Jerry Granelli Trio – Let Go (2011)

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photo: Andrew Vaughan

Everytime I’ve examined a Jerry Granelli record, like Song I Thought I Heard Buddy Sing or News From The Street, I’ve marveled at how a guy who drummed for all those Charlie Brown children’s TV specials with Vince Guaraldi ended up being such a creative risktaker as a leader. At the same time, I think it’s a crime he doesn’t get enough due for his daring and just damned good drumming.

Jerry’s always trying something new and this time he’s leading a trio, something he hasn’t done before. Accompanied by Somin Fisk on bass and cello, and Danny Oore on various saxophones, the Jerry Granelli Trio got formally introduced with the release of their debut album last month, entitled Let Go.

The first thing I noticed and appreciate about this record is how deconstructed and lean the arrangements are. There’s nary an unneeded note, stray pulse or overdone rhythm on this record. That’s no accident: Granelli wanted everyone in the trio to put preconceptions aside, unlearn the songs and learn them again with fresh perspectives. The resulting music is straight ahead jazz played with an avant garde disposition.

At 70 years old, Granelli’s subtle flourishes and spunky timekeeping still has him at the top of his game (“Solaria” has especially splendid playing), and the young guys playing with him “get it”; they go inside these songs, not wank and wail on top of them. Though several songs are spartan and deliberate, others contain surprises and even go outside the parameters of straight jazz, such as “Letter To Bjork” and “Under A Chinese Saloon.”

Think of the Jerry Granelli Trio is an acoustic, stripped-down version of his adventurous UFB fusion outfit from the ’90s. Which is to say, the band takes on the unconventional, imaginative personality of its leader, now, as did then.

Let Go was released May 11 by Plunge Records.

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