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Jack Grassel / Guillermo Espinasse: El Refugio

Matthew Warnock By

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El Refugio is a musically rich and technically masterful release from Milwaukee guitar legend Jack Grassel. Grassel is joined, in a duo setting, by long time friend but first time musical collaborator, Guillermo Espinasse. Both of these diverse and highly accomplished musicians bring a unique approach to their instruments on every track. Their unsurpassed technical ability, as both compers and soloists, acts as a constant source of inspiration, as each guitarist draws from the other during their constant interaction, propelling them to increasingly higher levels of technical prowess and creativity throughout the album.

El Refugio's seven tracks are taken from the jazz and Latin jazz tradition, and are given new and interesting treatments by these two six-string masters. The oft-played "Autumn Leaves" features a rubato intro that brings forth each guitarist's sensitivity and strong collaborative nature. Grassel and Espinasse embark on a musical conversation as they work in and out of the time during this engaging introduction; each musician listening carefully to where the other is going, immediately reacting, and then either following that direction or taking it to an unexpected realm. The conversational nature of this intro is indicative of their playing throughout the album, and is one of the reasons for the success of El Refugio as a whole.

There are few guitarists on today's scene who can match Grassel and Espinasse in regards to chops, rhythmic dexterity and technical diversity. Both are constantly changing textures during their comping and soloing. Whether it be soulful blues licks, lightening-fast runs, double-stop phrases, octave lines, chord solos, walking bass-lines or simply laying out altogether, an ever-present diversity prevents the album from becoming repetitive or monotonous—a feat not easily accomplished in a duo setting, especially a duo guitar setting.

El Refugio transcends being simply another guitar album; it is a musical collaboration between two master musicians who happen to play guitar. They swing hard, interact on the highest level and are constantly pushing each other to new heights of creativity. What else could one ask for in a modern jazz guitar album?

Track Listing: Tequila; Autumn Leaves; The Night Has a Thousand Eyes; Out of Nowhere; So Danso Samba; Alice in Wonderland; Just Friends.

Personnel: Jack Grassel: guitar; Guillermo Espinasse: guitar.

Title: El Refugio | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Frozen Sky Records

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