There comes a time in every local jazz legend’s career when the long-held confines can no longer hold his or her burgeoning creative spirit, and finally recording so larger audiences can partake is just a matter of finding the right opportunity. In the case of veteran guitarist Skip Grasso, longtime mainstay of the Washington, DC/Baltimore scene, that came when Jack Frisch of Upright Graphics called to congratulate Grasso on a livestream record release concert for his Jagged Spaces project.
Frisch offered to put together an amazing quartet of renowned cats (bassist Harvie S, keyboardist Anthony Pocetti and drummer Billy Drummond), and soon the ensemble was off to the races on Becoming, a showcase for an engaging stockpile of compelling and colorful Grasso originals, a collection ranging from bustling straight ahead gems (“Belew’s Not”), soulfully balladry (the gorgeous, romantic meditation “Canto Belo”), simmering blues/gospel (“Three Simple Truth,” featuring Pocetti’s moody organ harmonies) and a killer, fun and frenetic samba jam (“Don’t Forget”) that explores the group’s percussive possibilities.
To folks of a certain age, the cover of a boy on the shoreline looking at seagulls in flight might bear a slight resemblance to the imagery on Neil Diamond’s Grammy winning soundtrack to the film Jonathan Livingston Seagull. This is thematically intentional, as Grasso recalls borrowing the famous early 70’s book the film was based on from his sister Laura. He claims he didn’t understand it then, but now embraces it as a manual of sorts to becoming a musician. He pays most direct homage (with a wink to his esteemed bassist) through the all at once rhythmically easy flowing and melodically adventurous “Harvie Livingston Seagull,” which features some of Grasso’s most fluid and lyrical lines and a shimmering electric piano solo by Pocetti.
As his debut album as sole leader, Becoming gives Grasso a chance to pay homage to some of the influential people in his life – including Kenny Wheeler (“Belew’s Knot”), Lyle Mays (“Don’t Forget”), Garry Dial (the jaunty and whimsical “Garry on a Bike Ride”) and his wife and “partner in the journey of becoming everything,” Louise Hildreth-Grasso (“For Lou Lou, Where Ever You Are”).