Tag Archives: Luigi Grasso

HARRY ALLEN AND FRIENDS SWING OUT: The Fourth Set at Feinstein’s (June 10, 2012)

For the closing set at Feinstein’s at the Regency on Sunday, June 10, 2012, Harry Allen and his noble friends chose some easy-to-love jazz classics with an Ellingtonian flavor.  The only sad thing about this music and this posting is that it is the last one from that glorious evening . . . but we can get ready in our heads and on our calendars for the Autumn series of happy nights.

For now, here’s Harry, tenor; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Joe Temperley, baritone sax; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Joel Forbes, string bass; Chuck Riggs, drums: jazz aristocrats who are never too proud to swing, to play the blues, to roll up their sleeves and venture into I GOT RHYTHM.

Here’s that classic, circa 1925, SWEET GEORGIA BROWN:

THESE FOOLISH THINGS:

Ben Webster’s line on IN A MELLOTONE (based on ROSE ROOM), titled DID YOU CALL HER TODAY? — which builds and builds:

And finally — a rousing romp with that Rhythmic rabbit, COTTONTAIL:

And here’s the Autumn 2012 schedule — all Monday nights. Mark them down!

September 10th: (Harry and the young saxophone masters!) Luigi Grasso, Jesse Davis, Harry Allen, Rossano Sportiello, Joel Forbes, Chuck Riggs.

October 8th: (Harry and splendid singers!) Lynn Roberts, Rebecca Kilgore, Nicki Parrott, Mike Renzi, Harry Allen, Joel Forbes, Chuck Riggs.

November 5th: (Harry and the jazz masters!) Bucky Pizzarelli, Ken Peplowski, John Allred, Bill Allred, Rossano Sportiello, Joel Forbes, Chuck Riggs.

December 2nd: (Harry and the jazz masters, continued!) George Wein and the Newport All Stars

Learn more about the musical bill of fare offered at Feinstein’s by visiting http://www.fesinsteinsattheregency.com.

May your happiness increase.

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SUNDAY, MONDAY, and ALWAYS: THE HARRY ALLEN QUARTET at FEINSTEIN’S: The First Set (June 10, 2012)

Harry Allen is one of those rare musicians who needs only his horn to get something started — but when he’s joined by Chuck Riggs (drums), Joel Forbes (string bass), and Rossano Sportiello, a delicious combination of excitement and relaxation fills the room.  This happened once again on Sunday, June 10, 2012, at Feinstein’s (the comfortable club nestled within Loews Regency, 540 Park Avenue, New York City).  Harry and his friends were there — thanks to Mat and Rachel Domber, the generous spirits responsible for so much good music through Arbors Records and live concerts.

It was a privilege to be there, and the Beloved and I basked in the warm, friendly atmosphere of that room — and the warm creativity of the players.  And for the first time, I was allowed to video-record the evening, so consider yourself invited to the extraordinary musical scene created magically by Harry and friends — with surprises to come.

Harry began the evening with a loping performance of CHEEK TO CHEEK that would have pleased Fred, Ginger, and Mr. Berlin as well:

Then, something really pretty — a pensive reading of Kern’s SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES that, surprising us all, segued into a rollicking I WANT TO BE HAPPY with the first of several extraordinary outings from our hero Rossano at the piano:

The familiar anthem of hipness, SATIN DOLL:

And A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP (with such beautiful support from Joel and Chuck):

A tender MY FOOLISH HEART (did the SATIN DOLL prove fickle?):

Harry closed off the first set — a satisfying offering of jazz — with the always-delicious  (Basie-flavored) BLUES, this time in Ab:

Harry and friends have been a regular attraction on the first Monday of every month — for over a year now.  (The Sunday, June 10, date was an exception.)  They will return on the first Monday of September with more good sounds and special guests.  Here’s the schedule:

September 10th: (Harry and the young saxophone masters!)  Luigi Grasso, Jesse Davis, Harry Allen, Rossano Sportiello, Joel Forbes, Chuck Riggs.

October 8th: (Harry and splendid singers!)  Lynn Roberts, Rebecca Kilgore, Nicki Parrott, Mike Renzi, Harry Allen, Joel Forbes, Chuck Riggs.

