MIM 1 : Journey Of A Thousand Miles - The Story Behind The Album

about daniel recording May 08, 2024
Daniel Glass Album - Journey Of A Thousand Miles

I recently released a compilation album called Journey Of A Thousand Miles

This album is a compilation that contains an eclectic mix of tunes from various bands I've led throughout my 30+ year career. It  includes two unreleased tracks, plus a CD-style booklet of liner notes I put together for all the old-skool geeks who absolutely NEED to know the full story.

Here's the story behind this record:

When I was in the 9th grade, my classmates and I were given a survey to fill out asking about our interests and aptitudes. The sizable questionnaire covered a variety of topics: family background, perceptions of self and others, personal values, extracurricular activities, and educational expectations and aspirations.

These results were fed into a computer  (very high tech for the early 1980s), and about a week later, each of us received a stylish, detailed printout that offered a rough estimate of the kind of career we would be suited to.

My printout revealed some rather surprising results. Though I don’t recall the exact career types that the printout suggested, I vividly remember that these options were characterized by the words “travel” and “adventure.” This was a bit of a head scratcher for me, since I was fairly confident that destiny was calling me to be a psychologist. Both my parents worked in the mental health field, and picking up the family mantle seemed to make perfectly good sense.

Well, as John Lennon once put it, “Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.” Turns out that the computerized assessment had a much deeper insight into my psyche than I did. By the time I graduated from college with a bachelors in psychology, my enthusiasm for that career path was quickly fading. And music, which I never considered as anything more than a fun hobby, was engaged in a furious come-from-behind sprint!

From my earliest memories, music has always played an outsize role in my life; a thruline connecting all of its many phases. My proclivity for the drums in particular was established early on. By the age of two, I was a champion banger of pot and pans. And when my family would go to a Chinese restaurant, my chopsticks would be confiscated because I’d immediately start beating on the table.
My parents - believing that television would rot your brain - refused to have a set in the home when I was growing up. As a result, the radio became the focal point of our lives. My sister and I listened obsessively from morning till night, digesting not only the hits of the day, but also oldies from the ‘50s and ‘60s, classical music, Broadway soundtracks, folk tunes (my parents’ favorite), and even a bit of jazz.

I began lessons at the age of seven, focusing on classical snare drum and timpani (I was not a good student). Five years later, I got my first drum set (more to my liking), and joined a band almost immediately. Throughout high school, I rocked hard, but also engaged in all manner of formal musical settings (marching and concert band, orchestra, jazz combo, school musicals etc.).

In college, as I labored arduously toward that psych degree, it always felt like I was putting a duplicate amount of energy toward my “hobby,” which by that time included Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin cover bands. The long jams we  embarked upon acted as a gateway that led me toward the improvisational world of jazz. The Summer after graduation, I finally decided to make music my number one priority.

I stayed in Boston (where the university was located) and began to study jazz seriously with a Berklee veteran named Bob Gullotti (my first real mentor on the drums). In addition to being a fantastic player and educator, Bob was also a middle class homeowner with a wife and two kids. Watching him operate, I began to understand how it could be possible for a musician to make a “normal” living, just like folks in “normal” professions.  After five short months with Bob, my lifelong hobby had crystallized into a full blown obsession. I had taken the first step on a big journey, and there was no going back.

Although it felt like a big left turn at the time, the fact that I ended up a professional musician doesn’t surprise me at all in retrospect. The fact is, once I gave myself permission to accept who I was, the pathway forward made perfect sense.

Which brings us to this compilation project, Journey Of A Thousand Miles. The title comes from one of my all-time favorite quotes by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. It states, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”

Today - 33 years into a career in music - it definitely feels like I’m on the far side of a thousand-mile journey (probably a few). As advertised, the journey thus far has been abundant in “travel and adventure.” Music has taken me around the world (a few times over), and I’ve enjoyed a lifetime of experiences far beyond what that 14-year old kid growing up in Honolulu could have imagined.

I’ve also learned that “adventure” as a life choice implies more than just fun and games (of which there have been plenty). It also demands tremendous courage and the tenacity to overcome great challenges. It requires the will to make sacrifices necessary to turn a creative passion into a sustainable livelihood. Trust me when I say that a “life of adventure” is not for the timid, the lackadaisical or the faint of heart.

In choosing the material for this compilation, I’ve drawn from projects on which I’ve been a leader or co-leader. My goal was not only to share my interests and obsessions as an artist, but also to include some favorites that I thought deserved another opportunity to be heard. These selections span a broad swath of time: three tracks come from my newest project (the Daniel Glass Trio), and others date back to the mid-1990s and my work with the great neo-swing band Royal Crown Revue.

As the song list came together, certain themes began to emerge. First, I noticed that these songs reflect the geographical course I’ve charted as a musician and a traveler. You might say they act as signposts, pointing to the ports of call where I’ve spent significant periods of my life (these include Honolulu, Boston, Copenhagen, Israel, Los Angeles, and New York City).

The songs also tap into the broad spectrum of styles and eras that have become a part of my identity as a musician, author, educator, researcher and historian. Like me, the material is wildly eclectic, covering everything from traditional jazz, swing, and rhythm and blues to bebop, latin, hard rock, funk, even surf music.

And while the focus of this compilation is life’s thousand-mile journeys, we shouldn’t ignore the “single steps” that begin them. As artists, our most challenging task is to create something out of nothing. If you’ve ever tried to write a song from scratch, start up a new band project or even establish something as mundane as a regular practice routine, you know that the first step is always the hardest. Often, it’s bound up by so much self-doubt or fear that we never take it at all.

Even for a seasoned “creator” like myself (to date, I've published five books, three DVDs and a myriad of other projects), the “first step” process never seems to get easier. And so, each time I find myself staring at that proverbial “blank sheet of paper,” I console myself by returning to Lao Tzu’s quote. As trite or trendy as this nugget of wisdom may seem, it really does offer a measure of solace; a bit of courage to hack through that jungle of fear and self-doubt.
“Just take the first step. It’s only one. How bad can it be?”

In rereading this essay and looking back on my life's journey, it’s wild to see how things have turned out. Like the explorer Columbus, I thought I was aiming for the West Indies, but ended up in a totally “new world” that blossomed in ways I never expected.

Looking back also helps me reaffirm what’s possible to accomplish. Seeing the work I’ve completed gives me energy to step forward into the next challenge; and to have faith that the end result will bring growth, satisfaction (and maybe even happiness?). What about you?

What does your next thousand mile journey look like? Let’s go get it!

Daniel Glass
New York City
May 7th, 2024