Just Friends Jazz Series
Born and raised in Ariano Irpino in Southern Italy’s Campania region, Grasso relocated to New York City in 2009 and has since been wowing audiences with regular appearances at Mezzrow, Smalls and The Django, where he has showcased his tremendous command of the fretboard by freely moving between single notes, chords and independent bass lines, while flashing Art Tatum-esque filigrees with uncanny speed and precision. “Since I was a little kid, I always had this sound in my head, then slowly it’s coming out,” he explained. “I was never too much influenced by guitar players, for some reason. I grew up listening to Art Tatum, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. Those were my guys. For guitar, I always liked Charlie Christian and Oscar Moore, but I never really listened to too many guitar players. Of course, when I hear Barney Kessel, Chuck Wayne and Jimmy Raney, I love them. They’re all great artists but they never really got to me when I was a kid. I was more into Bird and Bud, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge and Louis Armstrong. So, I was always more influenced by horn players and piano players than guitar players.”
In 2015, Grasso won the Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition in New York City, including performing with guitar legend Pat Martino’s organ trio. He was subsequently signed to an exclusive deal with Sony Masterworks, which led to his initial series of digital releases in 2019. Working with the simpatico rhythm tandem of Roland and Balla again, the great guitarist takes things up a notch on Be-Bop!
“Obviously, I think the older you get the more you understand,” Grasso said. “When you’re in your twenties, you just want to play everything you know. But over time, you realize that music is not about that—it’s about telling a story and making somebody feel certain emotions. I love Lester Young for that. That’s the beauty of music.”