On the anniversary of Freddie Green’s birthday, I’m delighted to bring you my review of an album by a modern day guitarist (and bandleader) whose legend is growing by the week.
With his latest release ‘Uptown Jump’, Glenn Crytzer’s vaunted musicianship may have to share the limelight with an elevated level of lyrical wit and craftily clever song writing – a rare gift in any music genre today. Crytzer is no newcomer to producing recorded jazz with a swing dancer’s bent; his musical skill as both guitarist and vocalist have been with us since he debuted ‘Chasin’ The Blues’, his big band release in 2009, through subsequent albums using smaller band configurations. This is still a record for a swing dancer’s delight, but make no mistake, this is also a listener’s treasure trove.
Crytzer is already established among the sought-after vintage era jazz musicians in New York today, and his stock seems destined to follow a trajectory nearer to meteoric than meandering. This latest offering is brought to us under the banner of Glenn Crytzer’s Savoy Seven, and Crytzer’s writing ability exhibits new confidence in moving adeptly from one swing bandleader’s fingerprint to another throughout his 18 original compositions. The flavours are subtle and honourable to such as Chick Webb, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Fats Waller, but soon Crytzer’s own sound underlines that you are indeed listening to his own work and not those who came before – the lines of demarcation are clear, not blurred. The Savoy Seven here are made up of some of the cream of musicians swinging the Jazz Age in New York today :
The rhythm section is entrusted to Andrew Hall on bass and Kevin Dorn on drums, and their skills are quickly brought to our attention on the first track, ‘The Savoy Special’, where their propulsive rhythm drives the band to a blood-pumping opening salvo. It’s easy to imagine dancers performing and competing to this track in the months and years ahead. Mike Davis on trumpet lights up the blues ‘Missouri Loves Company’, while Evan Arntzen’s sparkling clarinet solo, accompanied by Dorn, introduces the title track ‘Uptown Jump’ taking us briefly to Carnegie Hall circa 1938 before the ensemble join in the riot. The evergreen and ever impeccable Dan Levinson on reeds stamps his class on the Ellingtonian homage ‘The Road To Tallahassee’, and pianist Jesse Gelber pays tribute to Fats Waller on the ingeniously crafted ‘What Did I Do?’. Crytzer’s vocal on this tune abets the look back to the jovial genius Waller, but, never mimicking, he is unmistakably his own man. Further, he morphs into Mister Six By Two (yes this is still Glenn, not Jimmy) on the blues shouter ‘Yes, I’m In The Doghouse Now’ as a hard done-by yet two-timing man of the house lamenting his ‘punishment’.
Crytzer’s writing is at its most cunning on ‘What Did I Do?’, ‘Not Far To Fargo’, ‘Could This Be Love?’ and ‘The Lenox’, but it reaches its zenith in ‘It’s About Time’. These are numbers requiring repeated listening just to appreciate the complete work – a bit like watching Hitchcock. His guitar virtuosity is evident on ‘Not Far to Fargo’, ‘Downtown Slump’, and ‘Glenn’s Idea’. For dancers, take your pick: ‘The Lenox’ is chock full of devices for dancers of every experience level to have a ball with, time and again.
Whether you want to exercise your brain or your feet, or both at the same time, this CD is a hit list topper. It plays for just over one hour, and none of the tunes reach five minutes satisfying present day swing dance appetites. The music largely represents the period from the early 1930s to the mid-1940s, and does so with great credit. Glenn Crytzer’s Savoy Seven’s ‘Uptown Jump’ releases on April 13 at https://syncopators.bandcamp.com/album/uptown-jump.