“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.”
– Pasquale Grasso
A few years ago, guitar legend Pat Metheny was asked what young musicians impressed him. “The best guitar player I’ve heard in maybe my entire life is Pasquale Grasso,” Pat said. “This guy is doing something so amazingly musical and so difficult.” For those new to his magic, Pasquale fuses bebop punch with classical refinement, plucking chords and bass lines with his right hand while flitting mind-bending solos with his left hand – sounding like two virtuosos in one.
Credit his jazz-enriched childhood in southern Italy and early obsession with guitar. By age 6, Pasquale was already practicing 12 hours a day of his own volition, which helped spark the journey from bucolic countryside to international acclaim. After attending the Conservatory of Bologna, the U.S. Embassy enlisted him as its Jazz Ambassador. He relocated to NYC and hit the scene running – soon after winning the Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition. By then he had mastered his contrapuntal technique – reinventing the piano artistry of Tatum, Powell and Monk on guitar, which had never been heard before. And it doesn’t stop with 88 keys. “With classical fingering, you can play the same phrase in one position and it sounds like a trumpet,” Pasquale says, “while in another position it sounds like a cello. That’s the beauty of the guitar. It can sound like a little orchestra.”
On Be-Bop!, his sixth release on Sony Masterworks, Pasquale’s orchestral fingers are in full effect re-imagining timeless compositions from Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker – with some Monk thrown in for good measure. Backed by his regular collaborators, bassist Ari Roland and drummer Keith Balla, he kicks off the album with Dizzy’s “A Night in Tunisia,” and keeps the tempo tappin’ with fare like “Cheryl,” “Shaw ’Nuff,” “Groovin’ High,” and “Be-Bop.” It’s warm, rich, infectious stuff – not to be missed. “This is the music I grew up listening to,” Pasquale says. “Whenever I want to have a great time, I know which songs to play.”