Spotlight on Litchfield Jazz Festival performer: Pasquale Grasso

Italian-born guitarist Pasquale Grasso will perform alongside singer Samara Joy with his quartet: Ben Patterson on piano, Ari Rolland on bass and Keith Balla on drums, opening the 27th annual Litchfield Jazz Festival on 29 and July 30.

Like his younger colleague Joy, Grasso started early in music, but with a twist. While she followed tradition closely with gospel, he used elements of piano performance to flavor his guitar compositions.

Born in October 1988 in the lush town of Ariano Irpino, Italy, Grasso was destined to thrive in music. His parents, although not professional musicians, made sure to instill their passion for music in their children by filling their home with jazz and classical melodies. Young Grasso and his brother Luigi found themselves moved by the live jazz played at the nearby Umbrian Jazz Festival, an annual event since 1973. Pasquale Grasso would only fall completely in love with jazz one day when a guitar caught his interest during a visit to a music venue. store near his home. His father made him a deal before buying the instrument: “If I buy this from you, he said, you have to promise me that you will practice”. Grasso did practice and he quickly became a promising player on the instrument.

Grasso would begin to develop his own technique under the tutelage of Agostino Di Giorgio, a New York-raised guitarist who was himself a student of famed guitarist Chuck Wayne. DiGiorgio passed on Wayne’s unique concepts with scales and chords to Grasso, but Grasso didn’t really develop his own guitar technique until he met Barry Harris. Harris, a world-renowned jazz teacher and bebop piano master, became an extraordinary influence on Grasso after attending Harris’ jazz workshop in Switzerland in 1998. Under Harris’s wing, Grasso would define his technique so well and his perspective on jazz that he became Harris’ Teaching Assistant at workshops in Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Slovenia.

However, Grasso’s approach to music would change dramatically after an “ah ha” moment inspired by listening to classical guitarist David Russell. “I was shocked because of the incredible sound and feel and the way he played,” he recalled. “I thought I should study classical guitar to really learn the instrument. Jazz guitarists play chords or play melody, but classical guys play chords and melody together, like a piano, like a small orchestra. I said to myself: “That’s exactly what I want to do with jazz. My technique was good, but something was missing” (jazztimes.com).

Inspired by and combining the techniques of Wayne and Harris, Grasso quickly made a name for himself after moving to New York in 2012. There Grasso became a member of the Ari Roland Quartet and the Chris Byars Quartet which was later named ambassador of the jazz. in a program sponsored by the US State Department, touring Europe from Lithuania to Cyprus. In the future, he would work with many internationally leading jazz musicians such as Barry Harris, Charles Davis, Freddie Redd, Frank Wess, Leroy Williams, Ray Drummond, etc. His impressive work has even earned the endorsement of the legendary Pat Metheny. Asked by a writer for Vintage Guitar magazine who was to name a few young musicians who impressed him, Metheny said: “The best guitarist I’ve heard in maybe my whole life is floating around now, Pasquale Grasso…He’s somehow so captured the essence of that. from piano to guitar in a way that hardly anyone has ever approached. He’s the most important new guy I’ve heard from in many, many years. Today, at 33, Pasquale Grasso most often teaches the next generation of jazz musicians or performs around the world.

Visit the Litchfield Jazz Festival website at litchfieldjazzfest.com to find out more about the captivating performances in store for late July. To purchase tickets to see Pasquale Grasso perform alongside Samara Joy on July 29 starting at 5:45 p.m. at the Thomas S. Perakos Arts and Community Center, be sure to click: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/27th-annual-litchfield-jazz-festival-tickets-293184351287

Willie J. Johnson