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(66:34, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Set One 20:32 2. Miles, Monk, Elton & Mom 4:18 3. Set Two 21:19 4. Big Sur 9-14-2000 10:48 5. No Stranger to the Skies 9:22 LINEUP: Jeff Sherman – bass, bass pedals; Fender-Rhodes Greg Sherman – synthesizers, Mellotron Jerry Cook – drums, percussion With: Elton Dean – saxophones (1, 2, 3) Hugh Hopper – bass (4) Richard Sinclair – voice; effects (4) Peter Peneras – ac. & el. guitar (1) Bill Kopecky – fretless bass (3)
Prolusion. GLASS is a trio of veteran American musicians, who were active almost throughout the ‘70s, having had conducted several live tours as well as studio sessions, yet failed in getting any recording deal at that time, which resulted in the band’s breakup at the end of the decade. Twenty years have passed before they gathered together for the second time, but this, Glass’s second, incarnation is definitely much more viable. “Live at Progman Comet”, documenting the group’s performance at that festival in 2002 and 2003, is their third outing to date, following “No Stranger to the Skies”, a double CD set from 2000, and “Illuminations”, released in 2005.
Analysis. Nominally this outing consists of five tracks, whilst the actual number of the pieces played is twelve, nine of which were unavailable until now and which form almost two thirds of the disc’s playing time. All in all, only the title track of Glass’s first release, while being excellent in itself, sounds familiar throughout, revealing no significant alterations to its original version, whereas of the other two older pieces, Give the Man a Hand and For Ursula Major & Sirius, none are carbon copies of their studio counterparts, each appearing to be one of the segments of Set One and Set Two respectively. Both the epics, in turn, come across as genuine suites, with so to speak properly constructed bridges between their several sections-components. Unlike “Illuminations”, this recording depicts the band playing predominantly in their original, vintage sympho-fusion style, which moreover finds a lot of extra improvisations on both the longer tracks, the matter coming as no surprise, though, since on those the trio is joined by Elton Dean. (Who added a really glorious page to the history of the progressive rock genre and whose untimely decease two years ago will probably ever be perceived as a suspension point, as the artist’s creative legacy seems to be really immense.) The band shines with mastery and inventiveness throughout each of the Sets and is probably at their creative peak there, at least to date. When they drive mostly hard and up-tempo, the sound is usually typical of a classic keyboard trio, with ELP often coming to mind in terms of performance mastery as well as style. Just like the above English band, Glass are technically very skilled musicians, sounding like a tight, truly solid ensemble even when vectoring their solos into completely different directions, and are not afraid of blending art-rock textures with jazzy or classical influences. As to other references, some of Greg Sherman’s piano thrills evoke Chick Corea circa “Leprechaun” (quasi-symphonic in nature, this is my favorite among Corea’s solo efforts that I’ve heard); within those movements with calmer arrangements that feature Elton’s sax at their fore I hear the breath of Soft Machine, though in quite a few of the sections the music reminds me of nobody else besides Glass themselves. However, the remaining two tracks, the comparatively short Miles, Monk, Elton & Mom, and the semi-epic Big Sur 9-14-2000, both differ from the main body of the recording and are dissimilar to each other also. The first of these, a beautiful jazz-ambient piece with only electric piano and sax in the arrangement, is associated exclusively with Elton Dean, meaning some of his solo creations. The latter is something atypical of Glass as well, a slow-paced and generally unhurriedly developing piece depicting atmospheric Space Rock with a blurry finale, due to which it leaves the impression of being overextended (the only weak spot in the entire set).
Conclusion. No less than 40 minutes of this CD consist of previously unavailable material, most of it representing first-rate music, so I happily take “Live at Progman Comet” as a full-fledged album rather than a compilation. A worthy addition to the band’s discography, this release is equally a worthy addition to my personal collection of discs, and comes recommended to all those who appreciate both symphonic Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: March 13, 2008
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