Sunday, August 9, 2015

Indy Reeds: Frank Glover joins the Sophie Faught team for a stellar exhibition at the Jazz Kitchen

Like many of us, I've sometimes imagined a cliche deathbed scene for myself. In this age of hooked-up hospital shutdowns, hardly anyone experiences this sort of exit: family and a few close friends gathered round, a time to dispense final thoughts with retrospective wisdom.

Frank Glover should come up from Brown County more often.
Including regrets, of course. (No, don't go there. They don't want to get you started, believe me. By the time you get to "I should have flossed more often" and "I wish I'd learned to identify birds by their song," they'll be looking around for a spare pillow. And it won't be to put under your head.)

Pipe down, Sensible Inner Voice! Here's one regret my loved ones would have to bend close to hear, because I'd be trying to call up what I'm talking about in my head as I say it: "I wish I had gone out to hear Frank Glover and Claude Sifferlen more often."

Sophie Faught made the most of her invitation to a musician she's long admired.
Sifferlen, a self-effacing giant of  the keyboard, a weaver of countless inviting mysteries, is long gone and much missed. And Glover is less active hereabouts, having moved to a home near Nashville in Brown County that he built himself.

Their partnership stands tall in my memory. For many years around town, chiefly at the Chatterbox, they were symbiotic music-makers without equal. (Among my many regrets is having got up on my PC high horse — a nag that has since been dispatched to the glue factory, fortunately — about the title and cover art of the fine Glover/Sifferlen CD "Siamese Twins." It's among a handful of reviews I'd like to obliterate.)


Glover was onstage at the Jazz Kitchen Saturday night playing his clarinet, the instrument with which he has made his strongest artistic impression. He has also shone on the more marketable tenor saxophone, a horn superbly handled by his bandstand host, Sophie Faught. She and her quartet —  a young, cohesive band also including Joel Tucker, guitar; Nick Tucker, bass, and Ben Lumsdaine, drums — shared the stage with Glover for an exciting first of two sets.

The bluesy "Locomotion," which opened the show, featured a patented Glover illustration of moving a solo from taciturn to loquacious without breaking stride. The quintet sounded super-compatible: the way the horn players traded short phrases, partially overlapping; Joel Tucker's placing of guitar chords behind his brother's solo; the ensemble diminuendo off the drums to a firm conclusion.

Lumsdaine quickly adjusted to the need for spaciousness behind Glover, whose laconic heat can tempt a rhythm section to become overemphatic. He accompanied the clarinet solo in Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" much more sensitively than he had the corresponding episode in Joe Henderson's "Serenity."

The band's "Footprints" was as momentous as the ones Robinson Crusoe discovered in the sand. The tune's signature ascending figure introducing the theme functioned like steady thunder in an ensemble storm. Soloing took place after an abrupt shift to a fast 4/4 tempo. The dreamy waltz of the theme became a distant memory.

Similar dismissal of a lulling original occurred from the start of "Summertime." The arrangement had much of the urgent character of the John Coltrane version on the benchmark album "My Favorite Things." I bought the LP more than 50 years ago, but haven't listened to it in years. Despite similar handling, there was nothing derivative about this quintet's version; any reminders were just fun to notice.

Faught evoked her great predecessor initially, but soloed in a more relaxed fashion; Glover dependably went his own way. As the only harmony instrument involved, Joel Tucker's guitar was much less conspicuous than McCoy Tyner's exotic piano figuration. Nick Tucker was both brooding and exuberant, and Lumsdaine spread the rhythm around a bit like Elvin Jones, but still seemed his own man. There was a similar focus on drums near the end, prodded by brief repeated figures from the rest of the band. I always get goosebumps when I think of Coltrane's arpeggio vaulting back into the melody; its return Saturday night was just as exciting, but particular to this band, in this moment.

"Monk's Dream" had an inspired opening, tension generated by the clarinetist's split tones, then just Sophie and Frank in dialogue for a long stretch. The Thelonious Monk tune arrived with dreamlike clarity. The saxophonist took a searching, well-crafted solo: if she tore a phrase to tatters, she would then make something of the tatters. The Tucker brothers' adjacent solos contrasted the guitarist's curlicues with the bassist's plain speaking.

I find it hard to talk about the set's one thoroughgoing ballad feature, "Body and Soul." The band neatly passed around the imperishable melody's "A" section and bridge. There was some delicate simultaneous improv by the horns, a tuneful Nick Tucker solo, and then some gorgeous, wispy Glover phrases to end it. You can't analyze pretty, so I'll quit trying. "Pretty is absolute," Duke Ellington recalled Billy Strayhorn telling him, and who am I to question the composer of "Chelsea Bridge"?

Speaking of Ellington, the first set ended with the bassist's hard-charging arrangement of "Caravan." It was a thoroughly galvanized performance, with as much exuberant group improvisation as the classic bands of jazz's origins a century ago. History may be cyclical, after all.

I may regret not having been present for more Sifferlen/Glover performances, but I'm happy to have been around for this Faught/Glover meeting.

As for deathbed speeches, I suspect that the most honest, most revealing one ever was set down by Robert Lowell in the last line of "Terminal Days at Beverly Farms."

 The poet's father's final words? "I feel awful."


[Photos by Mark Sheldon]