Matt Glaser Quintet

Play, Fiddle, Play: Jazz Violin Classics

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When Flying Fish records is mentioned, people tend to think of folk and singer/songwriters. But the Chicago-based indie never recorded one type of music exclusively. Flying Fish's specialty is roots music, and that doesn't just mean folk -- it could also be anything from world music to blues. Though Flying Fish doesn't have a lot of jazz in its catalog, the company has put out some noteworthy jazz releases here and there. One example is violinist Matt Glaser's Play, Fiddle, Play: Jazz Violin Classics, a generally enjoyable (if uneven) CD that tends to favor gypsy swing in the Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli vein but also owes something to progressive bluegrass. The worst thing about this release is the cornball singing; while the vocals are meant to be cute and ironic, they end up being flat-out annoying. But thankfully, most of the 14 selections are instrumental -- and if you skip the vocal numbers, you will find Glaser to be a pleasing violinist who knows his way around his instrument. While Play, Fiddle, Play is primarily an album of gypsy swing, he is well-aware of the jazz/bluegrass connection -- Glaser, in fact, has played with the innovative mandolinist David Grisman, and he brings bluegrass elements to the CD's swing foundation on original material, as well as creative arrangements of traditional tunes like "Turkey in the Straw" and "Foggy Mountain Special." His version of "Jimmy in the Swamp" (another traditional public-domain offering) is especially interesting; on this track, Glaser successfully fuses swing, bluegrass and instrumental Celtic music. Play, Fiddle, Play would have been stronger and more consistent if the vocal numbers had been omitted, but all things considered, this CD paints an attractive picture of Glaser.

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