Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Grassi, Lou (Louis)
Grassi, Lou (Louis), drums; b. Summit, NJ, 21 January 1947. He has a middle name Thomas which he took at the age of 13 as part of the Catholic ritual of confirmation, but it was not part of his birth name. His mother (Mary Coviello, 1922-1957) was also born and raised in Summit, NJ. In 1962, three months after Lou began playing drums, his father (Louis A. Grassi, 1922, NYC) moved the family, (including Lou's stepmother Irene Brady, 1928, Cliffside Park, NJ and half brother Thomas, 1959, Summit, NJ) to Lodi, NJ.
Lou studied drumming privately with Richie Moore 1962, Tony Inzalaco 1963, Sam Ulano 1964-1965. While serving in the US Army (December 1965-December 1968), Lou attended the Navy School of Music, Little Creek, Norfolk, VA, in 1966 with private lessons from Kenny Malone. He then served in the 328th US Army Band for the remainder of his service. After his discharge Lou attended Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA September 1969-February 1970 with private instruction from Bobby Gladstone and Alan Dawson.
He studied privately with Beaver Harris 1973-1974 who became a close friend and mentor. Lou then matriculated at Jersey City State College where he studied percussion with Nick Cerrato and eventually earned a B.A. in Music. He also studied musicianship and arranging with Marshall Brown 1978-1983. In 1986 Lou married photographer Karen Tweedy-Holmes (1942, Columbus, Ohio).
Lou has a wide range of professional experience from Ragtime to the Avant-Garde. He toured with Ragtime pianist Max Morath's concert of American popular music "Pop Goes the Music" from 1985-87. In 1989 played major Dixieland Festivals and clubs throughout East Germany, West Germany, Switzerland and Holland with Warren Vache Sr's Syncopatin' Seven.
In1984 Lou organized The Dixie Peppers, a sextet specializing in traditional Dixieland and Swing repertoire. Lou has worked with other traditional and swing artists including Sol Yaged, Eddy Davis and Artie Miller. From the 1970's to the present Lou has accompanied a wide variety of artists including James Garrison, Rio Clemente, Urbie Green, Roswell Rudd, Steve Swell, Sheila Jordan, Johnny Hartman, Morris Nanton, Bu Pleasant, Perry Robinson, Borah Bergman, Eddie Bonnemere, Dardanelle, L. D. Frazier, Janet Lawson and many others. The Reverend John Garcia Gensel, whom Duke Ellington referred to as "the minister of the night flock," made use of Lou's versatility for over a decade during the 1980's and early 90's as house drummer for special events at New York's St. Peter's Church.
From the late 1970's until the early 1990's Lou was virtually absent from the avant-garde scene. Since 1991 he has done annual tours of Germany with Dresden keyboardist Andreas Bottcher playing totally improvised music.
He's been a full-time professional musician for over 40 years, and was involved with the New York avant-garde music scene in the 1970's when he served an apprenticeship with my mentor Beaver Harris. He was off the avant-garde scene until a couple of years ago when things really started happening for him.
William Parker invited him to join the Improviser's Collective in 1994 and his concert for the collective in 1995 happened to be recorded and the tape was ultimately bought by Cadence Jazz Records and released in 1996 as "PoGressions."
Last year, along with other things, his Po Band performed in both the Vision Festival and the Texaco NY Jazz Festival. He did a tour with Roswell Rudd and Steve Swell that included Chicago, Detroit, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Texaco NY Jazz Festival. He has also done a tour of Germany and Switzerland with musicians from Dresden, Germany and a tour with the Bruce Eisenbeil trio which included Chicago, Detroit, Texas, Washington DC, Buffalo Rochester. His PoBand played the Texaco NY Jazz Festival the next year, as well. While in Switzerland, he re-established an endorsement with Paiste Cymbals, which he had endorsed back in the '70's. His PoBand played at the Rive de Gier International jazz festival in France and he also did a duo on the same festival with Rob Brown.
Lou has literally played from Rag-Time to No-Time.he toured with ragtime pianist Max Morath and has worked with a host of the jazz avant-garde's finest including Marshall Allen, Borah Bergman, Rob Brown, Roy Campbell, Charles Gayle, Burton Greene, Gunter Hampel, Phillip Johnston, Sheila Jordan, Perry Robinson, Paul Smoker, Steve Tintweiss and Mark Whitecage among others. He has recently been heard with Roswell Rudd's Broad Strokes band and with his own Po Band, often including guests such as Marshall Allen, Burton Greene and Joseph Jarman.
Lou has also worked extensively as both an accompanist and composer in the field of Modern Dance. Lou first accompanied modern dance in 1971 with the Daniel Nagrin Workgroup. In 1973, he worked as resident percussionist for the Dance Department at Brockport State University, and he has been the dance accompanist at New Jersey City University since 1979, and is also an accompanist for NJ Performing Arts Center (NJPAC).
