Lou Grassi: Joining Two Worlds
It makes you more conscious. In a live playing situation, sometimes you get strong and you realize you're not hearing somebody and you realize this is what's happening at this moment and it will take care of itself. In a recording situation, I have to constantly ask, "Well, am I getting too loud? Am I gonna lose the clarinet? Am I gonna lose the bass?" So in a way it restricts you from playing the way you might in a live situation, where you know that, because the guys are on microphones and there's a PA system. And you know that in the house, the sound is getting balanced - but recording that way, you have to think about that.
AAJ: On your freer projects, the players sound like they're really listening to one another. A lot of "free" jazz players don't have that.
LG: There's a lot of free improvised music, or "avant-garde" music, or whatever you want to call it, where it sounds to me like - people with a lot of facility and a lot of ability - it sounds to me sometimes they could have been playing in two different rooms on two different days to the extent that I hear them connecting with one another. I'm really into connecting, like with the guys in the Po Band. I'm just really fortunate to play with such master musicians as (trumpeter) Herb Robertson and (clarinetist) Perry Robinson, (trumpeter) Paul Smoker, (late bassist) Wilbur Morris; these guys, they listen so well and on a certain level. That's really all it's about. You spend years developing your technique and learning your skills, but when it comes down to playing, all you're doing is listening and the music comes out. You're not making the music - all you're doing is listening and stuff happens. That's how it happens for me, anyway.
AAJ: Is there a particular album of yours that you feel best represents what you're doing?
LG: I don't. I like them all. I guess I'm lucky that way - I enjoy my own work. I know people who suffer over their work, and they're just never happy with what they do, and I really feel sorry for them, because they're doing wonderful things, and other people enjoy it. They should enjoy it too. But I like all of them for different reasons. When I'm doing a gig, and we've got CDs out for sale, people will ask, "Well, which one should I get?", and I really can't answer that.
AAJ: Talk about some of your latest projects.
LG: There's the William Gagliardi quintet... It's all Bill's music, all his compositions. He's a really prolific composer (also alto, soprano, and tenor saxophonist) and it's a band that - like the Po Band - really is connected. Everybody really listens... There's a new CD on CIMP ( Hear and Now ) with Bill, Kenny Wessel (guitar), Dave Hofstra (bass), John Carlson (trumpet) and myself...We (Grassi and Wessel) have a new trio CD ( Jawboning ) that just came out in December. It's Kenny, Ken Filiano on bass and myself...we're doing a combination of standards that we're reworking and expanding and original material. That's really a band that can play straight ahead, mainstream jazz, or play totally "free" or land someplace in the middle.
AAJ: And what's your newest group?