Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Alex De Grassi|
Windham Hill Retrospective
Genres: World Music, Jazz, New Age, Pop
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Revisiting Alex de Grassi's first "Lucky Thirteen" years.
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 07/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The first years of being a recording artist passed in ignorant bliss," Yokosuka/Japan-born and California-raised Alex de Grassi describes the beginning of his musical career in the liner notes to his "Windham Hill Retrospective." "I was succeeding with almost no formal musical training ... I tuned the guitar funny and didn't even think about what notes I was playing."
Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, don't be deceived. The man who wrote these lines is one of the world's leading finger style guitarists; and while he may not have had much formal training beyond his brief jazz guitar lessons with Bill Thrasher while attending U.C. Santa Barbara, he obviously just didn't need a whole lot of teaching; he already possessed most of what it took for a successful career - first and foremost, an abundance of talent, great technical facility and that natural feeling for music which distinguishes the innately gifted from those who will always have to primarily rely on studied skill. (In later years, he did however also study with eminent jazz pianist Mark Levine and took composition lessons with music teacher William A. Mathieu). Music runs in de Grassi's family; his grandfather was a violinist with the San Francisco Symphony and the leader of a string quartet, his father played classical piano and his mother was a jazz fan. Yet, young Alex was encouraged to take up a more "practical" career and eventually opted for a degree in geography - "I could use my college education to find places on the map, go there, and play my guitar," he now comments in this album's liner notes. But like the trumpet which he gave up in favor of his first guitar at age 13 after having heard Bert Jansch's "Lucky Thirteen," de Grassi's career in geography ended before it had ever begun when his cousin William Ackerman, a first rate guitarist himself, invited him in 1978 to join his start-up label Windham Hill Records.
On Windham Hill, de Grassi eventually recorded his debut "Turning: Turning Back" and five other albums (not counting this "Retrospective"); but contrary to that first record's title, he has not had to turn back ever since, soon making a reputation for his exquisite style and crystal clear, often breathtaking technique. Like silver pearls, or like a soft shower of a million glistening drops of water, de Grassi's melodies at times glide, at times trickle from note to note; over multiple layers of point and counterpoint, harmonies, themes, counter-themes, chords, rhythms and airs, almost all of which are produced exclusively on the six or however many strings of his guitar. While his first albums and his more recent "Water Garden," not least because of the many open tunings they contain, have caused de Grassi's music to be labeled "new age," his range in fact far exceeds that classification. His 1983 album "Southern Exposure" was an early foray into Iberian and South American music, and he has lately taken up that theme again with "Tata Monk," recorded in the year 2000 in cooperation with Chilean folk/jazz flutist Quinque Cruz. Similarly, the title of 1999's "Bolivian Blues Bar" describes that album's genesis as much as it is contents; from fooling around with American blues, jazz and folk tunes with a Bolivian friend who had recently moved to San Francisco, to the transcription for solo guitar and eventual recording of such standards as "It Ain't Necessarily So" from "Porgy and Bess" and two other Gershwin songs, Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia on My Mind" and Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight.'
Recorded a few years before "Water Garden," "Tata Monk" and "Bolivian Blues Bar," this "Windham Hill Retrospective" features some of Alex de Grassi's best work written and performed between 1978 and 1991; from his debut album, represented by no less than five tracks ("Window," "Luther's Lullaby," "Children's Dance," "Blood and Jasmine" and the title track, here taken from the 1983 live album "An Evening With Windham Hill" and almost twice the length of the studio version) to 1991's "Deep at Night" (represented by the songs "Blue Trout," "Charlotte" and "Mirage") and "A Momentary Change of Heart" from the second Windham Hill "Guitar Sampler," likewise released in 1991. This collection is not only an excellent introduction to de Grassi's work; for those who don't already own his first albums, which despite enormous critical acclaim are sadly out of print, it is also a welcome opportunity to get a hold of at least a sample of his early recordings. In addition to the tracks from "Turning: Turning Back," the "Retrospective" also contains three eloquent pieces from de Grassi's second album "Slow Circle" ("Causeway," "White Rain" and the title track) and the centerpiece of his third album, "Clockwork" (again in the live version recorded on "An Evening With Windham Hill"). The remaining three tracks ("Overland," "Western" and "Cumulus") are graceful, intricate representatives of ""Southern Exposure."
"Since those [early] days I've become painfully aware of what I don't know," Alex de Grassi writes in closing in the liner notes of this "Retrospective" and adds, humbly: "Now I'm a student of music. Learning is discovering how little you know. I feel like I'm starting all over again every day." But while it may be true that the boundless wealth and endlessly receding horizon of the musical universe reveals itself even to the truly gifted only slowly and gradually, it is a true joy to accompany Alex de Grassi a little along the way of his personal field trip into the rich and varied world of guitar music - or to look back at his own first "Lucky Thirteen" years of that journey, as this "Retrospective" does.
Bolivian Blues Bar
Now & Then: Folk Songs for the 21st Century
Windham Hill: The First Ten Years
A Windham Hill Retrospective"
From the Calm.....
CKL | Pa. | 05/19/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Whether you call it jazz or folk, Alex DeGrassi has the ability to paint vivid aural pictures of pastoral natural settings. His smooth and obviously complex style of picking transmits a relaxing meditative quality on his best tunes. Unfortunately, his two finest albums are not currently available. His debut, 1978's TURNING: TURNING BACK and 1979's SLOW CIRCLE (both on Windham Hill) are dazzling, melodic excursions. This collection contains several of the best selections from those albums: four from the first album ("Window", "Luther's Lullaby", "Children's Dance", and "Blood and Jasmine") and three from the second ("Causeway", "White Rain" and "Slow Circle II"). "Turning: Turning Back"which combines two songs from the first album is a version from AN EVENING WITH WINDHAM HILL LIVE (1983).The collection contains many highlights from his various remaining Windham Hill albums: SOUTHERN EXPOSURE (1984) and DEEP AT NIGHT (1991). "A Momentary Change of Heart" is from WINDHAM HILL GUITAR SAMPLER VOLUME II (1991). "Clockwork" is a version from the Live album mentioned earlier, so the weaker CLOCKWORK (1981) is not represented.The selections are well chosen and overall this retrospective is quite satisfying."
Looking Back While Looking Forward
Marc Ruby? | Warren, MI USA | 05/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The interesting thing about a good retrospective is that it really isn't a collection of 'greatest hits,' but an opportunity for the musician to look again at his (or her) own work and select out the pieces from the past that mean the most now. Sometimes, this brings the listener new insights as well. Alex De Grassi is the kind of musician that one doesn't forget easily. His ability is astounding, his instruments include unusual built guitars, and his vision of where he wants to go leaves not stone unturned. While some of the works included here surprised me, all are examples of his best, simply because Alex De Grassi has nothing to give but his best.The music offers a wide range of style, from solo to ensemble, from private to public, but there is not one that doesn't demonstrate De Grassi's unique ability to lay down a tapestry-like weave of melodic sound. The music ranges over a 13 year period. The works come from both his own albums and various collections put together as Windham Hill is want to do. Sound quality is, as is usual from this producer, superb.Take the opportunity to listen to this album. Because De Grassi is, more often than not, classed as 'new age,' he is often written off without being heard. What he really is is a virtuoso guitarist with equally impressive skills as a composer. As this album proves, De Grassi is equally at home writing for ensemble as he is working as a soloist. Whether you call it 'new age,' or 'light jazz,' or 'whatever' is unimportant. What it is, is great music."