Lou Grassi has at least five distinct working groups that he keeps afloat: The PoBand, a Free Jazz band dedicated to spontaneous ensemble playing, as documented on their debut release PoGressions (Cadence Jazz Records 1062); The Lou Grassi Quartet/Quintet, which works in the mainstream of Hard Bop; The Dixie Peppers, which focuses on the Traditional Jazz genre; The Spacetime Swing Band, which explores a hybrid of inside and outside music; and, finally, The Saxtet which, with its three piece reed section, is able to evoke the ensemble body of a big band section, while having the flexibility and focus of a small group. The Saxtet also encompasses some of the best elements of all his other groups: rhythmic counterpoint from The Dixie Peppers; Hard Bop ambience from his Quartet/Quintet, which often marks the heads; from The Spacetime Swingband comes the element of contrasted and cross-pollinated joy and humor; and from the PoBand, the freedom to allow solo lines to develop organically and to stretch beyond predetermined parameters.
As a hybrid, The Saxtet brings together various disciplines while allowing plenty of space for individual statements. And what wonderful statements are made here: inspiring, world-class expressions of song and soul.
This is the debut recording of The Lou Grassi Saxtet, but all its members have been on the scene for some time. Bassist David Hofstra began working with Lou around 1980 and may be best known for his long association with Phillip Johnston in two of Phillip's long-running groups: The Microscopic Septet (circa 1980-92) and Johnston's current band, Big Trouble, which began in 1990. Joe Ruddick is also a member of Big Trouble, and in the `70s issued three ambitious recordings on the Joe's Smashing Records label. Chris Kelsey is best known outside of the New York Jazz scene for the duo he co-leads with trombonist Steve Swell, a group whose remarkable abilities can be heard on Observations (CIMP 108). The Saxtet gives the listener a chance to hear these individuals in a fresh light and a new setting.
In addition to all this improvisational talent, there is solid composition, adding further personality to a concert of many rewards. Lou Grassi's Saxtet shows the compatibility of form and function in a brilliant release.
Robert D. Rusch