Thursday, January 20, 2011

1313 - Jerry Granelli


Jerry Granelli
Divorce Records.

SCQ Rating: 67%

Those in pursuit of minimalist treasures take note: Jerry Granelli, a veteran percussionist who graduated the San Francisco Jazz scene to work as a session-player for the likes of Vince Guaraldi, has gone solo. Finally, at the age of seventy, and if Granelli’s timing wasn’t enough to file his solo debut under the label “curious footnote” for a career so colorful, 1313 boasts percussion and nothing but. Even a few years ago, I would’ve found the existence of solo drum records easier to swallow than a rabid fanbase actively seeking them out; oh, if only I’d heard Granelli’s improvisations at my most ignorant and impressionable.

Still, 1313’s creation - in a single take, with minimal overdubs – represents a challenge to anyone who prefers the imaginative possibilities of the studio. Granelli’s imposed limitations, too numerous to list, are gradually upstaged by a discipline which bridges the gap between experimental and accessible. The dimensional quality of ‘A Nice Bunch Of Guys’, with its several rhythms conversing at once, meets expectations but just shy of Granelli’s multi-talented vision: moments when Granelli becomes a full-band virtuoso on the kit. Warmth and weirdness flow from the strung-up bell melody of ‘Walking On a Road With Some Bells Around Your Neck’ as a patient kick-drum moonlights for a bass. Following experiment ‘Wait For the Machine’ takes a similarly structured/nonsensical tune through a series of drum deconstructions that bizarrely parallel Tortoise’s odd freak-out.

Some wise sequencing ultimately prevents too many of these full-band illusions from taking shape, thereby crafting a stronger statement in spite of some dwindling sparser moments. Facing my own listener-limitations on this niche recording, I best enjoy when 1313 sounds like more than a well-armed drum-kit at work (as on the creeped-out airship drones of ‘Love Song For U’) – mostly for the sake of variety but also because I like knowing that it isn’t.

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