With the recent release of his 20th opus – 2015 JACK — Jack Grassel lets everyone know what people in southeastern Wisconsin and other parts of the globe have known for decades…that he more than knows his way around the guitar in the jazz genre.It is a solo effort with an interesting and eclectic mélange of musical choices. Solo, in this case, may be somewhat of a misnomer.It could just as easily be called The Jack Grassel Quartet with a little help from his friends.
Jack stuck his neck out and invented an instrument that allows him to cover more parts without having to switch guitars.This three-neck, 14-string, thingamajig may look unwieldy, but it allows him to play the mandolin, guitar and bass all at once. That’s because they are in such close proximity to one another.Grassel also uses today’s technological advances to lay down a bass line on a loop and go to town on the other two seamlessly and effortlessly. But we well-know how much hard work went into making it look that way.
His partner in life and on stage, Jill Jensen of Jack & Jill Jazz, lends her unique vocal prowess on Viene del Alma, which roughly translates to “the feat comes from the soul.” This cut introduces a little rap by a bartender at El Patio in Mexico, where Jack and Jill spend five weeks singing for their supper in a warmer climate. Smart cookies, these two.
This song proves that even hip-hop can melt in the musical pot along with jazz. The lyrics by Jonathan Andrade Perera, aka Tacuacko FT, flow from Spanish to English with a little Spanglish thrown in for good measure. Jill’s choruses ooze over the rap and are quite contagious. You cannot help but move to them.
Jack offers up a trio of tunes by Cassandra Wilson, giving us his unique take on No More Blues, Almost Twelve and Red Guitar. The layering of the vocals is a nice touch. Grassel does a tasty turn on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Photograph and pulls off a surprising interpretation of Joe Jackson’s Steppin’ Out. The latter was originally performed on the piano, but Jack makes it seem like it was meant for the guitar all along.
Don Redman/Andy Razaf’s Gee Baby (Ain’t I been good to you) has its day in the sun as well. More than worthwhile use of disc space, it is a tasty slice. The most interesting effort is the final cut, Fleebganistoon, written by Grassel himself. It is indeed the magnum of this opus, tipping the scales at 27 minutes, 35 seconds.It has a solid, bop feel and you might think you heard something like it in the 1950s. But, in reality, you ain’t heard anything like it at all. Jazz aficionados and fans alike should treat themselves to a listen. And take advantage of any opportunity to see Jack & Jill Jazz live.
1. NO MORE BLUES
2. STEPPIN’ OUT
4. ALMOST TWELVE
5. GEE BABY
6. RED GUITAR
7. VIENE DEL ALMA