At its core, improvisational music is about following the ebb and flow of the rhythms within each individual person.
So teaching a rigid set of directions wouldn’t make much sense. Instead, when Frank Glover instructs his students on the core of improvisation, he puts them in the mindset of a musician and helps them express themselves through their instrument.
“You teach them how to play, not what to play,” he said. “You have to let the spirit of the music direct you, and not let the intellectual part dictate your direction.”
Glover, a southside native and virtuoso jazz clarinetist, has built a career as an inventive and ambitious musician. He has performed at Carnegie Hall and other halls around the world, while holding down a regular gig in Indianapolis for nearly 30 years.
The Brown County resident has now joined the staff at Greenwood music store Guitarworks. He will offer lessons on clarinet and saxophone, as well as schooling students on the mindset and preparation of improvisational music.
“It’s easy to go back after listening to the music and analyze it. That’s science. That’s not art,” he said. “It’s difficult to know what someone’s thinking when they’re playing.”
A box of Pete Fountain records is what inspired Glover to start playing jazz. His grandfather revered the musician, who helped develop the clarinet into an improvisational instrument.
Glover had played the clarinet as a student, but had never considered how expansive it could be in creating free-wheeling, passionate music.
“It was the spirit of it that grabbed me,” he said.
As his appreciation for jazz deepened, Glover explored other important musicians. He was attending classes at Indiana University when he discovered John Coltrane and the saxophone.
From that moment, he decided to drop school and focus on becoming a musician.
“As soon as that happened, I quit school and started practicing,” he said. “When I heard Coltrane, I immediately knew the direction I wanted to go.”
Glover played for 27 years at the legendary Chatterbox Jazz Club in downtown Indianapolis. He had a standing gig every Thursday, wowing audiences with his unique take on the clarinet. He was there when musical luminaries such as Mick Jagger and Wynton Marsalis stopped into the club.
“To have a place like that to play is a real luxury. It’s not something to take lightly,” he said.
Glover was able to conduct orchestra on his five records, and play with some of the world’s best jazz musicians.
His most recent record, “Abacus,” is essentially a 45-minute orchestra suite blended with the talents and sensibilities of a jazz quartet. The album reflects everyone from Igor Stravinsky to tango specialist Astor Piazzolla to film score composer Alfred Newman.
“It was challenging. But they did a great job of putting the orchestra together. It ended up sounding great,” he said.
One of his career highlights is performing the repertoire of Miles Davis’ music with trombonist Brent Wallarab and his band. They got to explore the seminal works of Davis in an original and unique way.
“(Brent) wanted to do something a little bit different, and had the clarinet play the lead instead of the trumpet on a couple songs,” Glover said. “Those songs are so classic and soulful that it was a really special experience to hear yourself playing those melodies that Miles made.”
His experiences with jazz for more than three decades helped connect him with friends at Guitarworks.
“Frank Glover is a monster reed man from Indy. I’ve known Frank since we were just kids, and went to school with him as well,” said Kevin Franklin, owner of Guitarworks. “He came to me about doing some teaching, and I was thrilled.”
Glover knew Franklin from his time as a boy in Southport. They grew up in the same neighborhood, attended the same school and worked at the same music store in the 1980s.
When Glover decided to back off touring and build a home in Brown County, he approached Franklin about helping share the knowledge he had gained performing jazz with a new generation of musicians.
Glover will offer lessons every Sunday in Greenwood. The partnership will allow him to share some of the real-life knowledge that he’s learned through immersing himself in jazz.
At the same time, Guitarworks will get to provide lessons and attract an entirely new type of musician.
“I don’t mind teaching young kids, and I like teaching adults,” Glover said. “Young kids have a lot fewer bad habits to break. You can teach a young person how to think about music, and that can be really hard for someone who’s older.”
Home: Brown County
Occupation: Jazz clarinetist and saxophonist
Lessons: Glover will offer one-hour lessons in clarinet and saxophone at Guitarworks, 996 S. SR 135, Greenwood. He will also provide instruction in theory and improvisation skills for all musicians.
Cost is $34 per hour.
To sign up, contact Guitarworks at 885-1510.