Born: December 30, 1940 Primary Instrument: Percussion
The past decades have been good to Jerry Granelli.
Jazz Times magazine calls Granelli “one of those uncategorizable veteran percussionists who's done it all.” A Canadian citizen since 1999, Granelli burns with an intensity fuelled by a passion for “the pursuit of the spirit of spontaneity which drives the player.” A veteran of the West Coast jazz scene, Granelli's recent flourish of recordings has documented remarkable collaborations between the generations.
Jerry Granelli's story is one that follows the evolution of the West Coast jazz scene. Born in 1940 in San Francisco, the boy recognized his passion in 1948 when he spent a day with Gene Krupa. Hanging out during the 50s in San Francisco nightclubs like the Blackhawk and Jimbo’s Bop City, soaking in the sounds of Ellington, Miles, Max Roach and Monk, his passion grew, eventually leading him to Dave Brubeck drummer Joe Morello. After two years as Morello's star pupil, Granelli became a highly sought-after session player, eventually playing, recording and touring with the Vince Guaraldi Band. He provides the unmistakable steady swing beats for the classic Charlie Brown “Peanuts” theme song.
In the volatile West Coast scene of the 60s, Granelli moved on to the Denny Zeitlin Trio, a group that included bassist Charlie Haden. A hugely successful recording and touring band, they tied with Miles Davis for Group of the Year in Downbeat magazine's Critics and Readers Poll in 1965. Throughout the 60s he performed with many major players on the scene, including Jimmy Witherspoon, Mose Allison, Lou Rawls, John Handy, Sonny Stitt, Sly Stone, Ornette Coleman and Dewey Redman. He was right there too as the West Coast focus shifted from cool jazz styles to the beginnings of psychedelia. His free-form improvisational trio held down the opening slot for comedian Lenny Bruce for three months in 1963, and shared bills at The Matrix and The Fillmore with Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Grateful Dead, also accompanying the Dead on their first European tour in 1971.
Granelli became a Buddhist in 1970, and from the mid-70s through the 90s he focused on teaching, bringing his insider knowledge to hundreds of students at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, then Seattle's Cornish Institute, the Conservatory in Halifax, and the Hochschule der Kunst in Berlin. He now has his own summer school in Halifax, the Creative Music Workshop.
During the 80s he toured and recorded in a trio with Ralph Towner and Gary Peacock, and began recording his own projects. These include 1993’s A Song I Thought I Heard Buddy Sing, featuring Bill Frisell and Robben Ford and nominated for a Grammy; Another Place; and UFB’s News from the Street and Broken Circle (all produced by Lee Townsend and released on Intuition). Then came his New York septet Badlands (Enter, a Dragon and Crowd Theory, on Songlines); his collaboration with DJ Stinkin Rich (Buck 65), Music has its Way with Me, and duos with keyboardist Jamie Saft and bass clarinetist Jeff Reilly; V16; and most recently his spoken-word collaboration with Rinde Eckert and a new septet, Sandhills Reunion (2004, Songlines).
Concludes Granelli: “I think art is a path. I feel lucky to have been involved in that lineage.”
V16 is simply responding to the myriad of influences that make one night different from the next for a group that's clearly out on a limb with every performance. There may be no safety nets for V16, but The Sonic Temple simply proves that Jerry Granelli and his younger cohorts don’t need one. --John Kelman, All About Jazz
Four Stars --Downbeat
Granelli remains one of the best working drummers in any genre of music, but the band’s just as fine--this is an electric-guitar quartet unlike any other. --Paul Olson, All About Jazz
This is precision, this is punch, this is real exploratory music that cannot really be held down by anything. It is free, but it ain’t free jazz. It is just freed of all our bourgeois expectations. Best jazz album of the year so far... --Matt Cibula, All About Jazz