Grass Machine


(Grassmann Music)

As the jazz world more or less shut down in New York City in 2020, Brooklyn-based drummer and composer Clemens Grassman decided to concentrate on his playing and writing. Converting his bedroom into a makeshift studio, the Berlin native honed his technique and worked on tunes that reflected the new pandemic reality. When things began to open up, in the Big Apple and elsewhere, Grassmann recruited friends and associates and began recording the music that appears on his new release, Grass Machine (Grassmann Music). The Berklee College of Music graduate and his colleagues took inspiration from the hallowed walls of the Rudy Van Gelder Studio, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, where the album was recorded and which is reflected in the dynamic straightahead performances they produced. The lead-off track, “Re.Op,” begins with a lilting melody, Grassmann’s speedy sticking, a taut bass line and horn harmonies that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers session. The tune simmers with an underlying tension expressed by the push and pull of the rhythm section — pianist Chris McCarthy, bassist Cole Davis and Grassmann — and becomes more pronounced in the querulous conversation among tenor saxophonists Sam Dillon and Chris Bittner and alto saxophonist David Milazzo. McCarthy’s solo soothes the agitated proceedings considerably, and Grassmann dials down the intensity of his attack, at least temporarily. The tune winds down to a somewhat unsettling conclusion, which seems fitting for the times in which we’re living. (Note: We misspelled Grassmann’s name pretty badly on the accompanying CD’s back cover. While there’s most certainly a “Clarence Clemons,” there is no “Clarence Grassman” of which we’re aware. We regret the error.)

Purchase Album:

The Authoritative Voice in Jazz