feet: Savion Glover.
Mae G. Banner
Egg, Oct. 29
Savion Glover is more than a phenomenon; he is a force of
nature. Back at the Egg last Friday for his third annual gig,
Glover has found new ways to amaze an already smitten audience.
Years ago, he taught us that tap is far more than the steps
we learned from Hollywood musicals. Tap is, and always has
been, integral to jazz. Glover’s feet are his drums and he
wields them with power and finesse.
Friday’s Improvography concert, Glover was chief soloist
and also conductor of a four-man combo: Danny Nixon on piano;
Patience Higgins, saxophone; Brian Grice, drums; and Andy
McCloud, bass. Glover would focus on one of his colleagues,most
often the pianist, moving in close and facing the player.
He would establish the groove and Nixon or Higgins would pick
it up and toss it back to the non-stop hoofer, who would take
it for a long, stage-covering ride.
a term Glover says he learned from his honored mentor, the
late Gregory Hines, captures Glover’s music perfectly. The
improv part is jazz’s artistic hallmark: instant composition.
The “ography” tag reminds us that all these startling rhythms,
counter-rhythms and delicate melodies are part of the jazz
and tap lexicon. They are the known tools at the hoofer’s
disposal, available to recombine in new ways.
Martha Graham called her autobiography Blood Memory.
Glover draws on a reservoir of musical memory that encompasses
the whole history of tap and reaches beyond to ancient sources
as he creates music before your eyes.
Note that his work has charms for the eyes as well as the
ears. Glover is known for facing his colleagues rather than
the audience, for dancing with his head bent, the better to
connect with the vibrating dance floor. But, he continues
to grow and change. This time, he turned to us occasionally,
spoke to us, scatted and growled, and played out repetitive
rhythms so cleanly that his bent-kneed body and rippling feet
made accented pictures in the air like the loops in a Jackson
Last year’s concert was half Glover, half his group of young
dancers. This year, we saw nearly 100-percent Glover, with
only a couple of turns for the ensemble of five youngsters,
including the 15-year-old Cartier Williams. The Ti Dii crew
are fun to watch, but, good as they are, they remain shadows
of Glover, so it was great that the 30-year-old master gave
so generously of his genius as a soloist.
Like other jazzmen, Glover can shape any kind of music to
his improvisatory will. He and the combo (set up at center
stage on a platform partly enclosed by reflective plexiglass)
began with “Inch Worm”—imagine Glover’s feet “measuring the
marigolds”—and went on to blues; a Latin-touched passage in
which the bassist strummed his instrument like a guitar; an
ear-ripping abrasive turn in which Glover scraped his heel
across the stage over and over, while the bassist used his
bow; some nice scatting to “Take the A Train,” and a final,
instructive composition, “The Stars and Stripes Forever—For
Rap and hip-hop were part of the mix. So was African drumming,
when Glover would speak with one foot and his other foot would
answer with a different rhythm. Watching him in perpetual
motion can be exhausting, yet Glover never seems drained.
He solos like Max Roach; just when you get comfortable with
an ongoing rhythm, he switches to a new one and pulls you
In one beautiful moment among many, Glover, in duet with the
alto sax, reached out his arms and began to gather in the
music, then cast it out again, like sowing seed. Almost in
a trance, he began to pivot on one foot, turning and turning
like Thelonius Monk. Glover pulls you into a smoky dream,
a man possessed by the music.
Glover is steeped in the jazz tradition of colleagueship.
At least three times, he introduced the members of the combo.
When the moment was right, he would quiet his feet, vamping
while another soloist shone. Honoring his musical ancestors,
he wore around his neck a laminated photo of Gregory Hines,
like an ID tag that would permit him to enter this jazz world.
This tag on its long chain would whip around as Glover danced.
In a final formal gesture, Glover slipped off his shoes and
laid first one, then the other, on the floor, crossing them
like a pair of drumsticks, then left the stage. It was a silent