Glaser is a renowned composer of orchestral works and a brilliant educator. Eminently educated himself, Glaser uses all the tools at his disposal to create an album of brilliance in composing and performing. Using virtual instruments, Glaser says what he wants, how he wants.
The song selection on Excursions has been described as eclectic, ranging from Jazz-Pop to Electronica to R&B and Funk. The dates of the compositions range from 1989 to 2012. But the overarching atmosphere is one of Jazz. And he does it well.
Glaser kicks the album off with Delivery. The electric piano is a great start and the rhythms and bass are folded in before jumping into a cool and colorful tune of great texture. This is a good hook for the rest of the album.
Then on to Naomi’s Binomial Nomenclature. I would like to know more about Naomi and why she is talking about binomial nomenclature, which is the formal system of naming a species by using two names—one for genus and the second for distinguishing the species within the genus. Think homo sapiens.
Armed with that knowledge, listen to the way Glaser makes and almost call and response between treble and bass clefs in the introduction, like a first name/second name designation. The developing bass lines are cool and exciting while the electric piano is lively and melodic. But what does Naomi have to say about it?
Carrying on with the scientific impressions, The Art of Science is a beautiful foray into melody and harmonies set forth by piano, acoustic guitar, electric piano, and touch guitar sounds. This one will carry you away in its imagery and flow.
Con Artist turns on the heavy R&B with the slick organ and bouncing bass. Then the Jazz takes over the middle passage. Who Wants Lentil Soup? is a Caribbean-sounding bit with marimba textures and steady rhythms. Eventually, the Hammond organ sound comes aboard, expanding the scope of the piece. Truthfully, the song has a little haunting quality to it but it works well with these instruments that are usually associated with light and liveliness.
A Little Bit of Your Love adds horn programming to the electric piano and rhythm section. If you haven’t decided by now that Glaser is a brilliant composer and programmer for the precise sounds and rhythms he wants, then maybe you should go back to your Lynyrd Skynyrd 8-tracks. Seriously.
If you want beautiful melodies, Lay Low is the track for you. The piano, bass, and drums are spot on and the melody is gorgeous. I couldn’t hear this one enough. I’m Ready is synthesizer rich with programmed arpeggios underscoring the catchy phrases.
Blues for Planet 9 is an electronic blues piece. Maybe a lament for the downgrading of Pluto? Sometimes electronica is lost on me but not so here. The rhythms and tonal colors are fascinating. It Snowed Last Night changes directions entirely with sweet acoustic guitar (maybe even hammered dulcimer) sounds and the always-welcome piano of Glaser’s. The fretless bass is so appropriate for the piece. At 2:30, it was over far too soon.
Pursuit No.1 is broken into separate passages with different instrument programming chasing each other. Moonshine pairs the Hammond sound with the synthesizer in layered melodic lines that are captivating. The Catamaran is Coming Around adds the Steel Drum to the arsenal of Glaser’s expressions and who doesn’t love the Steel drum?
A Man of Few Words puts you in mind of an electronic portrait of Humphrey Bogart. The noir harmonies and cool, scratchy guitar are mesmerizing. The album concludes with Double Helix. Clearly, Glaser is into genetics, taxonomy, astronomy, meteorology, and all science. Add the rock elements of the music and you can say geology, too. The vibraphone/synth gives a futuristic, if not science fiction, impression. The track—and album—fades away in the digital pulse.
Adam Glaser’s Excursions is just that—adventures in sound, composition, and programming. With all the fascinating effects and electronics, Glaser never once loses his melodic/harmonic direction. His excursions are not meanderings. They are dedicated explorations and we get to go along for the trip.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl