pt.4 is a jazz album that’s accessible and enjoyable simply as a musical work.

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