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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jack Grassel & Jill Jensen

Jack and Jill Jazz (Frozen Sky)

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Guitarist Jack Grassel has long been one of Milwaukee's most proficient (and prolific) jazz musicians, and singer Jill Jensen has been his partner in marriage and music since before the present century began. On Jack and Jill Jazz, Grassel's 18th album, the duo outdoes itself. Grassel has always been remarkably agile and remains in excellent form, generating a bass pulse and throb on the lower registers of his guitar while executing fluid leads. Jensen has become an Olympic gymnast among jazz singers, leaping around and across phrases with breathtaking ease. Yet she's not simply a vocal acrobat; she also infuses her delivery with soulfulness, power and seduction.

Jack and Jill Jazz
was recorded live in a West Coast recording studio before a small audience. Grassel and Jensen were unaware that the microphones were on. “One reason our performance was so aggressive is that we didn't know we were being recorded,” Grassel explains. “When you're paying money for studio time, you're usually more careful.”

“You're usually afraid to take chances when you're recording,” Jensen adds. But with an audience in the studio consisting largely of jazz guitarists from Los Angeles, “It was like a concert for musicians and it elevated us. It was OK to be daring.”

As a result, the duo pulled out some of their most adventurous material, classics such as the rhythmically challenging, multi-syllabic “Old Devil Moon,” “Take Five” and “Still Called the Blues.” They nailed every number with astonishing virtuosity and deep emotional engagement.

CD release concerts take place 8-11 p.m. May 18 at Caroline's and 7-11 p.m. May 23 at the Yardarm in Racine.


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