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Grafting new roots 

Katie Glassman gives Americana a gypsy makeover

Snapshot, the debut album from Denver jazz fiddler Katie Glassman, might easily be mistaken for a lost recording of Eartha Kitt playing Austin City Limits. But while Glassman's music is steeped in tradition, it also conveys stylistic idiosyncrasies that stem from her personal musical background.

"A lot of people have described my music as vintage jazz meeting western swing," she says. "That really resonates with me. When I put this whole project together, I wanted it to be something old with a twist of something new."

From the opening chords of "Uncle John," Snapshot sounds like it was just pulled out of a dusty box in a ranch house attic, heavy with history and curling at the edges. Glassman's tunes draw from a wide base of highly appealing musical styles, incorporating anything that gives her violin a personality, from the gypsy jazz she learned in France to the swing she was raised on in Denver, where she grew up with future DeVotchKa and Flobots musicians.

"When I was in eighth grade," she says, "I started playing guitar, and Andy Guerrero, who's in Bop Skizzum and was in the Flobots, we would sit and play guitar and sing Beatles songs. And so they were such a huge inspiration for me."

Glassman's accomplishments include a slew of national fiddle championship titles and a stint at the premier jazz music school in France. But her sights are set squarely on a Colorado-based career.

Being a Colorado musician matters to her, she says, "because there's such a wide variety with just the bands here alone; we could do so much with supporting one another ... Hopefully my music will contribute to a niche with a lot of the traditional bluegrass players and a lot of the country jazz players. Swing music, I feel, falls between those cracks and needs to be revived."

Glassman drew upon those inspirations — and a bevy of others from her 10 years as a side fiddler in Denver — for her first solo album, making Snapshot into a polished, yet diverse curriculum vitae.

"I do feel like the album is a culmination of what I've done my whole life," she says. "There's not so much Texas fiddle on there, but there's the acoustic waltz with 'Deer Brush.' And there's 'Ma Liaison Avec la France,' and that's my French connection. And Eric Thorin arranged both 'Pretty Pictures' and 'Molly Song' with a string quartet, which encompasses another special part of my life. It's kind of a summary of where I've been."

It's hard to call Glassman a niche artist when her music conveys such a broad range of influences. Snapshot may be roots music, but a great many of those roots are non-native species. It shouldn't shock, then, that among pitch-perfect old-timey original compositions on Snapshot, there's a sweet, swingy version of Paul McCartney's "Honey Pie," or that her top three dream gigs are shared stages with DeVotchKa, Dakota Blonde and Lannie Garrett.

"I don't really want to be a solo artist," she says. "This is a part of me and I'm putting it out there, but I really value these other musicians ... It's just an honor for me to have them help color my picture."

scene@csindy.com

  • Katie Glassman gives Americana a gypsy makeover

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