Craig Morris Delivers an Exciting Program of Solo Philip Glass

Craig Morris presents a fascinating program of Philip Glass music. Although considered a minimalist, most of Glass’ recorded music is for ensembles (both large and small).

Glass’ best-known works are appealing not only for their melodic permutations but also for their ever-shifting harmonic textures.

So what happens when Glass limits himself to a single instrument? Quite a lot, actually.

Morris opens with “Melodies” from 1995. Glass had originally written the work for solo saxophone, but it works quite well for solo trumpet. Each of the thirteen short melodies has that signature Glass tonal simplicity.

Gradus is a very early work by Glass. Here development occurs over time, as rhythms and melodic figures gradually change over time. It reminded me of Steve Reich’s music — without an incessant beat.

The title track is a work that relies on visual as well as aural effects. Two-sided music stands are set up in a 10-foot square. A performer inside the square plays from each stand moving clockwise. A second performer outside the square plays from each stand moving counterclockwise.

Both players slowly move out, then back in phase. Their music does so, and they also do so physically as they move apart, then return to their common starting point in the square.

Morris plays both parts, overdubbing himself. It’s actually quite effective. The track is carefully mastered to achieve the changing distance between the two musical lines. It’s a convincing simulation of what one might experience in a live performance.

Overall, this is an exceptional recording. Morris wisely alternates between a piccolo trumpet, Bb trumpet, and flugelhorn. The variety in timbre keeps the listener engaged with the music.

Morris is a talented performer, playing Glass’ music with both precision and sensitivity. You don’t have to be a Glass completist to want this album. This should appeal to anyone who enjoys the music of their lifetime.

Philip Glass: Three Pieces in the Shape of a Square
Craig Morris, trumpets
Bridge Records 95088

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