Brian Glick: Trophy—Live 1 October 2000 • Newsonic 22


Let me say right off that I enjoy Trophy very much. But it isn't for the usual reasons. Maybe it is, I guess I don't know what your usual reasons are. It isn't because it pumps or pushes, or seethes with drama. It is a jazz record, you could say, and the group instrumentation is one you might find in a jazz-type ensemble. It is also a chamber group, and a wind ensemble, and a nonet, and a trio, and a quartet, and a solo. Its shortcomings are its strengths—there isn't any free-blowing insanity, and it says in a whisper what is frequently treated to muezzin-like pronouncements. It is dark, it is slow-moving, it is a buzz, a hum. Perhaps this is the fulcrum of its effectiveness . . .
Brian Glick is a tenor saxophonist/composer living in NY; although comparatively young, he has worked in an instrumental capacity with such living jazz and post-jazz legends as Sunny Murray, Sonny Simmons, and Anthony Braxton. Trophy, his first recorded document, chronicles the development of a partly notated, partly improvised work for nine pieces. What is perhaps most surprising about this release, though, is (and especially given his age) what is absent. It is not really, as one might be led to think from the names mentioned above, what one would call free-jazz. Nor are there are hackneyed melodies, or strict, closed harmonies here—the music is understated, and appeals immediately to a sense of . . . well, a kind of visceral calm. The work’s excitement is a smooth, seething one—where some may hear meditative “static”, this sentiment is underwoven by a sense of the foreboding. With rising unison lines ascending from solo particles of blotted statements from the reeds, Glick constructs a kind of post-bellum fort from the ruins of such America avant-garde “classical” icons as Morton Feldman and Charles Ives.
These crosspurposes lead to an odd morphing, the picture of a child somewhere between Gil Evans and Kryztof Penderecki whose entire life is lived in phase vocode. But in the end, Glick's strength is his lyricism. The ability to conjure a mood is not, by definition, a mark of talent; here it seems a by-product, for instance. The melodies from Chris Matthay’s warm, open trumpet, to Seth Misterka’s lumbering baritone saxophone, float through the 40-odd minute work like vectors pointing towards infinity. They are there, one might like to think, to remind the listener that composition in a free-jazz orchestra is possible without reverting to historically-specific moments; and maybe isn't so much a reproof to Cecil Taylor-inspired ensembles all over, as it is a nod from across the tracks. Maybe, to paraphrase James Brown, they are two trains, both on the right track but going in . . . um, different directions.
Harmonies crop up throughout the work, whether incidental or intended it is impossible to tell. One must assume, right or wrong, that they are intentional, on a certain level a response to Glick's orchestrations or conductings. Horns collide, narrowly avoid each other, vibraphone chimes racinate themselves into the space of the music. As they crunch their way through the work, these harmonies quickly create their own paths—an extended, quietly shifting pedal point against the subdued action of bass clarinet, or the cut of oboe. More than fluff or merely groundwork, they cushion the movement in a foamy thickness, foglike.
The listener also gains a clearer picture of the ensemble, who play so well it is hard to imagine (as the liner notes indicate) that they have met only once. The talent in developing this work over the course of the work is indeed formidable, and certainly credence must be given to musicians who are able to uncover such music as well. From the humming tat-tat-tatat of Sean Meehan’s percussive arsenal to Matthew Heyner’s pulsing bass, at times buried beneath loads of notes, other times floating just above them; Chris Jonas’ tenor saxophone, sometimes in duel with Brian Glick’s tenor, other times staking his own ground; and, particularly notable, the interplay between oboist Rafael Cohen and veteran vibraphonist Kevin Norton,weaving their own clusters and melodies throughout. The players are all, of course, composers themselves, many familiar with larger-band conglomerations from work in free-jazz or community orchestras, and their playing is ultimately reflective of this intuition of experience. The enclosed notes congratulate them on their skills, and it is clear, at least in the composer’s estimation, that the work would not be the same without them.
So, Brian Glick ends up eschewing what frequently appears as the "high drama" of saxophone expressionism by first conflating it, and then dashing it to bits. The interplay of opposing forces throughout keeps Trophy afloat, from the pianissimo lines in bass clarinet, appearing only when the tense interplay between vibes and reeds have climaxed, to the subtle, pointillistic percussion running like a dotted line through the popping harmonies. The musicianship, both in composition and performance, is commendable: these young men manage to generate a great deal of friction, in the nicest way possible, in a very short period of time. I see it as a portend for the future: the shape, if you will, of talent to come.

Jothan Williams
Brooklyn, NY
2001