November 5th: (Harry and the jazz masters!)  Bucky Pizzarelli, Ken Peplowski, John Allred, Bill Allred, Rossano Sportiello, Joel Forbes, Chuck Riggs.

December 2nd: (Harry and the jazz masters, continued!)  George Wein and the Newport All Stars

You can find out more about the musical bill of fare offered at Feinstein’s by visiting http://www.fesinsteinsattheregency.com.

And I’ll be back shortly with more music from this glorious evening.  May your happiness increase.

SWEET RHYTHMS in PARIS: NICOLAS DARY / LUIGI GRASSO / EHUD ASHERIE 2011

That’s Luigi Grasso (alto saxophone), Nicolas Dary (tenor), Ehud Asherie (piano), Mathias Allamane (bass), and Philippe Soirat (drums), playing BEWITCHED (Luigi) and SERENADE IN BLUE (Nicolas) — recorded at the Sunside in Paris, February 2, 2011.  Lovely!

SWEETNESS DESERVES SWEETNESS: CLICK HERE!  ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THE MUSICIANS.

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JAM WITH DAN! (October 16, 2009)

DAN BARRETT’S EAST COAST TOUR (Part Three)

This installment in the Barrett Chronicles 2009 takes us to what was once called Roth’s Westside Steakhouse (Columbus Avenue at 93rd Street in Manhattan) on October 16, 2009. 

The fun and frolic began with a series of duets between Dan and Ehud Asherie.  Roth’s gets high marks for encouraging jazz, but it is a typical restaurant: dishes and silverware crash, the bar patrons were especially excited by some sports event on television, and there is a good deal of loud oblivious chatter.  On the other hand, Roth’s is the only jazz event I’ve ever attended where the governor of my home state — in this case David Patterson — came in late in the evening.  Whether he was in the groove or merely addressing his dinner I was too preoccupied to notice, but if he missed out on the music he missed something special.

Not incidentally, I’ve been admiring Dan’s recorded work since 1987, and have seen him live a number of times (with Becky Kilgore and Rossano Sportiello, at Jazz at Chautauqua, and at a series of concerts put on by Joe Boughton, where his colleagues included Vince Giordano, Duke Heitger, and Kevin Dorn) . . . as well as an early-Eighties Newport in New York tribute to Billie Holiday directed by Ruby Braff.  But this gig and his appearance at Smalls have given me an even greater admiration of Dan’s creativity, because no one else was in the way.  I was reminded often of hearing Vic Dickenson play — with Mike Burgevin and Jimmy Andrews — in 1974.  The same swing, the same full understanding of what this music is all about.  But on to the videos!

Here are Dan and Ehud caressing THAT OLD FEELING, a ballad everyone knows but few jazzmen actually play.  Who could be insensitive to the beauty of Dan’s pure sound?  And Ehud accompanies him perfectly — then launches into his own ruminations, which embody the whole history of swinging jazz piano, delicate and pointed at once:

And a Barrett original (his lines have the same bounce as his solos), WITH’EM, which will reveal its roots in a flash.  At first, when I didn’t recognize the line, I thought it was something written by Don Byas or Johnny Hodges, evidence of its authentic pedigree:

Another fine neglected Forties tune (courtesy of the Ink Spots) at a jaunty tempo, without recitative, IF I DIDN’T CARE.  The crowd was getting a bit more noisy, but I didn’t care:

And a slow-motion DON’T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE, its mournful tempo getting at the loss that is at the heart of the lyrics,  Savor Dan’s lovely opening cadenza, a composition on its own (while the dishes clatter):

Who else would have the musical wisdom to offer up IF YOU WERE THE ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD, a fine song to improvise on:

And (for me) the piece de resistance — a genuine Hollywood-style jam session.  Lovers of jazz on film will know what I mean.  The model comes from the 1947 film THE FABULOUS DORSEYS, where the scene begins with the briefest clip of Art Tatum playing in a club . . . we know this because there’s a sign outside saying so.  Then, as if by magic, a whole host of jazzmen appear — their horns at the ready — as if from nowhere.  No one has to warm up, adjust a reed, or use the facilities: they just spring into action.  Well, it happened at Roth’s.  Attillo Troiano was there with his clarinet, to the left; Jon-Erik Kellso rose from his dinner, ready for action, and Luigi Grasso, seated to the right, just happened to have his alto saxophone with him.  And someone called HIGH SOCIETY — which resulted in what Dan, at the end, said was “really jazzy,” and then started to laugh.  It has the wonderful swagger of the Blue Note Jazzmen, transported to the Upper West Side, with all the strains in place, everyone knowing the right melodies and countermelodies. 

