Lou Grassi: Live at The Guelph Festival, The Dope and The Ghost (Live in Vienna) & Shapes and Shadows
Marshall Allen/Lou Grassi
The Nu Band
Martin Speicher/Georg Wolf/Lou Grassi
Lou Grassi is one of the few drummers that straddles the line between time and timelessness with ease. The three discs under discussion here demonstrate the fluidity with which he imbues all areas of his art.
The Allen/Grassi duo was recorded at the Guelph Festival some six years ago. It's dynamic in every sense, from the vast changes in volume and tone to the energy levels that fluctuate from moment to moment. The duo workscelebrates reallythrough a wide range of material; especially powerful is their fantastic take on "When You Wish Upon a Star . Allen skirts around, over and above the melody, grabbing snatches of it and destroying them as soon as he's made them known. Grassi can certainly blast off into volcanic eruptions of freedom with the best of them; however, favorite moments are the quieter ones, those fraught with fragility and introspection. On "Far Side , Grassi's rustlings complement Allen's silvery flute tones gorgeously, the pair capturing little pieces of infinity as the audience sits spellbound.
The Nu Band disc The Dope and The Ghost is a bit rough around the edges, the recording somewhat close and forthright. This does not in any way diminish its power; in fact, some additional focus results, notably in the subtleties of Grassi's timbral shifts. As trumpeter Roy Campbell begins his solo on the fiery and politically charged "BushWacked , Grassi switches midstream from hard-hitting post-bop time drumming to some delicate snare-and-cymbal dialogue that brings everything down smoothly. Bassist Joe Fonda and reedman Mark Whitecage add layers of fun to a track whose Mingusian clichés are outweighed by obvious commitment. "BushWacked is followed by the intense and introspective "Where has my Father Gone? , a platform for some brilliant playing by Campbell. These two tracks provide a blueprint for The Nu Band sound on this, their third and best album to date. While no new ground is broken, the pianoless group is propelled forward with determination on the Grassi/Fonda axis.
No holds are barred on Shapes and Shadows, a mind-bending foray into total improvisation where Grassi really demonstrates the breadth of his timbral and rhythmic language. Buoyed by the revelatory reedwork of Martin Speicher and Georg Wolf's broadly inventive bass playing, he enters majestically beautiful realms of noise, force and near-silence. Expanding on the innovations of Sunny Murray and Rashied Ali, he incorporates everything from finger cymbals to chimes, even employing what sounds like a piano wire. The title track's opening is one of the disc's crowning glories, an extraordinary study in character and space as Speicher's clarinet ushers in the epic journey. If obliterating volume is the order of the day, look no further than "Please Confirm , for all the new thing squall that could be desired.
Tracks and Personnel
Live at The Guelph Festival
Tracks: Spoken introduction; When You Wish Upon a Star; Far Side; Blues For Two; The Spirit of the Day; Prelude to a Kiss; Boma.
Personnel: Marshall Allen: alto saxophone, flute; Lou Grassi: drums, percussion.
The Dope and The Ghost (Live in Vienna)
Tracks: BushWhacked; Where Has My Father Gone; The Dope And The Ghost; Next Stop.
Personnel: Roy Campbell, Jr.: trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals; Mark Whitecage: alto saxophone, clarinet, newsspeak; Joe Fonda:bass; Lou Grassi: drums, percussion; Marco Eneidi: alto saxophone (track #4).
Shapes and Shadows
Personnel: Martin Speicher: reeds; Georg Wolf: bass; Lou Grassi: drums.