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Pasquale Grasso

It was the kind of endorsement most rising guitarists can only dream of, and then some. In his interview for Vintage Guitar magazine’s February 2016 cover story, Pat Metheny was asked to name some younger musicians who’d impressed him. “The best guitar player I’ve heard in maybe my entire life is floating around now, Pasquale Grasso,” said the jazz-guitar icon and NEA Jazz Master. “This guy is doing something so amazingly musical and so difficult.

“Mostly what I hear now are guitar players who sound a little bit like me mixed with a little bit of [John Scofield] and a little bit of [Bill Frisell],” he continued. “What’s interesting about Pasquale is that he doesn’t sound anything like that at all. In a way, it is a little bit of a throwback, because his model—which is an incredible model to have—is Bud Powell. He has somehow captured the essence of that language from piano onto guitar in a way that almost nobody has ever addressed. He’s the most significant new guy I’ve heard in many, many years.”

As he’s done with many rising jazz stars, Metheny later invited Grasso over to his New York pad to jam and share some wisdom. He’s since become a generous presence in Grasso’s life, and his assessment of Grasso’s playing is—no surprise—spot-on. Born in Italy and now based in New York City, the 30-year- old guitarist has developed an astounding technique and concept informed not by jazz guitarists so much as by bebop pioneers like Powell, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and the classical-guitar tradition. His new digital-only EP series, available beginning in June from Sony Masterworks, showcases Grasso in the solo-guitar format, where his intensive studies of both midcentury jazz and classical meld into a signature mastery that is, remarkably, at once unprecedented and evocative.

But whom does it evoke? After a surface listen, Joe Pass and his essential Virtuoso LPs might come to mind. Now listen again. The sparkling, immaculately balanced tone; the tasteful tinges of stride and boogie-woogie rhythm; the stunning single-note lines that connect his equally striking use of chordal harmony—for Grasso, great solo arranging equals Art Tatum.

Many serious guitar heads have been hip to Grasso for a while now and are aware of his jaw-dropping online performance videos, his beautiful custom instrument — built in France by Trenier Guitars — and his early career triumphs. In 2015, he won the Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition in New York City, taking home a $5,000 prize and performing with guitar legend Pat Martino’s organ trio. Last year at D.C.’s Kennedy Center, as part of the NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert, Grasso participated in a special performance to honor Pat Metheny, alongside his guitar-wunderkind peers Dan Wilson, Camila Meza, Gilad Hekselman and Nir Felder.

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

A Joyful Holiday

Verve Records


Linger Awhile

Verve Records


Samara Joy

Whirlwind Recordings



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