Love at First Note
"What's love got to do with it?" It's everything for
vocalist Jill Jensen and guitarist Jack Grassel, who've performed together
regularly for more than a year and just released their first album, Seems
Like Dreams. Actually, it's her CD, but husband Grassel arranged
the material (his first Christmas gift to her was a set of arrangements)
and produced the sessions in a Chicago studio with musicians of his
choice. Call it a marriage of talent.
a Racine native, grew up in a house where the music of choice dated from
the swing era. Little wonder Seems Like Dreams is a
collection of standards. But under Grassel's influence (he's spent
his 30-plus years in Milwaukee jazz pushing the limits), the results are
anything but standard. "We played them the way music is played
now. We created new music out of old songs," he says.
On Seems Like
Dreams, Jensen's expressive voice sparkles for the sheer delight of
singing. As she wraps around the words and their emotional
implications, Grassel's band plays his often sharply angled yet
appropriately easy-going charts. Those arrangements flow through the
songs like a long river through a string of waterfront towns, linking them
with its steady flow.
Grassel has been
busy, even aside from producing Dreams. He was ranked among
America's 10 best jazz players in the March issue of Guitar One
magazine. He's writing a column for Just Jazz Guitar.
Three more of his guitar instruction books (with accompanying CDs) were
published by Milwaukee sheet music giant Hal Leonard. He also signed
an endorsement deal with Germany's Hofner guitars, whom he's trying to
interest in his invention, the "SuperAx," an elegant instrument
that allows guitarists to double on bass without diminishing their
virtuosity. He frequently plays a prototype SuperAx with
Jensen. Grassel also deployed the SuperAx when recording the only
jazz track for an upcoming Wisconsin compilation CD, a shift--rhythmed,
low-burner called Jade Castles.
feels like a date when we play together," Jensen says. "We
get all dressed up. We'll go out to eat afterward." And
they make beautiful music together.