Early Morning Star

Bob Gluck (piano, composer)
Andrea Wolper (voice)
Kinan Azmeh (clarinet)
Ken Filiano (bass)
Tani Tabbal (drums)

Early Morning Star, featuring music composed by pianist Bob Gluck, blends passionate songs of social justice with captivating improvisational interplay. The band's approach balances a love of beautiful melody and sonic innovation, vibrant rhythm, and sparkling chemistry between players. Early Morning Star bridges musical traditions, from Art song to collective improvisation; from Kinan Azmeh's Syrian melodic inflection to the "Creative Music" jazz traditions represented by Tani Tabbal and Ken Filiano; from Andrea Wolper's expressive vocal jazz stylings to Gluck's pianistic virtuosity and love of Jewish liturgical texts. Early Morning Star guides the listener through a panoply of moods, a message of social justice, and a remarkable depth of musicality.

Listen!: Excerpts
Excerpts: songs of justice
Full track: Tzur Mishelo/Los Bibilicos

Watch!: Videos

Arriving in June 2020 @ FMR, Band Camp, iTunes...

Early Morning Star cover art

In loving memory of Aileen Gluck

Cover art and design: Ewan Rigg
Recorded July 16, 2019 at Scott Lehrer Sound Design

Sound and mix engineer: Jeff Cook

Produced by Produced by Bob Gluck and Trevor Taylor

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Early Morning Star
FRM Records (FMR CD 569-0120), June 2020

A Time of Singing (6:30)
2 Early Morning Star (3:43)
3 Emerge-ency (3:38)
4 Flowing (3:42)
5 For Today (3:57)
6 Friday Song (6:07)
7 Here Now (4:40)
8 Never Ceasing (2:39)
9 Not For Today (7:41)
10 Today Today (4:58)
11 Tzur Mishelo/Los Bilbilicos (6:28)

All compositions by Bob Gluck (copyright 2019), Electricsongs (ASCAP)
Except Tzur Mishelo/Los bilbilicos (Traditional)

Bob Gluck: Pianist Bob Gluck is a writer, educator, and rabbi. Musical collaborators have included Michael Bisio, Jane Ira Bloom, Joe Giardullo, Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson, Aruan Ortiz, Neil Rolnick, Andrew Sterman, Christopher Dean Sullivan, and Tani Tabbal. The New York Times has spoken of his "virtuosic fluidity." Gluck’s five FMR recordings include Sideways (2008), Something Quiet (2011), Returning (2011), and Infinite Spirit: Revisiting Music of the Mwandishi Band. Jazz Review found in Returning: "an intensity and sensitivity that is spellbinding."" JazzDaGamma called it "a record of almost primordial excitement... some of the finest music that you will hear on record this year..." Audiophile Audition adds that Infinite Spirit is "Imbued with groove, creativity, and crisscrosses respect for the original music with an inventive perspective... telescopes into outer space and microscopes into inner space." As a writer, Gluck is author of the books You’ll Know When You Get There: Herbie Hancock and the Mwandishi Band, The Miles Davis Lost Quintet and Other Revolutionary Ensembles, and The Musical World of Paul Winter.

Andrea Wolper: Vocalist, songwriter, improviser Andrea Wolper works “in a milieu that begins with jazz and reaches out to embrace an expressive area that is uniquely her own” (International Review of Music). In addition to performing with her own groups and in numerous musical collaborations, Andrea works as a sideperson with artists across jazz genres, including Jay Clayton and William Parker. She has received a number of composing fellowships, and her recordings as both leader and sideperson have landed on a number of "Best of Year" lists. "An audacious artist [who] flouts genre limitations...delivering an inventive, thrilling, appealing musical vision" (Blogcritics).

Kinan Azmeh: Clarinetist Kinan Azmeh's globetrotting performances and compositions span multiple musical genres. He has appeared with such diverse ensembles as the New York Philharmonic and Seattle Symphony, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project, Marcel Khalife, Aynur, Daniel Barenboim, and Jivan Gasparian. Venues have spanned Tchaikovsky Grand Hall, Moscow; Carnegie Hall and the UN General Assembly, New York; the Royal Albert hall, London; Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires; Der Philharmonie, Berlin; the Mozarteum, Salzburg; and in his native Syria at the opening concert of the Damascus Opera House. Azmeh's work has been called "intensely soulful" (The New York Times) and "spellbinding" (The New Yorker).

Ken Filiano: Bassist, composer, improviser Ken Filiano performs internationally with a veritable who's who in multiple genres. A "creative virtuoso" (JazzValley), Ken leads the quartets Quantum Entanglements and Baudolino's Dilemma, and co-leads several groups including the Steve Adams-Ken Filiano Duo. "A paradigm of that type of artist...who can play anything in any context and make it work" (Chris Kelsey), Ken is an integral member of groups led by Taylor Ho Bynum, Jason Kao Hwang, Vinny Golia, Diane Moser, Karl Berger, and others. His extensive discography includes the solo CD, Subvenire (Nine Winds) and Quantum Entanglements's Dreams From a Clown Car (Clean Feed). Ken is a Guiding Artist and Advisor for the Creative Music Studio.

