Larry Grenadier

Larry Grenadier is one of the most respected and accomplished jazz bassists today. He has been called “deeply intuitive” by The New York Times, and “fluid” by Bass Player magazine. Grenadier has produced a wide range of music in collaboration with some of jazz’s most influential and innovative musicians. This includes his early playing days with Joe Henderson and Stan Getz, as well as decades of performing with Brad Mehldau. He also co-led the Fly trio (with Jeff Ballard and Mark Turner) and the quartet Hudson (with John Scofield and John Medeski). Grenadier has been a highly sought-after collaborator over a three-decade long performing and recording career. His instrumental virtuosity, instantly recognisable tone, and uncommon artistic sensitivity have all made him a popular performer and record producer. ECM Records will release Grenadier’s first solo album as a bass player in February 2019. The Gleaners is a collection of originals and pieces written by Grenadier, along with works by John Coltrane, George Gershwin and Paul Motian. It also includes a pair of works by Wolfgang Muthspiel, Grenadier’s long-time friend and fellow ECM artist. Grenadier also features an instrumental rendition of a song written by Rebecca Martin, his wife and frequent collaborator. Grenadier recorded The Gleaners at Avatar Studios, New York City for ECM. James Farber was the engineer and Manfred Eicher was the producer. Grenadier mixed the album with Eicher at Studios La Buissonne, France. Grenadier wrote in his liner notes: “The process of making this record began by a look inside, an exploration into the core elements that make me a bass player. It was a search to find a center of sound, timbre, and the rhythms that form a musical identity. Manfred was the one who inspired me to make a solo album. I took it on as an artistic challenge. Manfred, a former bassist, has a deep understanding of the instrument’s history and jazz as well as classical music. Manfred focuses on the unique qualities of the double-bass and is one of the few people who can properly treat it in the studio. Grenadier was influenced by The Gleaners’ previous ECM solo bass albums – by Miroslav Vious, Dave Holland, and Barre Phillips. But that’s not all. He says that other instrumentalists, such as Sonny Rollins, were an important influence. I looked up to them to answer the question “How do you create something solo over a long period with cohesion? Joe Henderson used to play long solo intros before Monk’s “Ask Me Now” that were very inspiring. Solo string playing was not limited to these intros. Solo cello music, including Bach and beyond, has always been my favorite. Manfred Eicher introduced me the solo Hindemith recordings of Kim Kashkashian, who I immediately fell in love. All those influences swirled around in my head and I started thinking conceptually about how to make a solo album that lasts 45 minutes. I tried different tunings and scordaturas, just like the 17th- and 18th-century violinists used. This gave the instrument a new sound and vibration that I liked. Grenadier states, “As a musician, I glean things form the people I play with and the music that I listen to. But it takes effort to get the best out of everything and to harvest what you can use.” As an artist, I have always held something similar to that – the desire to find the best. It’s important to live in the moment and be present to what’s going on, even when you are playing with Brad. My piece is based upon the chord changes to his song ‘Laverne walk’. I also performed ‘Pettiford” in a trio with Fly. The other originals on The Gleaners range from the arco lyrics of “Vineland”, “The Gleaners”, and the contemplative pizzicatos of “Lovelair,” and “Woebegone,” the latter of which has an arco overdubbed. Grenadier’s interpretations of The Gleaners are touchstones: “Another musical idol of mine is Miles Davis, because of his sound and how he thought about music as well as the bands that he created.” I love the Miles and Gil Evans version of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, so including “My Man’s Gone Now” is my nod. Grenadier said: “Compassion’ comes form Coltrane’s Meditations Suite, which was an important piece of music to me. It flows into Motian’s ‘Owl of Cranston’, which I used to play alongside Paul. It flows into Motian’s ‘Owl of Cranston,’ which I used to play with Paul. His melodies are beautiful, but it is his ability to flow rhythmically, sometimes out of tempo. Grenadier was born in 1966 in San Francisco. His family is a musician. Grenadier began playing the trumpet at age 10. He learned music from his father and was soon given an electric bass. This allowed him to perform cover songs in a trio with two of his brothers. Grenadier was first exposed to jazz music at home. He saw Ray Brown perform live at his house at 12 and that ignited his love for jazz. This pivotal moment led Grenadier to study the works of bass legends such as Charles Mingus and Wilbur Ware. Grenadier recalls, “The more jazz I became into, the more I gravitated towards the upright bass as my primary instrument.” I was attracted to the subtlety and physicality of the acoustic instrument. The double-bass’ natural sound appealed to me. “The instrument is still a mystery to me. I am still fascinated by it all these many years later.” Grenadier, a 16-year-old working professional, gigged and recorded with local jazz musicians. He also played with some of the most prominent jazz performers who visited San Francisco. He had the chance to work with legendary musicians like Johnny Griffin, Bobby Hutcherson and Johnny Coles. The bassist recalls that he met Larry Vuckovich in San Francisco, a pianist who was able to see the potential in him and hired a child to play with him. He helped me immensely and I was able to meet other musicians through him. It was a great opportunity to work with more experienced musicians. They didn’t speak much about music, they just did it. They taught me a lot by watching and listening. I learned a lot from working in that environment. He met Stan Getz at Stanford and they toured together. Joe Henderson was also available to the young bassist. Grenadier said: “Working alongside those two tenor titans was like being hit over the head with a gong. “This is real music, this is why it is. I can remember thinking that it was beautiful and intense. I was young enough to feel it more emotionally than intellectually. Although they were two very different players, they had different interpretations of the same thing. That was how I learned to dig into a text. This helped me when it came time to explore the full depth of a recording or composition. Grenadier graduated from Stanford in 1989 and moved to Boston to work alongside Gary Burton. He also traveled the world with Burton’s vibraphonist band. It is through this that he met Wolfgang Muthspiel, the guitarist who not only composed for Grenadier but also drafted him into sessions for his recent ECM albums. The bassist moved to New York City in 1991. He established himself as an important player on the city’s jazz scene. Grenadier also played with a new group of peers, including guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel (saxophonist Joshua Redman), and also rekindled his working relationship to Joe Henderson. He also served a stint with Betty Carter’s band. Brad Mehldau was the most lasting and fruitful relationship Grenadier had in his early years living in New York. In 1994, they formed a trio with Jorge Rossy, and the trio made their debut on the record the following year. The Brad Mehldau Trio would go on to be one of the most popular piano trios of the 20th century and 21st century. They toured the world and recorded a series of landmark studio and live albums. The trio was widely praised for their interactivity and sleek lyrical glow. They also had a rhythmic push-and pull that was both easy to understand and complex. The New York Times was impressed by the trio’s “strong, original sound” and their rapport. They were also praised by the New York Times for being “a standard-bearer of new jazz.” Jeff Ballard joined the Mehldau trio in 2005 to play the piano and Grenadier on the Nonesuch album Day Is Done. This trio went from strength to strength. They released the Grammy-nominated Brad Mehldau Live and the poetic studio discs Ode, Where You Start, and Blues.

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