Matt Glickman’s rise in the jam band world as one of its most pre-eminent keyboard players in recent memory continues with the release of Live from Starks, Maine 10.1.22. I’m doubly impressed, however, because these seven songs do more than highlight his playing talents. They likewise shine a spotlight on Glickman’s immense gifts as a songwriter and arranger. The tracks also show his underrated vocal talents. Live from Starks, Maine 10.1.22 documents a Glickman set that is akin to holding a live wire – we hear creation in the process when we’re listening to these performances, both individually and collectively, and even the most jaded of listeners will come away from it certain that Glickman is a formidable figure in the jam band scene.
It’s songs such as the opener, “Steady as Footprints”, that help lay down that sort of foundation. His piano playing here and elsewhere veers from five-finger melodic exercises into grand passages with seemingly not a drop of sweat breaking from him at either point. He has profound force as a vocalist, Glickman never glosses over a single word, and the marriage of those vocals along with this piano-driven arrangement produces real magic.
“Secrets of the Sages” gives us arguably, in my mind, the purest singer/songwriter moment in this collection. It doesn’t build off a consistent melodic foundation the way that other tracks on this release do, but the piano playing remains nonetheless impressive. Despite not anchoring the track around a single abiding motif, it coheres into a memorable performance and his Dylan-esque vocals are the song’s crowning touch. The jazz-influenced bent of “Maybe It’s For the Best” pairs him with guest singer Darby Sabin with knock-em-dead effect. Sabin’s voice is an excellent counterpoint for his pipes without ever supplying a jarring contrast.
The emotional force and plaintive dynamic muscle of “Best > Steady as Footprints Tease” is a great penultimate track for this release. Glickman briefly introduces the tune before launching into the performance and delivers the lyrics for “Best” with a full-throated passion that will touch every listener. He closes the live album with a rendition of The Grateful Dead’s “Unbroken Chain” that may prompt some listeners to ask, hell, what Dead album is this from?
It’s a lesser-known Dead tune, written by bassist Phil Lesh, but much beloved by the band’s faithful. Glickman will blow those listeners away with how he re-envisions it as a piano ballad and stretches it out close to twenty minutes. It never tires you, however, especially given that the union of his piano playing and the unbridled force of his voice come together as never before. It’s a fantastic way to close out Live from Starks, Maine 10.1.22.
It points the way toward a brilliant future for Glickman. He has his hands involved in a lot of projects, but I get the feeling that we’re experiencing Matt Glickman in full here, 200 proof, no chaser. It’s a welcome experience. He inhabits each of the album’s seven songs as if he’s a force of nature.