A genuine six-string phenomenon, Pasquale Grasso (VG, November ’21) is redefining jazz guitar with a radical approach, making one instrument sound like two. Your ears may hear a duo at the opening of “A Night in Tunisia,” but it’s the Italian flash playing, in real time, with a unique hybrid-picking technique. With heart-stopping speed, he further re-creates Charlie Parker’s iconic alto-sax intro before wild torrents of 8th- and 16th-note soloing mastery. For emphasis, Pasquale employs a warm, muted tone resembling a small amp on a vintage 78-r.p.m. record.
In “Be-Bop,” Grasso opens the throttle and burns across the fretboard of his archtop, in the grand tradition of Tal Farlow and Johnny Smith. Singer Samara Joy joins for “I’m In a Mess,” a piece of small-combo swing highlighting the guitarist’s chord comping. “Ornithology” is an improvisational tour-de-force of chops, history, and mid-century American music – his one-man-harmony technique on full display in the finale. Bassist Ari Roland and drummer Keith Balla round out the crack ensemble.
With a focus on Dizzy Gillespie and Bird compositions, Grasso’s Be-Bop! affirms there’s a new bop sheriff in town. Easily a contender for jazz-guitar album of the year.
This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.