Thursday, April 29, 2010
BLUE SKY WITH TEARS/THE STEVE GIRARDI PROJECT
Steve Girardi is a musician who would normally be described as a "jazz guitarist" but, he's a lot more than that. Out of the nine cuts on BLUE SKY WITH TEARS, seven were composed by Girardi, plus he produced this CD.
It's another of those lovely surprises that exist so abundantly throughout our world now. Unlike centuries ago when the number of poets and composers and artists were limited by smaller populations and less access to the means by which art can be produced—materials, including instruments, education, room, etc.—the present moment is rich with not only so many more people actually creating art of all kinds, but with access to the means of producing that art.
As for example how much easier it is these days to produce a CD. It still takes talent and perseverance and leadership etc. to pull a good CD together of first rate music, but you don't need a major label or even a big independent label these days to get your music out to the world.
You can not only get a CD of your music out into the world by doing it yourself, but in fact, you can even revise the project in subsequent pressings as you go along. This is what happened to BLUE SKY WITH TEARS. The CD came out and Girardi decided there was one small musical detail that wasn't quite right, so he went back in and made the change and repressed the CD.
Steve is a local resident, though his reputation is much wider than Northern New Jersey. This state, my home now and when I was a boy, has always been a hotbed of musical activity. So many musicians either came from Jersey or end up here it makes you think "there must be something in the water" as the old cliche goes.
I've caught Steve live several times and always been not just impressed but delighted. The mesmerizing sounds he produces with his band mates not only seduce you into the world of his musicianship but somehow have the impact of something extremely intense and yet delightfully subtle at the same time.
I know I just used the idea of being "delighted" by this music twice, but it's at the core of my response to it. There's a good natured almost kindness or maybe I mean gentleness to the strains he produces on his guitar and in his compositions that never seems demanding or self-aggrandising as improvisatory jazz sometimes can.
BLUE SKY WITH TEARS may be especially gentle because the love for his father comes across in not just the song dedicated to him—"Journey Home (to my father who taught me about heart)"—and the inside cover photo of Steve as a little boy sitting on the grass with his father, Phil Girardi Sr. in 1964, his father's arm draped over Steve's shoulder in what appears to be an almost incidental gesture but you can see in the little Steve's beaming smile the real meaning of that connection, but in Steve's life work, his music.
On the inside liner notes he says this CD "is a creative reflection of my life's journey." And adds that "the musicians gathered on this disc represent over 30 years of collaborations, but even more importantly friendships." That too comes across in the music.
One of the distinguishing features of Steve's ensembles is they almost always include a cello. When I was a young piano player trying to make "jazz music" with my instrument and not just playing but following all kinds of masters of this art form, I never encountered a cello, or any of the other instruments associated with the highbrow classical sound except for the piano and bass, but both played so differently in jazz than in classical.
But these days more and more I see and hear cellos being used, in the musical collectives that so many of the alt bands have become, as well as little classical chamber groups who play rock tunes or original compositions in venues that normally only present rock or jazz, i.e. clubs, especially in and around New York these days.
But Steve was doing this before it was a trend, to my understanding, and even now in live shows and on this disc, the presence of a cello just adds to that gentle quality. Not that his music isn't powerful or doesn't swing or can't be discordant in that post-modern way, but that underneath all that when it occurs is a feeling of such deep love for the art of making music and sharing it that it's palpable.
So, another gem among a plethora of them available to us these days, and for which I am grateful. Check it out and you might be too.