Tani Tabbal: Drummer Tani Tabbal is known as a dynamic, lyrical and energetic drummer. He began playing drums professionally as a teen, performing with Oscar Brown Jr., Phil Cohran, and Sun Ra and his Arkestra. Tabbal has recorded, performed and toured with Roscoe Mitchell, David Murray, Geri Allen, Cassandra Wilson, James Carter, Karl Berger, Dewey Redman, David 'Fathead' Newman, Evan Parker, Anthony Braxton, Oliver Lake, Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill, Leroy Jenkins, the Sun Ra Arkestra, and Jackie McLean. Bruce Gallanter writes that Tabbal "brings the traditions into new scenarios, shares & expands on the embers/essence & wallops/incants in the full-spectrum of the Avant-garde."

About the music:

"Here Now," another instrumental, opens displaying Kinan Azmeh's beautiful melodic sensibility. The mood darkens with the interjection of stop-start rhythmic motifs. From these urgent phrases an angular piano solo emerges, Tabbal's drums churning below. Filiano's spare and lyrical unaccompanied solo follows, and then Azmeh's passionate, imploring musical odyssey. The rhythmic motifs return, concluding the performance with emotional urgency.

"Never Ceasing" is an impassioned call to moral account during a time of challenging political winds: "Teach well your children, speak clearly truth, in your homes, as you walk and march, at rest and rising up." A clarinet solo leads to the refrain: "We will not cease, we will carry on," declaimed in Wolper's vocal tour de force.

"Not For Today" opens with an extended piano fantasy. Fleeting phrases by the other instrumentalists provide a bridge to a vocal anthem. The lyrics (by Kyra Gaunt) affirm the many "ways to freedom." In a spirit of celebration, Wolper shows her substantive improvisational chops, crafting a multiple layered vocal tapestry of the chorus "Let us feel the joy." In his improvisation, Azmeh considers many variants of the melody. Passages of tight interplay between clarinet and piano lead back to the song's repeated melodic theme, upon which Tabbal solos with abandon.

"Today Today," the final instrumental, begins with a pastoral melody, a dialog between bass and clarinet. Two and a half minutes in, the quiet gives way to a melody played in dramatic unison by the entire band. Forceful and rhythmic, this leads to an intense abstract piano solo, joined by clarinet. Filiano and Tabbal accompany with dramatic flair. The performance ends with a hairpin turn to the unison melody.

The recording "Early Morning Star" concludes with a lush treatment of a traditional Jewish song. "Tsur Mishelo" / "Los Bilbilicos" is a mashup of two Sephardic songs (music of Jews from the Spanish Diaspora). The texts are quite different: a Sabbath table song and a love song that uses the nightingale as a metaphor. Drawing upon a novel reharmonization, Gluck shapes a lyrical introduction to Azmeh's first statement of the melody. This leads to Wolper's rich vocal presentation of the song. Gluck's piano solo eloquently captures the pathos and longing of the love song. Azmeh's insistent, aching plea sustains the mood through the conclusion of the performance.

Early Morning Star guides the listener through a panoply of moods, a message of social justice, and a remarkable level of musical interplay, collective and solo. Early Morning Star opens with the buoyant "Time of Singing." The core of the tune is a polyphony of melodic patterns, set to the refrain: "Arise, oh my beloved, arise, beloved!" The texts are drawn from the biblical Song of Songs. Wolper's graceful vocal is joined by a tapestry of layered instrumentals, together forming a kaleidoscope of shapes and textures. A vamp accompanying this display gives way to a rhapsodic piano solo grounded by a graceful bass motif that descends in thirds. The composition begins and ends with a lyrical depiction of early spring: "Winter rains have passed. Blossoms have appeared in the land. Time of singing is here. Voice of turtledove is heard; fig tree has borne fruit, amidst fragrant grapes."

The lyric of "Early Morning Star" paraphrases the prophet Isaiah's moral plea: "Learn to act rightly: seek justice, advocate for the oppressed, the orphaned and the widow." Gluck's cascading improvised piano lines ride above waves of clarinetist Kinan Azmeh's mournful thematic refrains.

The recording's first purely instrumental track, "Emerge-ency" begins with a volcanic mix of arco bass, swirling drums, and clarinet. An angular theme, and insistently repeated notes, interrupt the proceedings, preparing the way for intensely engaged solos on piano and bass. As Ken Filiano's solo unfolds, a multiplicity of bass articulations are employed to great effect.

"Flowing," another instrumental, begins with plaintive unison phrases, providing material for a spacious collective improvisation. The interplay displays empathetic listening and restraint by each musician.

"For Today" is a stately, sensitively played solo piano chorale. Through multiple repetitions of the theme, new perspectives on its core musical ideas emerge and unfold.

"Friday Song" is an elegy about the environmental crisis and human opportunity: "Fragile is this slender perch, risk free at a bargain price. Ever reckless are our hands. One time only; we have this chance; just one." The performance opens with a multiplicity of busy figures forming a collective drone. An instrumental brew swirls around the vocal, out of which Filiano, Azmeh, and then Gluck in turn shape delicate solo lines, each hovering on the edge of dissolution. Under it all, Tabbal shapes a texturally rich, unstable mélange of sound.