Guitarist Pasquale Grasso Presents “Solo Bud Powell”
Critically Acclaimed Guitarist Pasquale Grasso
Presents Solo Bud Powell Available Digitally on
Sony Masterworks is proud to announce the newest installment of guitar virtuoso Pasquale Grasso’s digital series: Solo Bud Powell. This series is a masterful exploration of the solo guitar format with an emphasis on Grasso’s intense studies of the jazz masters, both bebop and classical. The series – which includes Solo Standards, Vol. 1, Solo Ballads, Vol. 1, Solo Monk, Solo Holiday and Solo Masterpieces – is a revolutionary approach in a changing landscape of the modern music industry allowing a prolific recording artist to release a multitude of material over the course of an extended period of time. Additional 2020 releases will showcase Grasso exploring the works of Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.
On this stunning new album, Grasso takes all of his directions from the groundwork laid out by Bud Powell’s transcendent legacy. The classic Live at Massey Hall convened a summit meeting of five of bebop’s Founding Fathers: Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. When he discovered his parents’ copy of the album at age 6, Grasso found himself drawn to Powell, fascinated by the master pianist’s daring explorations and fervent emotional expression. That admiration has only grown over the ensuing decades, as Powell’s tragic biography and undaunted passion combined to impress on the guitarist a true commitment to the music.
“I was really captured by the touch he had on the piano, with a sound that made me feel so many different emotions,” Pasquale Grasso says. Paying homage to a jazz master, not to mention one who transformed the idea of American jazz piano, in not only his compositional tone but his theory of playing, became an exciting challenge for Grasso. “Playing Bud’s compositions on guitar is very difficult. In addition to the obvious technical challenges, the more I listened to Bud, I realized that he changed his touch and phrasing constantly. Every recording was different, so I’m always learning something new from him, finding different ways to approach his tunes.”
Grasso brings his own singular meld of intricate virtuosity and personal interpretation to his versions of tunes such as the bebop classic, “Parisian Thoroughfare.” “[That song] has always been a favorite Bud tune of mine. Listen to his solo recording of it (The Genius of Bud Powell, 1956). His left hand is on fire! For me, the greatest challenge of playing this one on guitar is being able to play those triplets in a light way.”
Other songs from the album were chosen and studied for a particular reason; “Oblivion” “Hallucinations and “Dusk in Sandi” – all songs that were released in the intimate format Grasso is very familiar with; as solo recordings. “There is much to learn from his original versions. His runs and voicings offer so many things to practice, and his syncopated and swinging phrasing makes the music seem to fly to a different universe.”
Each piece unfolds with a rich and stunning sense of bold discovery, resonating with the words of Grasso’s mentor, piano great Barry Harris: “You can always learn something new from Bud. He’s one of the few artists that always plays something that you’ve never heard before.” The shared love of Bud Powell’s mastery acts as one of the connections passed down from teacher to student and this album holds an extra special connection for Grasso. “‘I’ll Keep Loving You’ is dedicated to my teacher, the great pianist Barry Harris. He plays it on every concert. I remember being eight years old, hearing him for the first time in Switzerland – it was the moment when I decided to be a musician.”
Read Profiles on the Series in:
Six months after his release from a mental institution, Bud Powell spent all of his time locked in an East Side high-rise by his legal guardian and then manager of Birdland, Oscar Goodstein. It was there that he composed his most ambitious piece of music “Glass Enclosure.” His entrapment acted as a guarantee for performance. “They wanted to be sure he’d appear [at the club], so they took complete control of his life,” Alfred Lion, of Blue Note Records, recalled years later. “One day Oscar gave me the key and I went up. There was a piano there and [Powell] played me some new things. One piece really stood out. I asked him what he called it. He looked around the apartment and said, ‘Glass Enclosure.’” The song was later recorded for Blue Note in 1953 with George Duvivier on bass and Art Taylor on drums. Serendipitously, Pasquale Grasso latched on to a particular tune and the story behind it, as many around the globe are facing their own enclosures in the days of physical and social distancing.
“I believe that ‘Glass Enclosure’ is the song that taught all pianists to understand the use of modern harmony and counterpoint in jazz. Bud wrote this while in isolation in a hotel following his release from a sanitarium. It’s hard to hear this piece and not connect with this feeling, given what we’ve all been going through recently. On a musical level, this one presented a particular challenge on guitar, pushing the boundaries of what can be played on the instrument in terms of independence of both hands and the top and bottom strings of the instrument.”
About Pasquale Grasso:
It was the kind of endorsement most rising guitarists can only dream of, and then some. In his interview for Vintage Guitar magazine’s February 2016 cover story, Pat Metheny was asked to name some younger musicians who’d impressed him. “The best guitar player I’ve heard in maybe my entire life is floating around now, Pasquale Grasso,” said the jazz-guitar icon and NEA Jazz Master. “This guy is doing something so amazingly musical and so difficult.
“Mostly what I hear now are guitar players who sound a little bit like me mixed with a little bit of [John Scofield] and a little bit of [Bill Frisell],” he continued. “What’s interesting about Pasquale is that he doesn’t sound anything like that at all. In a way, it is a little bit of a throwback, because his model—which is an incredible model to have—is Bud Powell. He has somehow captured the essence of that language from piano onto guitar in a way that almost nobody has ever addressed. He’s the most significant new guy I’ve heard in many, many years.”
Born in Italy and now based in New York City, the 31-year-old guitarist has developed an astounding technique and concept informed not by jazz guitarists so much as by bebop pioneers like Powell, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and the classical-guitar tradition.
These days, Grasso is focused on his teaching schedule and his daily practice routine. He hopes to resume frequent solo performances at the popular Greenwich Village haunt Mezzrow, where, before COVID-19, he performed a consistent Monday-night gig. His previously jam-packed performance schedule has allowed him to develop his solo-arranging skillset. Not that Grasso thinks his work is done. “All [of the musicians I love are] inspiration for me to get new ideas and form my style, because it’s still growing,” Pasquale says. “And it’s gonna be growing until the day I die.”
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