Playing the bass guitar and doing it exceptionally well has given Glenn Fukunaga an all but magical life in popular music. The Austin, TX-based player has not only become one of the very musical city’s premier bassists on recordings and performances with top artists in the Texas music scene, but he has also played with such legends and stars from an array of musical styles as Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, Dr. John, The Dixie Chicks, James Cotton, Freddy Fender, Brian Setzer, Earl King, Flaco Jimenez, Junior Wells, David Amram and others. And now with a first album all his own, Not A Word, Fukunaga opens a delightful and a bit surprising new chapter in his musical career.
As the name implies, Not A Word is an instrumental album, and quite different from the roots styles of the artists Fukunaga usually backs. Deftly balanced at the place where 1950s to early ‘60s be-bop jazz met fusion, it’s jazz that plays to the song with an almost painterly sensibility. The opening track, “Ha Ha Hawaiian,” summons up visions of the islands where Fukunaga was born and raised, and showcases the rhythmic gifts of drummer Dony Wynn. “Song For Glenn” is a lovely meditative piece on which Alex Coke’s woodwinds waft through the melody. “Spacefarten” romps playfully, “Drivin’ Into A Donut Hole” takes a multi-sectional trip into cosmic dimensions, and “Inspite Of Color” summons up visions of late night jamming in a low-lit jazz café. The alluring collection of melodic adventurism wraps up with the lovely subdued grace note of “Paradise Stroll.”
The CD was produced by accordion master and keyboard wizard Joel Guzman, who Fukunaga worked with in Joe Ely’s band. Its origins begin when Glenn heard famed jazz pianist, composer and arranger Bill Evans on Austin’s KUT-FM public radio station about a decade ago. “It changed my life, and I started reading books about him and buying his CDs,” he explains. He began making home recordings of song ideas with his bass, a drum machine and ukulele. “Joel helped me take those snippets and combine and make into songs. I left a lot of room for everyone who played on the album to bring something to it.”
Fukunaga has enjoyed long-term musical relationships with some of Austin’s most noted musical artists: Ely, Lou Ann Barton, Terri Hendrix, Eliza Gilkyson, Sara Hickman and Ruthie Foster, among others. He has appeared on “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night with David Letterman” and CMT’s “Crossroads,” toured Europe and Japan multiple times, and played such major festivals as The Montreux Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Strawberry Music Festival, Bumbershoot, Austin City Limits Music Festival, South By Southwest, Switzerland’s Singer Songwriter Frutigen Festival and other fests focusing on jazz, blues, roots and Texas music in Japan, Germany, Belgium, Norway and Sweden plus U.S. festivals in Chicago, Miami, San Diego and elsewhere.