By Brian Morton | Published September 2022
“A Night In Tunisia” is 80 years old.
How great it would be to hear it for the first time all over again?
Pasquale Grasso just about makes that possible with these dazzlingly fresh interpretations of material by bebop icons Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He even does a guitar version of Bird’s famous alto-saxophone break on the classic recording: an Easter egg for bebop fans, maybe, but more than just a facile glimpse of Grasso’s virtuosity.
Though it might look as though Grasso is being extruded through some kind of A&R mill — predecessors on the label include solo standards, ballads and holiday fare, as well as homages to Thelonious Monk, Bird again and Bud Powell — he’s no more an industry shill than he is an empty technician with classical pretensions; there’s a Paganini quote on the opening track, but Bird would have been hip to that.
Odd though it may sound odd to emphasize it, but this is a group record. Bassist Ari Roland and drummer Keith Balla are in perfect accord with the leader, both playing with intense musicality and judgement and each, Roland in particular, contributing to the reinvention process.
Samara Joy comes in for “I’m A Mess,” and it’s the perfect cameo. It was sung by Joe Carroll on Dizzy’s School Days, so the connection is maintained.
Be-Bop! isn’t simply another heritage album. It reinvigorates this music. Try listening to the original recordings again after playing Grasso’s album. He’s added new shades and textures to them.
Be-Bop!: A Night In Tunisia; Be-Bop; Ruby, My Dear; Shaw ’Nuff; I’m A Mess; Cheryl; Ornithology; Quasimodo; Lamento della Campagnia; Groovin’ High. (58:22)
Personnel: Pasquala Grasso, guitars; Ari Roland, bass; Keith Balla, drums; Samara Joy, vocal (5).
Ordering Info: sonymusicmasterworks.com