Born 20 September 1955 in Cambridge England, while his father south african composer Stanley ‘Spike’ Glasser was studying music at Kings’ College, Adam’s family returned to South Africa where he grew up influenced by his father’s involvement as musical director of the south african musical productions “King Kong” (1959) and the lesser known “Mr Paljas” (1962) both of which featured many key south african jazz musicians.
As a teenager in Johannesburg Adam hung out at Dorkay House with legendary horn players such as Barney Rachabane, Mackay Davashe and guitarist Allen Kwela, who were part of a lively jazz scene that could be heard from Jo’burg’s downtown Dorkay House to the Witwatersrand University Campus.
Graduating with a BA (Hons) in European Literature from Warwick University, England Adam moved to Paris in late 1979 and began to study jazz piano seriously on his own while gigging in restaurants. After a semester at Berklee College in 1981 he returned to London and began a long apprenticeship playing hotels, weddings and cruises while developing his jazz gigging with his own trio. By the mid eighties he was working regularly with legendary south african alto player Dudu Pukwana and played several festivals in Spain, Italy and Belgium. Adam’s composition “August One” (now on the jazz syllabus of the Associated Board Royal School of Music) was featured on Pukwana’s album “Zila ’86”.
Adam lead his own trios and quartets while working as a free lance keyboard player. He toured the UK with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas (1991) and Jimmy Witherspoon (1993) as well as developing his compositional skills, winning the Peter Whittingham Award in 1996, which funded his first (unreleased) album The Adam Glasser Quartet Live at the Space Theatre (1997). This album featured two key south african collaborators: zulu multi instrumentalist Elliot Ngubane and vocalist and long time collaborator Pinise Saul – (whom he had met in Dudu Pukwana’s band and who features on “Free at First”).
In April 1990 Adam began a 16 year stint as pianist and musical director of the south african vocal group The Manhattan Brothers, who had been household names in South Africa in the ’40s and ’50s before leaving for the UK as stars in the musical ‘King Kong’. The Brothers had reformed to appear at the Wembley Concert celebrating the release of Nelson Mandela in April 1990.
Through the 1990s Adam began an increasing specialisation in the chromatic harmonica especially after a run of engagements which saw him performing and/or recording with some major pop stars and film composers: Christopher Young on “Hard Rain” (1997) where he shared the harmonica credits with Toots Thielemans, “eXistenz” and “Chinese Coffee” (unreleased) – composer Howard Shore (who referred to Adam in an interview as ‘ a wonderful harmonica player’ . Adam can also be heard in “The Good Thief” (2002), score by Elliot Goldenthal and incidental music of the West End production of “The Postman Always Rings Twice” featuring Val Kilmer, with music by major british composer Django Bates.
In late 1998, Joe Zawinul heard a Manhattan Brothers demo tape that Adam had produced and the plans developed for the group to perform in Vienna with the Syndicate. After rehearsing at London’s Ronnie Scotts Club, Adam travelled at Joe Zawinul’s invitation, to Vienna where the combined groups performed Manhattan Brothers material in a special collaboration.
1999 saw Adam filling in for Stevie Wonder twice – live on a TV show with Sting to promote the ‘Brand New Day’ album and later appearing with the Eurythmics at the Party in the Park. He also guested with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall.
Adam’s harmonica can be heard on numerous CDs most notably with artists such as long time Sting guitarist Dominic Miller (“Second Nature” & “Fourth Wall”), Brazilian vocal legend Zizi Possi (“Bossa”), Australian fusion virtuoso Carl Orr (“Absolute Freedom” feat. Billy Cobham) and Zero 7 (“When It Falls”).
He has also played harmonica in London theatre productions: “Midsummer Night’s Dream” Shakespeare’s Globe (2002) “Scenes from the Big Picture”, “His Girl Friday” at the Royal National Theatre (2005).
In 2004 Adam embarked on an ambition of many years to produce an album documenting material from the final phase of Manhattan Brothers active period as performers and featuring the compositions of their veteran leader Joe Mogotsi. The result was “Inyembezi” released by EMI South Africa in 2006.
More recent gigs include performances with british funk band “Incognito”, a feature on BBC award winning vocalist Anita Wardell’s latest album “Kinda Blue” and the writing, recording and production of ” Free at First”.
Quotes from the press
“Excellent Toots Style harmonica…”
“…lucid harmonica..equally lucid piano”
“…that brilliant harmonica player”
“…a wonderful harmonica player”
Howard Shore, composer, Music from the Movies
“… an excellent musician”
Ian Carr, Rough Guide to Jazz