Jazz on Camera: Jerry Grillo’s Historical Journey
Starting this spring, the Jerry Grillo
Historical Mystery Band will be on a tour of landmark local venues, trailed by
cameras. Lisa’s husband, Tim Chiappetta of Milwaukee Metro Design, will edit
the footage into a documentary suitable for the festival circuit.
“I thought it would be fun to do
something more involved and of better quality than just something you throw
online,” Grillo says.
The singer and showman is no stranger
to working with film and video artists. In the early ’90s, when his career as
an interpreter of classic songs had just begun, Grillo did a short subject with
Cathy Cook, who has since gone on to national acclaim. The intervening years,
however, mostly have been devoted to making music. Grillo has released no less
than eight CDs and recently posted an original song on his website.
Music will be the most significant
aspect of the planned documentary, but not the only one. “To me, it’s a
historical journey,” Grillo explains. “I’m picking venues that don’t normally
feature jazz, located in buildings associated with Milwaukee history in some way.”
He chose the location for this
weekend’s gig at Café LuLu (2265
S. Howell Ave.) because the building once housed
one of those favorite diners for Milwaukee
night owls, George Webb. On May 13, Grillo will take the show to the Harbor
Room (117 E. Greenfield Ave.).
The Historical Mystery Band features
top-flight local jazz musicians, including Kirk Tatnall on guitar and bass,
Scott Currier on keyboards, Mike Caldwell on saxophone and Randy Maio on drums
and all manner of percussion. Several songs in the set list are instrumentals
by Tatnall and Currier, but the focus will be on songs chosen and sung by
“I don’t go beyond the ’60s—it’s hard
to find songs that are good for me from beyond the ’60s,” he says, explaining a
repertoire that runs roughly from Gershwin through Lennon and McCartney.
Although in earlier years he was a purist, Grillo has become a creative
interpreter. “I wanted to appeal to a different audience and create something
more exciting for the band as well,” he says, explaining the reggae rendition of
“Witchcraft” and an “almost hip-hop” take on “Summertime.”
The Jerry Grillo Historical Mystery Band performs at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, May 8, at Café LuLu.