"Glass Bead Games" is one of those recordings that has had legendary status among jazz musicians and serious jazz listeners since its first release in 1974. It was one of those very special dates on which every player strutted high fire and high polish, so much so that the record had achieved classic status upon release. This album lives up to the definition because it has all the ingredients for a classic jazz recording--first class material, superb pacing, and exceptional musicians who are empathetically attuned to one another. This music takes off into the sky of absolute artistry because the players are sensitive to each other to such an extent that they build their ideas upon those of their fellow players. This gives the finished product the inevitability that only first class improvising possesses and delivers with such unique feeling. Once we get beyond the melodies, what we hear was not written but it seems to have been because of the combination of logic and emotional power; the first results from high velocity reflection and the second is characterized by the heated joy that comes of overwhelming the moment. In fact, this music takes command of the moment to such an extent that each players individuality and the power of the ensemble become one. That is known as "catching a groove"--the point at which everyone consistently makes the right decision. Clifford Jordan had one of the great tenor saxophone voices, distinguished by a purely personal tone, a rich melodic imagination, a deep feeling for the blues and the kind of swing that the entire music is built upon.
This recording features two quartets. Quartet I --Clifford Jordan (tenor)--Stanley Cowell (piano)--Billy Higgins (drums)--Bill Lee (bass). Quartet II--Clifford Jordan (tenor)--Cedar Walton (piano)--Billy Higgins (drums)--Sam Jones (bass). All legendary players and Clifford is totally at home with both groups.
Upon its first release, BILLBOARD wrote "Maybe this will help re-familiarize the jazz world with one of its true geniuses. Best Cuts: All of then are equally playable".
CODA MAGAZINE WROTE " ...the ballads "Prayer to the People" and "Maimoun" are simply beautiful. It would be obtuse to suggest that the ballads are the best tracks on an album where any track might justifiably be called the best one.