Jill Jensen and
Jack Grassel "get" each other. They "get" the
need they both have to create music together. They "get"
the music they make together. "We get each other,"
Jensen said about her husband. "Everything we do seems like a
dream." It is no coincidence that the name of the first CD
Jensen and Grassel did together is titled Seems Like Dreams.
Recorded on the Frozen Sky label, Seems Like Dreams
features Jensen singing songs she grew up with - "Witchcraft"
- "I'm All Smiles" and "One For My Baby."
the producer, arranger and guitarist for Seems Like Dreams.
Guest artists are Rick Embach and John Price. Jensen said the
entire production has a mellow feeling. "It's like the difference
between patent leather and satin. We wanted to give it a patina,
to make it more shimmery." As a child, she grew to love those
songs. Hearing them now is like visiting old friends, seeking them
out for comfort. Grassel calls the production "making love
The March 2000 issue of Guitar One magazine
called Grassel one of the 10 best guitarists in the country.
Readers of the Racine Journal Times called Jensen their favorite female
vocalist. She is also well known to local television viewers as the
Schaefer Pontiac woman. There is no competition in this
relationship. They both insist the opposite is true.
"With his arrangements, he loves providing places for me to sound
better. We both can't do enough to make each other do
better." Jensen said.
"Performing together is another way to
relate." Grassel said. "There are so many levels to our
relationship. There is music, business, love, play, work, humor,
taking care of each other. We can make a quick turnaround and go
from one level to another at will."
A performer since he was 4 years old, Grassel
was taught by the best. He credits George Van Epps, Tal Farlow,
George Pritchett and Joe Daley with teaching him to play the
guitar. But now, at age 51, the sound is uniquely his own.
Guitar One said, "Simply put, he sounds like no other guitarist
you've ever heard before." Besides a schedule of more than
250 performances and seminars each year, Grassel is the coordinator of
music instruction at Milwaukee Area Technical College and teaches at the
National Guitar Workshop.
Jensen averages one or two live performances a
week. She also does commercials and voice-overs for
television. She devotes a good share of her time to managing her
career and that of her husband. She handles wardrobes, stage
appearances, publicity and their Web sites.
In an interview at a Racine restaurant, the
couple talked about entertaining as a consuming desire, as a way of
life, a fulfillment. Grassel estimates he has given 8,000
performances in his life. "I had great teachers. My
parents started me at a young age. They saw that I had talent and
I worked hard," he said. "My teachers taught me to practice
correctly." At this point in his career, Grassel said,
"It's as easy for me to pick up a guitar as it is to
breathe." He relishes the crowds that come to hear him play.
"I know I can play a guitar well. You could drop a bomb
behind me and it wouldn't destroy my concentration."
Jensen had no formal training, but has been
singing since childhood. "I just knew I loved it. If I
saw an opportunity, I would go and get it," she said.
"Performing charges my batteries." Jensen and Grassel
said they get energy from their enthusiastic audiences.
"I always try to surpass yesterday's performance,"
Grassel said. "That’s my measuring stick. I feel good when
I can say I played better today than yesterday."
On a professional level, Grassel and Jensen
said the world does not take performers seriously unless they have a
successful CD. "He (Grassel) said he wanted to make a
CD," Jensen said. "The music just grew and evolved, like
our feelings, our relationship." Their plan for the future is
simple: Keep making beautiful music together.