Pasquale Grasso ‘Be-Bop!’ Album Preview

June 17, 2022 Courtesy of DL Media

Guitar Virtuoso Pasquale Grasso Pays Tribute to Bird and Diz on Be-Bop!   Out Now   New Album Includes “A Night in Tunisia,” “Shaw ‘Nuff,” “Ruby, My Dear,” “Quasimodo” and “I’m in a Mess,” Featuring Rising Star Samara Joy on Vocals   U.S. & European Tour Dates Announced    

Following the extraordinary success of guitar virtuoso Pasquale Grasso’s digital showcase series, which launched in 2019 and includes Solo StandardsSolo BalladsSolo Holiday, and tributes to jazz royalty Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, Sony Music Masterworks is proud to announce Be-Bop!, a brilliant new tribute to be-bop pioneers Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker – available now.  

Be-Bop! kicks off in exhilarating fashion with Dizzy’s quintessential composition, “A Night in Tunisia,” originally composed in 1942 when he was a member of Benny Carter’s band and which marked the beginning of Gillespie’s unique blending of Afro-Cuban rhythms with American jazz. Grasso achieves an astonishing balance of technical wizardry and swing, sounding like two guitarists coming out of the gate on the challenging head on top of the syncopated Latin rhythm. And his fleet-fingered solo break at the 1:03 mark is in the breathtaking tradition of Charlie Parker’s famous alto sax break from his 1946 Dial recording of the tune. Pasquale’s stream of single notes that follows for the next two minutes in his solo is even more astounding, brimming with rare facility and abandon to match his fertile imagination. Roland also turns in an animated bowed bass solo here while Balla engages in some slick trades with the leader near the end of the piece. Finally, catch Grasso’s brief dazzling quote from one of Paganini’s Caprices (the extremely difficult No. 24 in A minor) in the coda. Listen here.  

Backed by his working trio of bassist Ari Roland and drummer Keith Balla, the trio is in sync through super-up-tempo, challenging fare like “Groovin’ High,” “Cheryl,” “Ornithology,” “Be-bop” and “Shaw ‘Nuff.”  

“Dizzy’s tune ’Shaw ’Nuff’ reminds me of all the hours I would spend listening to Bird and Diz, growing up in my home town in Italy,” Grasso says. “It’s based on Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm,’ possibly the most common set of chord changes we jazz musicians love to play over.” Listen here.  

The trio settles into a more relaxed vibe on Thelonious Monk’s gorgeous ballad “Ruby, My Dear” and on Parker’s “Quasimodo,” which features superb octave playing by Grasso and a brilliant bowed solo by Roland, and the trio takes its time on the lush “Lamento Della Campagnia,” based on the Billie Holiday torch song “Some Other Spring.” As the 33-year-old Grasso explained, “I had a tough time last year and Billie’s version of ‘Some Other Spring’ got me through some hard times, so I decided to record it.”  

Special guest vocalist Samara Joy, who has been collaborating with Pasquale since 2020, appears on one track, the jivey mid-tempo swinger “I’m in a Mess” (originally sung by Joe Carroll on Gillespie’s 1951 album, School Days). “She’s incredibly talented and I’m happy to perform with her night after night,” Grasso said. “We’re having a lot of fun together.”  

In support of the new album, fans can catch Pasquale Grasso on tour in several US and European markets both as a headliner and as a featured guest artist in Samara Joy’s band, including upcoming stops at Keystone Korner in Baltimore (June 17-19), the Montreal International Jazz Festival (July 2), the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia (July 9-17), Jazz in Marciac (July 23), New York’s Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola (August 22), Blues Alley in Washington, DC (August 24-25), the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival (August 28) and the Monterey Jazz Festival (September 23).  

ABOUT PASQUALE GRASSO Born and raised in Ariano Irpino in Southern Italy’s Campania region, Grasso relocated to New York City in 2009 and has since been wowing audiences with regular appearances at Mezzrow, Smalls and The Django, where he has showcased his tremendous command of the fretboard by freely moving between single notes, chords and independent bass lines while flashing Art Tatum-esque filigrees with uncanny speed and precision.

“Since I was a little kid, I always had this sound in my head, then slowly it’s coming out,” he explained. “I was never too much influenced by guitar players, for some reason. I grew up listening to Art Tatum, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. Those were my guys. For guitar, I always liked Charlie Christian and Oscar Moore, but I never really listened to too much guitar players. Of course, when I hear Barney Kessel and Chuck Wayne and Jimmy Raney, I love them. They’re all great artists but they never really got me when I was a kid. I was more into Bird and Bud, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge and Louis Armstrong. So I was always more influenced by horn players and piano players than guitar players.”  

In 2015, Pasquale won the Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition in New York City, including performing with guitar legend Pat Martino’s organ trio. Grasso was subsequently signed to an exclusive deal with Sony Masterworks, which led to his initial series of digital releases in 2019. Working with the simpatico rhythm tandem of Roland and Balla again, the great guitarist takes things up a notch on Be-Bop!  

“Obviously, I think the older you get the more you understand,” Grasso said. ‘When you’re in your twenties, you just want to play everything you know. But over time, you realize that music is not about that — it’s about telling a story and making somebody feel certain emotions. I love Lester Young for that. That’s the beauty of music.”  

BE-BOP! TRACKLIST – 1. A Night in Tunisia 2. Be-Bop 3. Ruby, My Dear 4. Shaw ‘Nuff 5. I’m in a Mess – featuring Samara Joy 6. Cheryl 7. Ornithology 8. Quasimodo 9. Lamento Della Campagnia 10. Groovin’ High  

For full tour dates and ticketing information, visit HERE.