Yes, Bernie Glow did glow, but more like a firefly than a lighthouse. The New York trumpeter never took solos during his years with Artie Shaw, and spent a great deal of his career sputtering to meet demands on the recording studio scene. Nonetheless, just as one couldn't imagine a summer evening without fireflies, the entire genre of vocal music would resemble an open pit mine if efforts involving Bernie Glow were removed. He shows up on a range of material that proves he had an ability to at least be in the right place at the right time, if it isn't sheer proof of some kind of outrageous versatility. What might prevent a listener from forming the latter impression would be the sheer anonymity of his contributions, whether the record is a side by soul queen Aretha Franklin, the introspective Janis Ian, or the hush-toned bossa nova goddess Astrid Gilberto. An exception might be the arrangements on Laura Nyro's Stoned Soul Picnic, which make particularly apt use of each musician involved, but he even recorded with the great jazz singer Billie Holiday in a period when the freewheeling improvisational looseness of her earlier recording style, emphasizing lots of solo statements, was giving way to heavily organized orchestral backdrops. Brass players in the know point him out as a great example of a lead trumpet player. The fact that what he plays doesn't stick out is actually what is important, and what requires such great instrumental skill with such a difficult instrument to control. The use Glow made of this superior trumpet sound would not always be considered a triumph artistically, especially the way Muzak maestro Ray Conniff lit his dim arrangements by the glow of his horn in the '50s.
As the '60s and '70s progressed, Glow surprised many by deepening his involvement with more serious jazz, collaborating with some of the best players in the genre in the process. His involvement with a big chunk of the Miles Davis and Gil Evans collaborative discography, including the jazz classic Sketches of Spain, certainly must have kept his bulbs lit. At the same time, it once again must be readily admitted that the trumpet player listeners raved about on Sketches of Spain was not Bernie Glow. His career as a big band player again went all over the map following the early swing years. Glow shows up on a stack of hard-charging Latin Tito Puente platters as well as the space band music of Enoch Light, a maestro who must have felt required to have someone named Glow in his band. Glow may have been huffing and puffing a bit in his last decade on the scene, but he went out trying to keep up with hot-blooded types such as Argentine tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri, or serious funkster Grover Washington Jr.
He began professionally in his early twenties, joining the popular Shaw band for a stint that lasted several years. In 1947, he worked for two different and demanding big band leaders, the smoothly precise and unique Boyd Raeburn and the consistently high energy Woody Herman. In the '50s, he stayed off the road, working in New York studios on more than 100 sessions. He recorded off and on with Benny Goodman from 1955 to 1965, until a fight about a faulty music stand light ended their relationship. The culprit was probably Goodman, who had a reputation for sabotaging such things so that sidemen would sound worse than Goodman as they strained to read all the notes on the page. Of all people to do this trick to, a sideman named Glow? Obviously, Goodman couldn't pass up an opportunity like that. In the meantime, the trumpeter had plenty of his own opportunities, performing and recording with fine jazzman Bob Brookmeyer, taking part in Davis and Evans projects and teaming up with Dizzy Gillespie, the cream of the bop crop, in 1961. In the late '60s, Glow was still going strong, recording with bop trombonist and fellow studio hound J.J. Johnson. In 1970, he worked with jazz guitarist George Benson, a few years before that artist made crossover gold. He was beginning to try, though, and his take on the Beatles, entitled Other Side of Abbey Road, is musically enjoyable and one of the trumpeter's most spirited efforts. Glow's last recordings are unfortunately a tepid Gato Barbieri big band side entitled Caliente, as if it was possible to heat food up by simply calling it hot. ~ Eugene Chadbourne