Guitarist Pasquale Grasso Presents “Solo Bird” Available via Sony Masterworks on August 21
Critically Acclaimed Guitarist Pasquale Grasso
Presents Charlie Parker Tribute, Solo Bird
Available Digitally on August 21
Join Pasquale Grasso in a Special Celebration of
Solo Bird in a Solo and Trio Performance
Filmed Live at Birdland on August 25
Sony Masterworks is proud to announce the newest installment of guitar virtuoso Pasquale Grasso’s digital series: Solo Bird. 2020 marks the centennial celebration of Charlie Parker’s birth and life and the masterful impact that he had on music. This series is a brilliant 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, Solo Masterpieces, and Solo Bud Powell – 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. The final release of 2020 will be an expanded, 11-track version of Solo Standards.
Investigating the exhilarating compositions of Charlie Parker instantly transports Grasso back to his childhood in Italy. “Bird was always scary for me,” he recalls with a chuckle, looking back from the perspective of one who has long since delved deeply into their enticing mysteries. “I first heard Charlie Parker when I was about 5 years old. My parents had given me and my brother Luigi recordings of Charlie Parker – the first was most likely Jazz at Massey Hall. It was love at first sight for both of us, especially my older brother Luigi, since he’d started playing alto sax.” Parker was the idol of Luigi; for that reason, Pasquale for a time resisted the iconic saxophonist as one of his own leading lights, wanting to set out on his own path. “As kids, we would learn one of his songs and play it every day until we got it right. I always loved his lines, which are so perfect it’s frightening. Also, his approach always changes – each time he would improvise on a song, his phrasing would change, sometimes drastically, from version to version.”
He was often called on to comp for Luigi on such immortal Parker compositions as “Yardbird Suite” and “Confirmation,” so those great melodies inevitably left a profound impression on his musical imagination. Nowadays “Yardbird Suite” conjures up nostalgic images of home for the guitarist. “Bird only recorded it a couple of times, and it’s one of the few songs he wrote that wasn’t based on a standard tune. The beautiful melody reminds me of my hometown Ariano Irpino, Italy, where I learned the song, waking up with the sounds of birds chirping outside my window.”
Grasso also tackles other Bird classics such as “How High the Moon/Ornithology.” “Bird actually wrote ‘Ornithology’ (the study of birds – get it?) with trumpeter Little Benny Harris,” Grasso notes. “Many of Bird’s compositions are contrafacts, meaning that they are original melodies written over the harmony of a standard song. One benefit of this was that since only the melody has a copyright, the label could save money on royalties. In this case, it’s ‘How High the Moon,’ and since I like both tunes, I play it as a medley.”
Revisiting those same tunes all these years later, Grasso carves his own brilliant path through Bird’s darting lines and hairpin turns, navigating their dizzying angles with blistering agility and dazzling finesse. “It’s impossible to guess what’s next or what he’s gonna play,” Grasso says. “It’s incredible to think that Bird recorded all that music in such a short period of time and when he was so young, since he tragically passed at only 34. The way he played ballads also amazed me. Since this project is just his own songs, maybe I’ll record a ballad tribute to him in the future!”
Pasquale Grasso Solo & Trio
Live from Birdland
Tuesday, August 25 at 7PM EST
Previous 2020 Digital Series Releases
Solo Bud Powell – Available Digitally Now (Released May 15, 2020)
On this stunning 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.” Listen Here.
Solo Masterpieces – Available Digitally Now (Released March 6, 2020)
Solo Masterpieces represents the first full length member of the digital series; as a compilation it acts as both a retrospective of the previous releases and also an insight to several tunes from the upcoming 2020 EP’s – Listen Here. With Solo Masterpieces, Grasso has gathered music from each of his first solo guitar EPs and melded them. The result is a masterful collection that allows audiences to revel in Grasso’s previous work whilst simultaneously creating an air of excitement for the music yet to be released. The series, which has received critical acclaim thus far, marks a turning point into the new decade and Solo Masterpieces is the encapsulation of the majesty within the music.
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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