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Lou Grassi: Joining Two Worlds

By Published: February 11, 2005
AAJ: When you're leading your own band, how are things different?

LG: I'm a kind of a low-impact leader. Some leaders really try to control everything. I trust the people that I have to do what's needed, and to undoubtedly show me some possibilities of what could happen that I would have never considered....I'm not such a great composer that my music is sacrosanct, or something. I want to see what they can make of it — in fact, I count on them to make it something (laughs)! If they're creative people you don't have to give them a lot to work with, you give them a seed, and they create a flower and tree from that.

AAJ: You transition from straight-type bop to music that's totally free. Do you see the two as being different worlds?

LG: Right, I do both, and a lot of people do. I had a conversation with somebody about this just last night. I did several gigs recently with Charles Gayle (saxophonist and pianist). He's playing alto now and using a different approach. We were using standard tunes to launch us, and really working with the material of the tunes, even if we don't keep the form and structure (sometimes we do). And somebody was surprised that he could do that. I said, well think about it, he's in his mid-60s. When he started playing...there wasn't free jazz. He grew up learning to play jazz. And a lot of the people who you think of as total free players, especially if they're a certain age, they can play "jazz". And I'm not saying they need to; there's a lot of great music in the world that has nothing to do with ii-V-I's — it's another level of substance, another source to draw on. Anybody who's of a certain age has that because free jazz didn't really start until the late '50s. In order to sell something, you have to label it and categorize it. It all comes down to how you play.

AAJ: Here's the obligatory New Year's question: where do you see yourself in another year?

LG: Hopefully right here (laughs)...just to continue doing the things I do, and be with people I love.

AAJ: Anything in closing?

LG: One thing that deserves the presenters, the people that are presenting this music. We've talked about the fact that it's now possible to put together tours in the States and connect the dots, city-to-city, and drive gig-to-gig and put together a ten day or two week tour. The people that are presenting this music almost entirely are getting nothing except the music for it. None of them are making any money at it. Most of them I think are putting some of their own money into it to make it happen. And they're as dedicated to the music as any musician. And without them it wouldn't happen, and they deserve a lot of credit.

Recommended Listening:

Lou Grassi's PoBand - Pogressions (Cadence Jazz, 1995)

Lou Grassi's PoBand - Mo' Po (CIMP, 1997)

Steve Swell - Atmospheels (CIMP, 1998)

Lou Grassi's PoBand with John Tchicai - ComPOsed (CIMP, 2002)

John Tchicai/Pierre Durge - Hope is Bright Green Up North (CIMP, 2003)

Lou Grassi - Avanti Galoppi (CIMP, 2004)

Visit Lou Grassi on the web.

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