Lou has created original music for more than 15 original dance pieces by choreographers including Richard Bull, Carolyn Dorfman, Joanne Edelman, Bill T.Jones, Katharine Kramer, Carol Meisel, Julie Maloney, Lois Welk, Paul Wilson, and Arnie Zane. Lou received funding from Meet the Composer for these collaborations in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1985, and he has written on the subject of dance accompaniment for Modern Drummer magazine (August 1984).
Hot and Sweet (1989); PoGressions (1995); Quick Wits (1996); Mo'Po (1997); Neo Neo (1999); PoZest (1999); Joy of Being (2000); comPOsed (2002), Avanti Galoppi(2004), Infinite Potential (2005).
Free Improvisation (1992); Noises From an Open Window (1993); Scratching The Surface (1997); Large Music 1 (2000); Large Music 2 (2000); Live In Wuppertal (2000); The Implicate Order At Seixal (2001); The Nu Band Live at The Bop Shop (2001); North Country Pie (2002), The Nu Band Live(2003); Jawboning (2004); Marshall Allen & Lou Grassi Live at Guelph (2001)
Roswell Rudd: Numatic Swing Band (1973); Sheila Jordan: Lennie Tristano Memorial Concert (1979); Amy Sheffer: Where's Your Home? (1983), We'um (1985 and 1986); Steve Swell: Out and About (1996); Bruce Eisenbeil: Nine Wings (1997); Alice Parker: King and the Duke: American Praise (1997); Rob Brown: Visage (1998); Steve Swell: Atmospheels (1998); Burton Greene: Throptics (1998); Bob Magnuson: Creative Catalysts (1998); Roswell Rudd: Broad Strokes (1999); Katy Bull: Conversations With The Jokers (2001); Ursel Schlicht: Sound Quest (2001); William Gagliardi: Music Is The Meditation (2001); John Tchicai: Hope is Bright Green up North (2002); Matt Lavelle: Handling the Moment. (2002); Gunter Hampel: Challenge of The Now (2002); Matt Lavelle: Sanctified (2002);William Gagliardi: Nhlahla(2003); William Gagliardi: Hear and Now (2003); Burton Greene: Isms Out (2004); Gunter Hampel: Zeitgeist; William Gagliardi: Memories of Tomorrow (2005), William Gagliardi: Younger Dryas (2005); Stephen Gauci: Wisps of an Unknown Face (2006).
Approximately 5 hours of live PoBand performances (audio) including 2 hours with Marshall Allen.
One hour with Sabir Mateen, Daniel Carter, William Parker and Lou Grassi
Approximately 8 hours of video and 30 hours audio with the Steve Tintweis Space Light band from 1975-2002.
2001 "Jazz A Preto E Branco" with Roy Campbell trio RTP2, Portugal first aired in two parts June 30,2001 and July 28,2001
2000 "Live From The Knitting Factory" with Roswell Rudd's "Broadstrokes" first aired on the BET Jazz network on October 11, 2000.
1989 with Warren Vache Sr. ZDF Germany
1983 with Johnny Hartman at Eubie Blake Tribute "Off The Set" WNYW.
Documentary on Sheila Jordan "In The Voice of a Woman"
2007 Live Interview on WKCR FM
2002 Live telephone interview on KZSU FM
2001 Live interview/feature Freies Radio Kassel
2000 Two feature shows and a live radio interview on Finnish Radio Broadcasting Company Channel 1 (YLE1)
1986 with Max Morath on WQXR
1978 WKCR with the Steve Tintweis Space Light Band
"Dance Accompaniment" by Lou Grassi: Modern Drummer Magazine August 1984
Magazine and newspaper articles:
Jazz.pt (Portugal) Interview, Jazz Times, Nov. 2003
"The Surge and Resurgence of Lou Grassi" by Chris Kelsey, Jazz Now Vol. 6#4 August 1996
"Lou Grassi Interview" by Marc Chaloin, Improjazz (France) Vol.#40 Nov/Dec 1997
"Lou Grassi Profile" by David Zych, Jazz Times November 1998
Lou Grassi Profile
Modern Drummer July, 1999
Lou Grassi Interview (Part One)
Cadence Magazine June 2002 (cover photo)
Lou Grassi Interview (Part Two)
Cadence Magazine July 2002
Music Hound Jazz 1998, Visible Ink Press
Artist Profile: Unsung Heroes by Robert Spencer allaboutjazz.com
Lou Grassi Profile http://www.allaboutjazz.com/ September, 2000
Lou Grassi Interview http://www.allaboutjazz.com/italy September, 2001
1967 First Place Instrumental Group, Fourth U.S. Army Entertainment Contest
1967 First Place Instrumental Soloist, Fourth U.S. Army Entertainment Contest
1968 First Place Percussion Soloist, Fourth U.S. Army Jazz Competition.
Won First Place Instrumental Soloist in the Fourth U. S. Army Entertainment Contest in 1967 and led the First Place Instrumental Group in the same competition.
In 1968, won First Place Percussion Soloist in the Fourth U. S. Army Jazz Contest.
1976 to 1979, 1982 to 1985: Recipient of grants from Meet the Composer. 1974: Recipient of National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship.