Pasquale Grasso

It was the type of endorsement that rising guitarists only dream about. Pat Metheny was asked by Vintage Guitar magazine to name younger musicians that had impressed him during his interview. Pasquale Grasso is the best guitarist I’ve ever heard. This was Pasquale Grasso, a jazz-guitar legend and NEA Jazz Master. “This guy is doing something so amazing musically and so hard. He continued, “Mostly what I hear right now is guitar players who sound a lot like me mixed with some [John Scofield] or [Bill Frisell],” Pasquale sounds nothing like this. It is, in a way, a throwback because Pasquale’s model, which is an amazing model to have, is Bud Powell. He’s captured the essence of that language, from guitar to piano, in a way almost no one has ever attempted. Metheny invited Grasso to his New York home to jam and share some knowledge. Metheny has become a welcoming presence in Grasso’s life and his evaluation of Grasso’s playing is – no surprise – spot-on. The 30-year-old guitarist was born in Italy, and is now based in New York City. His technique and concept are not only inspired by jazz guitarists but also by classical-guitar legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Powell. The digital-only EP series featuring Grasso, which will be available from Sony Masterworks in June, features him solo-guitar. His extensive studies in both classical and midcentury jazz combine to create a unique mastery that is both remarkable and evocative. It is hard to say who it might evoke. A surface listen might bring to mind Joe Pass and his Virtuoso albums. Listen again. You will be amazed at the sparkling, perfectly balanced tone, the boogie-woogie rhythmic tinges and stride, and the incredible single-note lines connecting his striking use of chordal harmony. Grasso is great solo arranging equals Art Tatum. Many guitar enthusiasts have been following Grasso’s career since the beginning. They are familiar with his stunning online performances, his custom instrument made in France by Trenier Guitars, and his early career successes. He won the 2015 Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition, New York City. He also performed with Pat Martino’s trio of organists. Grasso performed last year in D.C. as part of the NEA Jazz Masters tribute concert. He was joined by his guitar-legend peers Dan Wilson, Camila Medza, Gilad Hekselman, and Nir Felder. Grasso teaches now and continues to play a full gig schedule in New York. He also regularly performs solo at Mezzrow in Greenwich Village, where he has been able to improve his solo-arranging skills. Grasso doesn’t think his work is finished. Pasquale states, “All the musicians that I love are] an inspiration for me to get fresh ideas and form my own style, because it is still growing.” “And it’s gonna keep growing until the day that I die.” *** The story of Luigi Grasso (an alto saxophonist and bandleader who has toured the world as a collaborator and leader) is also a part of Pasquale’s. The brothers were raised in Ariano Irpino in Italy’s Campania region. Although their parents were not musicians, they were passionate music lovers and filled their home with classical and jazz sounds. They also took their sons to Umbria Jazz events. Grasso says that instead of watching television at night, their father would play a Chet Baker song and they’d listen. Both boys got into music very young. Luigi, a 6-year-old suffering from asthma, started playing the sax after a doctor suggested it. Pasquale realized that he also needed an instrument and he went to a local shop to find one. The instrument was purchased by Dad, who made a deal with Pasquale: “If you buy this for me, you must promise me that I’ll practice.” Over the years, Pasquale and his brother kept their end of the bargain hour after hour. Grasso’s mother bought a book about how to read music and taught her sons as she learned it. Grasso met Agostino di Giorgio, a New York-raised guitar player who had moved to Italy to care for his grandparents. Chuck Wayne, an educator and guitarist who was well-known for his work with Woody Herman and George Shearing, was a great pupil of Di Giorgio. He was a funny, brilliant, and energetic character. Wayne was helped by Di Giorgio to create his unique concepts of chords, and scales. Wayne passed Wayne’s methods on to Grasso. The brothers went to a jazz workshop in Switzerland with Barry Harris, a bebop-piano royalty. Both boys were treated with kindness by Harris, and they quickly developed a friendship. The Grasso brothers became Harris’ right-hand assistants and instructors, instead of being students in his workshops around the world. Even today, Pasquale will drop by Harris’ marathon teaching sessions in Manhattan if he doesn’t have a gig that night. Grasso was able to develop his jazz tastes with Harris’ help. He also received two invaluable recordings from his father: One Night in Birdland, a Charlie Parker Quintet compilation featuring Bud Powell, Fats Navarro, and Art Tatum’s Solo Masterpieces set. Grasso recalls that he couldn’t believe the experience of listening to the Solo Masterpieces box set. I could just play that all day and couldn’t understand what he was doing. After seeing the concert of David Russell, Grass had a similar realization. He says that he was stunned by Russell’s technique, which sounded almost like two guitars. My dad suggested to me that I study classical music, as it would improve my ability to play jazz. Grasso started in 2008 to combine his jazz technique with classical revisions at the Conservatory of Bologna under the guidance of Walter Zanetti, guitarist. The guitarist moved to New York in 2012, when Pasquale was touring extensively as a Jazz Ambassador for the U.S. Embassy. He quickly became a part of the working bands of Chris Byars and Ari Roland, before settling down to a regular gig alongside Charles Davis, the great saxophonist. Grasso also has performed with Freddie Redd and Frank Wess as well as Ray Drummond, Ray Drummonds, Ray Drummonds, Ray Drummonds, Ray Drummonds, Steve Grossmans, Tardo Hammers, Jimmy Wormworths, John Mosca. Sacha Perry, Bucky Pizzarelli. Harry Allen, Grant Stewart, Joe Cohn. His new Sony Masterworks EPs show his vast talents in the most intimate setting. You can witness his life of listening and the challenge he took to surpass the Art Tatum standard so many decades back. The following EPs will be available digitally starting in June. Additional EPs are planned for future releases with Pasquale exploring Thelonious Monk’s, Duke Ellington, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker and other artists. from

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