Italian guitarist Pasquale Grasso grew up in the mountain town of Ariano Irpino, just 49 miles northeast of the nearest major city, Naples. He's been playing guitar since age 4 and has developed a jazz- and classical-influenced mastery of his chosen instrument that is something to behold.
That talent brought him to another Naples, in southwest Florida, on Wednesday, February 10 for a concert showcasing his swinging artistry. He was special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra as part of the sextet's All That Jazz series at Artis-Naples.
Guitar players were not the primary musical influence on young Grasso, who grew up in a southern Italy household that loved jazz. He was inspired by the sound of bebop pianists, including Bud Powell, Elmo Hope and Barry Harris. He won the Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition in 2015, just three years after moving to New York City, where he has enjoyed a busy career as a performer and educator. Pat Metheny, a jazz guitar god for many, is one of Grasso's biggest fans.
Now 32, Grasso shows a command of his instrument well beyond his age. His warm sound, complex harmonic lines, dexterity and improvisational skills blend into a masterful musicality.