J.A. Granelli and Mr. Lucky: Gigantic (2003)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
This is not going to be an album for everyone, but here are some potential candidates:
- listeners who feel that smooth jazz is too limited and without any real pulse
- rockers who are tired of the same old licks and Top 40 syndrome
- the disenchanted who yearn for music that's better suited than mainstream jazz for parties
- musical adventurers who pride themselves on always looking beyond the obvious and wish to explore some fresh, cutting edge music.
Bassist J.A. Granelli is the leader of Mr. Lucky, which is allegedly named in honor of Henry Mancini's composition of the late 1950s. I am having a tough time making a connection on that factoid. The man with the initials is the son of West Coast drummer Jerry Granelli, who played for Vince Guaraldi and Denny Zeitlin in the early 1960s. The group known as Mr. Lucky is rounded out by slide guitarist Dave Tronzo, organist Jamie Saft, and drummer Diego Voglino. Granelli composed most of the tunes and provides all of the arrangements on Gigantic. This group, especially Tronzo, has a noted reputation amongst the cutting edge New York Downtown jazz scene.
Tronzo's pyrotechnics on slide guitar are showcased throughout and the nine tracks fly all over the map in terms of both genre and style. The opener, "Merle," begins in a promising "Bill-Frisell-goes-to-Nashville" style with lots of blurry notes played in balladic form; but on the next track he launches into Jimi Hendrix-style guitar riffs. Following are presentations in jam band, reggae/dub, reconstructed ballad ("If I Can't Have You," the Brothers Gibb '70s hit) and organ/guitar styles. The standout is "Sock Monkey," in which organist Jamie Saft begins with a Ray Manzurek-type lick set in a dance-friendly tempo that stretches out nicely for a few minutes. Likewise, "13.5" is done up as dub/reggae and makes for a nice listen. The Broadway musical song "Pipe Dreams" by Rodgers and Hammerstein is played in an almost unrecognizable fashion. As a bonus, there is a hidden track of "Walk Don't Run" that Tronzo plays in a straightfoward vein to conclude the album.
Although Tronzo occupies a lot of playing time, Granelli's gift appears to be the way he structures the arrangements to give a sense of textural body to these songs. Adding Saft's organ/mellotron provides an almost electronic feel. His style is much closer to rock organ (as in Al Kooper of several decades ago) than anything of jazz origin. Drummer Diego Voglino shows a keen ear for adapting to these various tempos and styles flawlessly.
I don't know if this album should be filed under Acid Jazz'whatever that really is!'or not. I'm certain that this group has a niche audience at a college level who can understand its appeal.
Track Listing: Merle, Happy Pt.1, Gigantic, Again, 13.5, Happy Pt.2, Sock Monkey, If I Can't Have You, Pipe Dreams, 13.5
Personnel: J.A. Granelli, bass/piccolo bass; David Tronzo, slide guitar; Jamie Saft, organ/mellotron; Diego Voglino, drums; Vanessa Saft, vocal on #8
Record Label: Love Slave Records
Style: Beyond Jazz