Sep 14, 2022
Following the success of his digital showcase series of solo guitar tributes to giants like Monk, Powell, and Ellington, Pasquale Grasso has cast his musical net a bit wider. His latst album, a trio recording from the Sony Music Masterworks release called Be-Bop!, is an often dazzling tribute to be-bop pioneers like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
Backed by his working trio of bassist Ari Roland and drummer Keith Balla, the Grasso trio is in sync through super-up-tempo, challenging fare like “A Night n Tunisia.” “Groovin’ High,” “Cheryl,” “Ornithology," “Be-bop" and “Shaw ‘Nuff." Although the tunes are all staples of the jazz repertoire, it’s a pleasure to hear Pasquale use his guitar and fleet fingers to give a different voice to the memorable melodies and harmonics.
Special guest vocalist Samara Joy, who has been collaborating with Pasquale since 2020, appears on one track, the lesser-known jivey mid-tempo swinger “I’m in a Mess” (originally sung by Joe Carroll on Gillespie’s 1951 album, School Days). The two have great chemistry, and it’s no surprise that he will be on her debut album, now available on the Verve label.
Born and raised in Ariano Irpino in Southern Italy’s Campania region, Grasso relocated to New York City in 2009 and has since been wowing audiences with regular appearances at Mezzrow, Smalls and The Django, where he has showcased his tremendous command of the fretboard by freely moving between single notes, chords and independent bass lines while flashing Art Tatum-esque filigrees with uncanny speed and precision. In 2015, Pasquale won the Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition in New York City, including performing with guitar legend Pat Martino’s organ trio. Grasso was subsequently signed to an exclusive deal with Sony Masterworks, which led to his initial series of digital releases in 2019.
Podcast 935 is my conversation with Pasquale, as we delve into his love of the be-bop classics, his studies with the late Barry Harris, how he came to jazz – a family thing – and his working relationship with Samara Joy. Musical selections include “Groovin’ High” and A Night in Tunisia.”