Bass Trombonist Chris Glassman Brings Variety of Styles to Summer Solstice Jazz Fest

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018, 9:32 am
Christopher A. Wardell

Photo: Chris Glassman courtesy of Chris Glassman

Lansing area bass trombonist Chris Glassman doesn’t have a hard time remembering when he fell in love with jazz music. It was early in his life when his father introduced the then budding musicians to jazz pioneers Max Roach and Clifford Brown.

“I was maybe 11 or 12, and since then I have always been enamored of jazz.” Glassman said. “I played some jazz in high school and as an undergrad, but within the last two years, I have really been digging into this beautiful cornucopia of music.”

Glassman and his quartet will perform Saturday, June 23 from 5:10-6:10 p.m. on the Education Stage as a part of East Lansing’s Summer Solstice Jazz Festival. The main stage of the festival (Founder’s Stage) will be located in the Bailey Street Parking lot, while the Education Station will be located adjacent to the Albert-Division Street intersection.

Although Glassman has his undergraduate degree in classical music from MSU, the Denver-born musician isn’t afraid to tackle other kinds of music.

“I love how jazz is an incredibly social music.” Glassman said. “I have a lot of experience playing classical music and other popular music like rock, pop, and salsa. But jazz, to me, stands out in that the tradition of it is centered around communication, interaction, listening, and spontaneity. Jazz music has a tradition of musicians (who may or may not have ever met or played with one another) coming together and making music with one another, with nothing but an instrument, and an open set of ears. There aren't many other music styles in the world where you can go to any session in the country, call a tune, and instantly make music with musicians you've never met.”

This passion for music and a deeper need to connect is what drew the musician to take up the bass trombone.

“The trombone has such an emotional range which is something that really resonates with me.” Glassman said. “It has the capacity to evoke fear and anger, joy, playfulness, sorrow, vulnerability, and everything in between. The trombone produces the sound to me that most directly targets my spirit. To this day, J.J. Johnson's performance of ‘Time After Time’ gives me chills, as does hearing the New York Philharmonic's Joseph Alessi play the famous trombone solo in Mahler's Third Symphony. The bass trombone in particular…embodies a greater richness and warmth as opposed to the trombone, as well as the ability to evoke a visceral feeling of power that I constantly am seeking and striving to create.”

Glassman will seek to re-create this power with his fellow bandmates in his quartet, which features longtime staples in the mid-Michigan jazz scene including guitarist and band co-leader Nathan Borton, bassist Javier Arguello, and drummer Zach Adleman.

“On top of being an expertly practiced, constantly vigilant, and incredibly collaborative musician, Nate is my roommate and one of my two best friends here in Lansing.” Glassman said. We have constantly maintained dialogue since we moved here, both through the actual performance of the music, and in discussion of it. Nate is an incredible musician, superb friend, and a great person. Javier has always been our go-to bassist, as well as someone we often socialize with. Javier is a great bassist, with a great knowledge of the music, as well as being a very kind and humble individual. Zach is genuinely one of the best drummers in town, and also a great friend.”

The four have been performing together in various combinations at MSU, and have a few more performances together scheduled this year. Glassman and his bandmates have been cutting their teeth at Tuesday night jazz nights at Moriarty’s Pub in Lansing, including a performance with another MSU jazz faculty member, Altin Sencalar.

“For the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival, we’re planning on playing primarily what's considered "Straight Ahead" jazz, including American songbook tunes, rhythm changes, the blues, and a few Bebop standards. In addition, we will be playing originals by Nathan and myself, both within that realm, and into a bit more fluid territory. I tend to lean more on the side of bebop and straight ahead sounding jazz of all time periods because I think it strikes the best balance of tradition and innovation.”

In addition to performing with his own quartet, Glassman will join Summer Solstice Jazz Festival Director and MSU Director of Jazz Studies Rodney Whitaker’s Gathering Orchestra with special guests Rene Marie and saxophonist Stephen Wilson. The Gathering Orchestra will perform Saturday from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. on the main stage.

Other East Lansing Summer Solstice performers include: East Lansing jazz singer Sunny Wilkenson, “Boogie” Bob Baldori and Migliazza, Phil Denny (who just recently released a new album), and the Detroit Generations Jazz Band.

For Glassman, performing alongside such jazz luminaries is not something he’s taking for granted. He’s also looking forward to performing a set of music some Festival attendees may never have heard before.

“Most folks have never heard an entire set of jazz with the bass trombone as the main horn.” Glassman said. “Bass Trombone is often an overlooked instrument in the jazz world, and my goal is to bring a little bit more light to it in this performance. This will be an incredibly fulfilling, and educational musical journey for me and all of my peers involved.”


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