South African born and London based harmonica performer, keyboardist and composer Adam Glasser has played keyboards for artists such as Martha Reeves, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Hugh Masekela. As a harmonica player he’s worked with Dan Siegel, Dominic Miller and Christopher Young. It’s his harmonica playing, however, that is the featured instrument on his first major jazz label release as a leader, Free At Last.
This recording is superb from start to finish and should firmly establish Glasser as the heir apparent to Toots Thielemans. With a harmonica tone as rich as the most luscious pecan pie and a sense of line and phrase as refined as Herbie Hancock’s, Glasser not only swings his butt off on tunes like "On Green Dolphin Street," but also shows a basket full of taste on introspective outings like the Irving Berlin penned "How Deep Is The Ocean?"
Glasser is accompanied by some of London’s best jazz musicians, including Robin Aspland on piano, Steve Watts and Andy Hamill on bass, and Tristan Mailliot on drums. Aspland’s tasteful solo on "Green Dolphin Street" is as tightly constructed and as perfectly in-the-moment as any you’ll hear anywhere, and on "Quickly In Love" he brilliantly displays how the less-is-more concept can pay big dividends. Tasteful vocals by Pinise Saul on "Mjo," Anita Wardell on Jackie McLean’s "Little Melonae," and David Serame on "The Low Six," help to make this recording user friendly beyond the typical jazzophile listener. Alternating bassists Watts and Hamill combine so effortlessly with Mailliot’s drumset work it almost sounds as if the duos are really just one musician. If jazz musicians in the United States weren’t as Amero-centric as they are, Glasser’s backing bandmates would be more well known here in the States.
Whether darting in and out of the vocals on "Mjo," or laying out a series of perfectly turned and sensitive phrases on "Quickly In Love," Glasser shows the energy of Stevie Wonder’s best harmonica solos and the harmonic depth always associated with Thielemans. As a harmonica soloist Glasser is endlessly inventive and so lyric, as on "Maos de Afeto," you’d swear his harmonica is really a synthesizer.
Glasser also takes a few turns on keyboards as well. On "Kort Street" he displays his penchant for slightly avant-garde and technically proficient abilities to their fullest. He and drummer Mailliot play double-time licks in perfect union and when they go their separate ways at the end of the tune it’s obvious that they never lose the sense tightly constrained communicative empathy that marks the entire disc. For those looking for artists on the rise, this is the perfect disc to begin your 2009 collection.