Jerry Granelli – Visions
Excalibur Inc., No Cat. #
I don’t have a lot of pride in my home state/town, per se. It’s not that I dislike Colorado, I just don’t care. But for some reason, when I come across records made in Colorado, I’m more intrigued than I would be if the same boned out private xian piece came from somewhere else. They are almost always awful, and yet I keep buying them.
It was this strange bias that helped me take a chance on my first copy of Jerry Granelli’s Visions, a private affair from Boulder. This record is far from awful, but then again, it didn’t look like it was going to be. Being quite clearly a jazz record with titles that connote spiritual moves, it was an easy bet for me. Fortunately, this is easily the best record from Colorado that I have found.
Granelli isn’t really from Colorado, however. His claim to fame is being the drummer in the Vince Guaraldi Trio during their recording of “Linus & Lucy.” So we’ve all heard him play without really knowing it. But not long after that, Jerry went into the jazz outfield, forming one of the first free jazz groups in the 60s in San Francisco. He is still actively recording to this day.
Visions was his first release under his name. He was living in Boulder at the time (while being introduced to Buddhism), and recruited local jazz musicians to cut the album at Northstar Studios. Consisting of five vibrant originals, the music is “a reflection of [the artists’] caring kindness and intelligence.”* The first track on the album starts with a peddle guitar in near-drone, a brilliant move that lets you know right away that you can go ahead and throw away any pre-conceived notions about jazz itself. The group strikes a great balance and Jerry is never the star of the show, but his dedication to sound through intriguing percussion and expert drumming is always present. Jerry is quoted (relatively recently) as saying, “I think of myself as a sound artist first, a musician second and a drummer third.” I can definitely get behind that.
Side 2 is even better than the first thanks to “Aslan” and “Lalita.” In both cases you think that perhaps you’re entering the free jazz zone until the other instruments shuffle in and suddenly you’re in a melting pot of styles. 22 minutes isn’t long enough.
Tracking down a copy isn’t easy, but it is also not terribly hard. Keep your eye out. And while you’re at it, I highly recommend check out Jerry’s most recent album, 1313 (2010). Even in old age, Jerry simply oozes percussive creativity.
*from the liner notes.
Jerry’s website. Be sure to check out the videos, there’s a documentary on him. (for some reason, Visions is not mentioned in his discography)
You can order Jerry’s latest album 1313 here.