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What's New on WDCB... with Paul Abella

July 25th, 2022

Pasquale Grasso – Be-Bop! (Sony Masterworks)

Guitarist Pasquale Grasso got on my radar last year when he appeared on Samara Joy’s self-titled album from last year. Sure, her voice and phrasing were both phenomenal, but she still needed some accompaniment to back her up, and Grasso’s playing was a good reason why the album worked so well. And he’s back with one of his own, called Be-Bop! There’s truth in advertising here, as this is a program stacked with music from Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, featuring some of their most endearing compositions. In this guitar-bass-drum configuration (with Ari Roland on the bass and Keith Balla on drums), there’s nowhere for him to hide. Whether it’s on the lone original on the set, a beautiful ballad called “Lamento Della Campagnia,” the relatively mellow “Groovin’ High,” the absolutely raging take on “Shaw ‘Nuff,” or Samara Joy’s guest spot on “I’m in a Mess,” this is a delicious set of music from front to back.

Ella Fitzgerald – Ella at the Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook (Verve)

A new entry in the Ella Fitzgerald discography, Ella at the Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook is also a unique one. It’s not like Ella didn’t sing at the Hollywood Bowl; she did. And it’s not like she didn’t record the songbooks of the composers of the Great American Songbook; she did. But this was the only time that she did a live collaboration with Paul Weston, the arranger that put together her Irving Berlin Songbook album for Verve records. It’s always a pleasure to hear Ella Fitzgerald in her prime, and it’s also a pleasure to hear Ella and company pushed a little harder with some nervous energy to give the proceedings a little extra spark. You know we’re going to have fun playing this one for you on DCB Jazz.

Steve Knight – Persistence (self-produced)

Chicago guitarist Steve Knight has been playing on the scene for a while now, and he’s recently released a fine album called Persistence. He’s joined by bassist Justin Peterson and drummer Jeff Stitely. The three of them swing nicely at times, get good and funky at others, and find themselves creating some interesting spaces in some instances as well. Knight’s tunes are hummable and memorable, especially “Real Type Deal” and “Just Add Meaning.” I look forward to hearing more from Steve Knight, and playing more of his music for you, too!  And if you’d like to hear more from Steve, next week he is celebrating the release of “Persistence” with a show at the Fulton Street Collective – Tuesday (Aug 2) at 7:30pm.

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