Pasquale Grasso – Solo Masterpieces
(Sony Masterworks – Digital only. Review by Adam Sieff)
Pasquale Grasso is a thirty-one year old Italian guitar player who’s been living in New York for the past eight years. Most nights he’s out playing the clubs including regular weekly gigs at Mezzrow and Café Bohemia, either on his own, in a trio or with others. During the day he teaches guitar and continues his own development as a jazz musician, he’s still young and always learning. And that’s the frightening thing, because Grasso is already a nonpareil guitar player armed with a terrifying technique and deep musicality. Among his many admirers in the guitar playing fraternity is Pat Metheny, who said in an interview with Vintage Guitar magazine: ’The best guitar player I’ve heard in maybe my entire life is floating around now, Pasquale Grasso. This guy is doing something so amazingly musical and difficult’.
As far as his recording career goes, Grasso is being handled very cannily. Signed to Sony Masterworks by A&R Consultant Matt Pierson (ex Blue Note and Warner Bros Records), he released four digital EPs between June and December 2019: Solo Standards Vol.1, Solo Ballads Vol.1, Solo Monk and Solo Holiday.
This plan will continue throughout 2020 with Solo Bud Powell (May), Pasquale Plays Bird (August) and Solo Duke Ellington (October). This policy of releasing new music every couple of months keeps his growing fanbase happy and regularly gives him new music and video clips to promote, a sensible plan for developing a solo jazz artist in today’s digital world.
Twelve of the tracks from these past and future EPs (thankfully without the Christmas songs) have now been compiled as Solo Masterpieces – a full length digital release.
The classic repertoire may be extremely well known but that really isn’t an issue when it’s as well performed as it is here. Like other virtuosi guitar soloists (think Joe Pass and Martin Taylor) much of Grasso’s inspiration comes from pianists, especially Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum. The way that he uses his hands almost independently of each other, with a phenomenal pick and fingers technique allows him to perform impossibly fast and accurate runs, harmonies, rhythm and bass, bringing an entire band into view. It’s hard to pick a highlight, but let’s start with ‘Tea for Two’, ‘Parker’s Mood’, ‘’Round Midnight’, ‘Epistrophy’, ‘All the Things You Are’ and ‘Bouncing with Bud’. But they’re all special, even the old chestnut ‘Over The Rainbow’ is a springboard for a spellbinding performance.
During a brief phone call Grasso comes across as a serious and modest young musician still learning his craft. We discussed his love of Charlie Christian and the great horn players. How his classical guitar studies in his late teens had helped to develop his strong right hand little finger like the classical and flamenco players. I drooled over his gorgeous ‘Modello Pasquale Grasso’ guitar made for him by French luthier Bryant Trenier, he replied that: ’he is a good friend and builds an instrument that really makes me play’. I asked if he was interested in performing his own repertoire: ‘Perhaps one day, but only if I ever write a song as beautiful as ‘Body and Soul’. And finally, we talked about the importance of playing with real emotion: ‘My relationship with the guitar is very special, and my goal is always to tell a story with feeling’.
Categories: CD review