16 February 2014

Old friends in a new format - Grazztrio

Catalan banjo maestro Lluís Gómez and the Barcelona Bluegrass Band are already well known in Ireland from appearances at successive Johnny Keenan Banjo Festivals, where their spectacular, imaginative, and passionate picking made them firm favourites with audiences.

Now Lluís, Oriol Gonzàlez (mandolin), and Maribel Rivero (bass) have formed a new group, Grazztrio. This month they released a CD, Three sheets to the wind, using the bluegrass instruments to embody their wide range of musical influences in twelve original compositions. A video of them performing the five-and-a-half minute 'Funky thumb' can be seen on Bluegrass Today or on YouTube, where Grazztrio have seven other videos on their own YouTube channel.

Lluís, Oriol, and Maribel would be glad to bring their new group to Ireland to play at festivals, in arts centres, pubs, or any other suitable location. Promoters and event organisers can contact Lluís through his website or by e-mail.

Three sheets to the wind is now available on the Internet at iTunes and Cd Baby, and has already received glowing reviews from the USA:

Europe has been a good home to bluegrass music for several decades now, with great musicians and bands emerging in the UK, the Czech Republic, and Italy, among others. We now have a bright new light coming from Spain with the instrumental trio Grazz. Grazz has the energy and creative spark that is often reminiscent of Tony Trischka's Skyline group at its best: complex lines and interplay often driven by the energetic, edgy banjo of Lluis Gomez. But what makes Grazz most unique is the fact that they're playing their own tunes on the improbable combination of banjo, mandolin, and bass.

What should be a limiting trio format seems freeing to these folks, as they push the possibilities and change up the textures to keep things fresh and unique. 'Caraman' is a great example of the array of sounds here; changing textures is the name of the game as the lead role is passed around from bass to banjo and mandolin then back to bass and mandolin before Gomez drives the tune into a new tempo. On 'No Se', the occasional bowed bass of Maribel Rivero doubles the mandolin melody before trading off with some complex banjo lines. And then there's the simply beautiful 'Alta Mar', showcasing the range of expressiveness in Oriol Gonzalez's mandolin.

If you wonder what innovations will come out of bluegrass over the next few decades, turn to groups like Grazz - they've got the creative spark and desire to push the envelope, and with this CD they've certainly proven they're worth keeping an eye on in the future. (Matt Flinner)

Grazztrio gives a fun and fascinating view of the string band, as viewed through an Iberian prism. The trio offers a freedom and a looseness that is compelling, drawing the listener in to recognise that this is mesmerising music that is well arranged and expertly executed. (Jake Schepps)

Grazztrio also some has really nice T-shirts (above), offering a special package (T-shirt + CD) for €16 plus shipment.

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