Adam Glasser was born on the 20th September, 1955 in Cambridge, England, then later moved to Johannesburg, South Africa with his family where he spent his childhood and teen years. Being the son of South African composer and music director Stanley ‘Spike’ Glasser, his father influenced him musically, handing him his first harmonica at the age of 17. Adam however, would only learn to play the harmonica 10 years later and instead became a pianist that occasionally played at small time gigs and cruise chips.
Adam returned to England in the 70’s to study and graduated with a BA (Hons) in European Literature, and afterwards decided to move to Paris to pursue and study jazz piano. After only completing one semester at Berklee College in 1981, he moved back to London and freelanced playing gigs at hotels, events and restaurants while developing his skills as a jazz pianist and forming a trio and a quartet. The 80’s was very successful for Adam’s career where he worked with South African alto player Dudu Pukwane and his composition “August One” featured on his album “Zila ‘86’”, and performed at numerous festivals across Spain, Italy and Belgium. While on one of his gigs on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, he asked for lessons from a harmonica player he had met, from there his interest was sparked to learn how to master the instrument. He was also influenced by Burt Bacharach, a musician who played the harmonica on a Stevie Wonder album he had listened to. He became self-taught as he played both instruments simultaneously trying to acquire a unique sound to incorporate in his jazz music – a skill he continued to use even on stage.
Across the 90’s he toured the UK with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Jimmy Witherspoon, as well as winning the Peter Whittingham Award in 1996. During this time he advanced his compositional skills and recorded his first album ‘The Adam Glasser Quartet Live at the Space Theatre in 1997, which remained unreleased. Concurrently, in 1990 he became the lead pianist and musical director of already acclaimed South African vocal group ‘The Manhattan Brothers’ for the following 16 years. During this time, Adam progressively focused on the chromatic harmonica, enhancing his skill and specialization which presented the opportunity to perform and record with key film composers and pop stars.
Adam felt strongly about producing an album that would document material from the last moments of The Manhattan Brothers active stages as performers in 2004, which featured compositions by the leader Joe Mogotsi. This journey resulted in “Inyembezi” which was released in 2006 by EMI South Africa.
Although Adam made waves musically, he only recorded his first debut album in 2009, Free at First, which won him the SAMA for best contemporary album. This created an aspiration to work with local artists, and not long after winning, he worked with numerous South African artists to record Mzansi which was released in 2011.
Having made notable success with an instrument that falls under the less prominent of jazz instruments, Adam brings a unique South African style to the harmonica as he incorporates it in his music.
- Received his first harmonica at the age of 17.
- Holds a BA (Hons) in European Literature.
- Became the musical director and pianist of South African vocal group The Manhattan Brothers in 1990.
- The Manhattan Brothers appeared and performed at the Wembley Concert in celebrating the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990.
- Toured with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in 1991.
- Toured with Jimmy Whiterspoon in 1993.
- Recorded his first unreleased album in 1997 which featured multi-instrumentalist Elliot Ngubane and vocalist Pinise Saul.
- Adam shared harmonica credits with Toots Thielemans in the films “Hard Rain” in 1997, “The Good Theif in 2002 and the West End production of “The Postman Always Rings Twice” which featured Val Kilmer and British composer Django Bates.
- Won the Peter Whittingham Award in 1996.
- The Manhattan Brothers performed in collaboration with the Syndicate in Vienna in 1998.
- Adam filled in for Stevie Wonder on a live TV show alongside Sting promoting the “Brand New Day” album and appeared with Eurythmics in 1999.
- Adam performed as a guest with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall.
- Adam's harmonica features on albums with artists such as long time Sting guitarist Dominic Miller ("Second Nature" & "Fourth Wall"), Brazilian vocal legend ZiziPossi ("Bossa"), Australian fusion virtuoso Carl Orr ("Absolute Freedom" feat. Billy Cobham) and Zero 7 ("When It Falls").
- Adam played the harmonica in London in theatre productions such as “Midsummer Night’s Dream” Shakespeare’s Globe in 2002; “Scenes from the Big Picture”, and “His Girl Friday” at the Royal National Theatre in 2005.