It was a privilege to be there, and I don’t write these words casually.  I won’t forget this evening!

LORNA SASS CAPTURES THE SCENE!

Nature photographer and essayist Lorna Sass also has a keen ear for swinging jazz, and last night, October 16, 2009,  she took her camera to Roth’s Westside (Columbus Avenue at 93rd Street on the Upper West Side of New York City) to capture some of the music — visually, that is.  Here are a few of her inspired portraits, capturing Ehud Asherie, Dan Barrett, Attillo Troiano, Jon-Erik Kellso, and Luigi Grasso in the heat of the moment:

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 Wonderful portrait studies, taken under less-than-ideal conditions (including low light, rapidly moving subjects, and that infernal chalkboard as background).  Check out Lorna’s blog, www.lornasassatlarge.wordpress.com. for more intriguing art and nature photographs!

MORE INSPIRED ABANDON! (Luigi Leaps In!)

DAN BARRETT’S NEW YORK CITY TOUR (Part Two)

In my previous posting about Dan Barrett’s October 15, 2009, gig with Ehud Asherie, I concentrated on the lovely hot sounds this duo made.  Late in the hour-long session they were joined by one of Ehud’s friends, altoist Luigi Grasso — a genuine marvel, as you’ll hear for yourself. Luigi is 23 — yes, only 23 — and he hails from Arianoirpino, Italy.  And he plays like a dream — serious allegiance to early Charlie Parker, but Luigi has his own energy and passion, rather than simply being a fledgling.  Ehud and Dan had played splendidly as a duo, but when Luigi showed up he became (without any particular motive of his own, I would guess) the kind of catalyst that my high school chemistry class never encountered.  Luigi balances sweetness and muscle, and he is an intuitive player — so the potentially unusual blend of trombone, alto, and piano, never seems ungainly.  Thanks, of course, to Dan and Ehud — two sublime players who know what it is to blend, to vary, to support.

This little session began with PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE:

That cheerful jogging music led to a real surprise: the moody SOME OTHER SPRING, always associated with Billie Holiday, and an emotional highlight of this or any other jazz evening:

Where to go from that peak?  A familiar romp, on WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM:

And, finally, what used to be commonplace but is almost a rarity — a medium-tempo themeless blues, suggesting Kansas City or perhaps Wichita in 1940, more or less:

Faithful readers will notice that I’ve commented less than usual on this music: all I want to write is WOW!

THURSDAY NIGHT AT SMALLS (October 16)

You won’t want to miss this triple-feature.  At 8, pianist Ehud Asherie and reedman Dan Block will embark on an hour of duets, introspective to fiercely swinging.

Visual aids: a photograph of Ehud at the piano, taken by your humble correspondent.  Dan Block and Harry Allen (in that order), photo by J. Elkins. 

At 9:30 and 11, “The Italians are coming!  The Italians are coming!”

Don’t be alarmed, though: these Italians are extraordinary jazz players, led by the inspiring pianist Rossano Sportiello — someone we hope to hear on a regular basis in New York City.  Rossano’s friends — as he tells me — are the noble bassist Joel Forbes (he’s the “silent J” of BED), Luca Santaniello on drums, and “two fantastic young Italian brothers, Luigi and Pasquale Grasso, alto sax and guitar.  They are only 22 and 20, but they play the most amazing stuff.  They are students of Barry Harris since they were babies!”

Smalls lives up to its name, so be sure to get there early.  It’s on 183 West Tenth Street, near Seventh Avenue South (www.smallsjazzclub.com).

And here’s Rossano Sportiello, characteristically cheerful, in a photo by Duncan Schiedt: