Matt Glaser has been an important figure in the world of bluegrass and old time fiddle since the 1970s. At that time, he was part of the experimental string music scene in New York and New England, recording with fellow envelope-pushers like Tony Trischka, Andy Statman, and Russ Barrenburg for the then nascent Rounder Records.
A serious student of the instrument, Glaser also had an interest in jazz, classical, and international folk music styles, all of which he taught during his 25 years heading up the String Department at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. He has now stepped down from the Chair to lead the school’s American Roots Music program, and to become more active again in actual instruction.
In that regard, Berklee Press has recently released a second new book from Matt, following up on his Bluegrass Fiddle and Beyond: Etudes and Ideas for the Modern Fiddler, and the companion edition for banjo by he and David Hollender. This new book specifically merges his twin passions for both fiddle tunes and jazz, showing how to take melodic fragments from bluegrass and old time fiddle, and use them to solo over jazz changes.
The resulting volume, Fiddle Tunes On Jazz Changes, offers 48 pages in an oversized paperback format, where Glaser gives examples of how to develop familiar fiddle melodies using jazz harmony, modifying the phrases to fit new chords as they are presented. A major theme is using and thinking of specific melodies in building improvisational skills, as opposed to simply running through scales and arpeggios.
There are also accompanying audio files for the various etudes and exercises, which can be accessed online. Matt also suggests that the various etudes he demonstrates will be equally useful for guitarists, mandolinists, and banjoists as well.
Resources for bluegrass and old time instrumentalists who want to start exploring jazz are limited, and Fiddle Tunes On Jazz Changes looks to be a most welcome addition to that modest library.
The book is distributed internationally by Hal Leonard.