Manitoba Live Music Event

TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival

Monday, Jun 17, 2024 at 7:30pm
Pasquale Grasso Trio
Free Time
Knox United Church
400 Edmonton St, Winnipeg, MB
TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival (Jazz Winnipeg Inc.)
Advance Cost

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It was the kind of endorsement most rising guitarists can only dream of, and then some. In his interview for Vintage Guitar magazine’s February 2016 cover story, Pat Metheny was asked to name some younger musicians who’d impressed him. “The best guitar player I’ve heard in maybe my entire life is floating around now, Pasquale Grasso,” said the jazz-guitar icon and NEA Jazz Master. “This guy is doing something so amazingly musical and so difficult.

“Mostly what I hear now are guitar players who sound a little bit like me mixed with a little bit of John Scofield and a little bit of Bill Frisell,” he continued. “What’s interesting about Pasquale is that he doesn’t sound anything like that at all. In a way, it is a little bit of a throwback, because his model—which is an incredible model to have—is Bud Powell. He has somehow captured the essence of that language from piano onto guitar in a way that almost nobody has ever addressed. He’s the most significant new guy I’ve heard in many, many years.”

As he’s done with many rising jazz stars, Metheny later invited Grasso over to his New York pad to jam and share some wisdom. He’s since become a generous presence in Grasso’s life, and his assessment of Grasso’s playing is, no surprise, spot-on. Born in Italy and now based in New York City, the 30-year-old guitarist has developed an astounding technique and concept informed not by jazz guitarists so much as by bebop pioneers like Powell, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and the classical-guitar tradition. His new digital-only EP series, available beginning in June from Sony Masterworks, showcases Grasso in the solo-guitar format, where his intensive studies of both midcentury jazz and classical meld into a signature mastery that is, remarkably, at once unprecedented and evocative.

But whom does it evoke? After a surface listen, Joe Pass and his essential Virtuoso LPs might come to mind. Now listen again. The sparkling, immaculately balanced tone; the tasteful tinges of stride and boogie-woogie rhythm; the stunning single-note lines that connect his equally striking use of chordal harmony - for Grasso, great solo arranging equals Art Tatum.

Many serious guitar heads have been hip to Grasso for a while now and are aware of his jaw-dropping online performance videos, his beautiful custom instrument - built in France by Trenier Guitars - and his early career triumphs. In 2015, he won the Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition in New York City, taking home a $5,000 prize and performing with guitar legend Pat Martino’s organ trio. Last year at DC’s Kennedy Center, as part of the NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert, Grasso participated in a special performance to honor Pat Metheny, alongside his guitar-wunderkind peers Dan Wilson, Camila Meza, Gilad Hekselman and Nir Felder.

These days, Grasso teaches and maintains a packed gig schedule around New York, including frequent solo performances at the popular Greenwich Village haunt Mezzrow, where a regular Monday-night gig allowed him to develop his solo-arranging skillset. Not that Grasso thinks his work is done. “All of the musicians I love are inspiration for me to get new ideas and form my style, because it’s still growing,” Pasquale says. “And it’s gonna be growing until the day I die.”


For Carter Graham, music has always been an outlet to positively express and share ideas with others. It all started from a very young age, once he discovered how to work his parents’ record player. Shortly thereafter, it was on to piano lessons and almost immediately, Carter found the most alluring part of music to be the creative process, especially composition and performing with others.

Having performed professionally for over a decade, and having the opportunity to play all over North America with such jazz luminaries as Jon Gordon, Rodney Whitaker, Derrick Gardner, Quincy Davis and Randy Napoleon, Carter now leads his own trio, Free Time, a group dedicated to breathing new life into familiar standards as well as creating exciting new original music.

Free Time is a passion project, born out of years of friendship and musical experience with bandmates Kevin Waters and Julian Bradford, who each bring their own unique creative and expressive voice to the trio. The band as a whole combines years of performing with nearly every kind of artist, genre and venue one can think of, and infuses those experiences into every show they play.

The band has a driving, infectious energy, and loves the process of exploration whether it be in the bebop tradition or the modern/post bop world. Their unique sound has been heard at various venues, clubs, events and was most recently featured in the Online Canadian Jazz Festival, as part of Jazz Winnipeg’s contribution to the event.

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