All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Interviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

714

Lou Grassi: Joining Two Worlds

By

Sign in to view read count
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.
Drummer Lou Grassi has appeared on over two dozen sessions in addition to serving up over a half dozen of his own CDs, many at the helm of his Po Band group which has featured such special guests as Sun Ra Arkestra saxophonist and bandleader Marshall Allen, the legendary Danish saxophonist John Tchicai and Art Ensemble of Chicagoan Joseph Jarman. A fixture on the New York jazz scene as one of the most reliable drummers whose flexibility naturally criss-crosses the territory between straight ahead and "free", Grassi's fondness for improvising has taken each and every group he has played with to new levels of creativity. All About Jazz caught up with the drummer just before he took off for a month-long European tour.

All About Jazz: How did you get started playing?

Lou Grassi: I was 15, almost 16, when I started playing, but I had a desire to play since I was much younger. I don't know exactly what it was that attracted me to the drums.

AAJ: What were you hearing then?

LG: Things like The Ventures, Everly Brothers tunes, things like that. Then when I was 18, I ended up in the army during the Vietnam era and I got in a band. So I stayed in the States the whole time. After basic training they send you to music school for about six months. The band I was in was about 30 or 35 guys and about half of them were jazz musicians. In fact (drummer) Billy Cobham auditioned me at the time. So I got in a situation like that with people who were more advanced and you hang with them and you learn.

AAJ: You've spent a good deal of time playing both traditional/Dixieland jazz as well as stuff that many people classify as "free". Others have pointed to a strong connection between the two; do you see a natural progression there?

LG: I think there is. I got into traditional jazz later. It's been less than 20 years since I started playing it, so I sort of went backwards to it. But there's definitely a natural progression. The earliest jazz - before Louis Armstrong changed things - was collective improvisation; there was no featured soloist, somebody would get a four bar break, but nobody would get a chorus. Louis started that, the concept of playing an entire chorus, or several choruses as a soloist, so there's definitely a strong connection.

AAJ: How long have you been recording with CIMP (Creative Improvised Music Projects) Records?

LG: Since they started and I believe this is their tenth year - and that was when I was just getting back into this music... I had been getting more commercial work and work in wedding bands, giving lessons, doing musical theater, playing a little bit of jazz, but I was really out of the loop with the creative improvised music scene, which I had been involved with earlier.

AAJ: How and why did you get out of that scene?

LG: There was a period when I had moved out of Manhattan, living in New Jersey and I was struggling to make a living as a musician and did what I had to do to make a living. I just sort of lost contact with that world for a while.

AAJ: Were the times just inhospitable to the music?

LG: Maybe, but I don't know. I know there are other people that just stuck with it all that time....but there seems to be a lot of young people getting into the music...Art Rock bands like Sonic Youth...that have become popular and have turned their audience on to music, plus the fact that there's not a lot of great (pop) music being made and there are people with ears out there who seek music with substance.

AAJ: Let's go back to CIMP. What do you think of their "room temperature" recording technique?

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Linley Hamilton: Strings Attached Interviews
Linley Hamilton: Strings Attached
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 17, 2018
Read Camille Bertault: Unity in Diversity Interviews
Camille Bertault: Unity in Diversity
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: April 10, 2018
Read Chad Taylor: Myths and Music Education Interviews
Chad Taylor: Myths and Music Education
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: April 9, 2018
Read Fabian Almazan Interviews
Fabian Almazan
by Angelo Leonardi
Published: March 30, 2018
Read Ryuichi Sakamoto: Naturally Born to Seek Diversity Interviews
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Naturally Born to Seek Diversity
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 27, 2018
Read Leonardo Pavkovic: Nothing is Ordinary Interviews
Leonardo Pavkovic: Nothing is Ordinary
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 16, 2018
Read "Tomas Fujiwara: The More the Better" Interviews Tomas Fujiwara: The More the Better
by Troy Dostert
Published: November 6, 2017
Read "Linley Hamilton: Strings Attached" Interviews Linley Hamilton: Strings Attached
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 17, 2018
Read "Hugh Masekela: Strength in Music and Character" Interviews Hugh Masekela: Strength in Music and Character
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: January 23, 2018
Read "Dawn Clement: Here In The Moment" Interviews Dawn Clement: Here In The Moment
by Paul Rauch
Published: January 23, 2018
Read "Fred Anderson: On the Run" Interviews Fred Anderson: On the Run
by Lazaro Vega
Published: April 23, 2017