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Concert Review: Alex De Grassi in Milwaukee, Sept. 27th

Two hands, two guitars and a seemingly infinite number of ideas

Alex de Grassi

Two hands, two guitars and a seemingly infinite number of ideas. This is how Alex de Grassi held an audience rapt for 90 minutes Sept. 27 on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where he was participating in the school’s excellent Guitar Studies program, headed by John Stropes. Each selection was a springboard for the guitarist’s innovative explorations. Placing his own mark on such diverse pieces as the Carter Family’s “Single Girl” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel,” de Grassi traversed a remarkably wide musical map with accessible flair and imagination.

When a recital opens with a number about a cat called “Blue Trout,” one is wise to suppress further expectations. This was exemplified by the following selection, an original about James Brown taking a walk in the rain. The title piece from de Grassi’s Water Garden work came next, which melded into the Beatles’ “You Never Give Me Your Money.” Later in the program, de Grassi played another from Water Garden called “Cumulus Rising,” which he dedicated to his deceased friend and fellow acoustic guitarist Michael Hedges. Both were among the first artists signed by Windham Hill, a record label that still holds an unusually strong bond with its early audience.

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