Avi Granite - Guitarist - Composer - Improviser - Educator - Artist -


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Reveiws of:
Avi Granite's Verse
Snow Umbrellas
 


The debut release from guitarist Avi Granite’s New York City–based quartet is at once intimate and spacious, a cocoon of enveloping musical passages and revelatory compositional turns. Snow Umbrellas features nine mostly midtempo excursions on which Granite and trumpeter Ralph Alessi nudge and prod their improvisations into glorious flight. Granite’s tone is pure and warm, and his playing emotive, particularly on “Wayne Winks at the Radio,” where his expository sliding legato lines establish a plangent mood, and the undulating “Barnacles,” on which he strokes chords into arpeggiated waves as Jerry DeVore makes his bass strings groan like the plates of a steelhulled ship. Rewarding, and highly recommended. 
- Guitar Aficionado Magazine (Aug.2012)

In 2009, Canadian guitarist/composer Avi Granite moved to NYC to seek new challenges and recover from a deep personal loss. As Snow Umbrellas amply demonstrates, he has been inspired by the city to create some of his richest music yet. With trumpet virtuoso Raphy Alessi as a melodic foil, tunes uncoil unpredictably with their "walking along then duck into an alley" turns. "Mortetia" finds Alessi playing with a deceptively golden, mellow sound that choses unorthodox leaps, while Granite's harmonics sound like the warning at a train crossing. There's a blues resonance to much of the music, which becomes overt on "Like John," with a meaty, Mingus-y bass solo by Jerry DeVore. Granite has a gorgeous, clear, intimate sound, and the high quality of the recording captures hair's breadth nuances of microtonal bends, sliding legato lines and sharply articulated punch notes. Another Canadian, drummer Owen Howard, contributes to the loose tightness of the group. Never overstating or overplaying, Howard keeps the dynamics expressive, the grooves chewy good, and the fills always compositionally appropriate and satisfying. One possible drawback: the tempos rarely vary, being mostly mid-ish, with "Barnacles" being the notable exception. Regardless, Snow Umbrellas is rewardingly listenable and it's hard to argue with that.
Glen Hall Exclaim Magazine Online (May 2012)

Guitarist Avi Granite, originally from Toronto, has been resident in New York since 2009, becoming a significant member of the intensely creative current Brooklyn scene. His group Avi Granite’s Verse is heard to fine effect on Snow Umbrellas (Pet Mantis Records PMR008), with Granite’s compositions ranging from song-like effusion to knotty kernels of possibility. The group — trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Jerry Devore and drummer Owen Howard — has a distinct personality, a transparency in which bass and drums are as prominent in the mix as guitar and trumpet, and there’s a sense of group dialogue around rhythm, a constant weave of ricocheting short phrases. It’s a genuinely contemporary sound, moving from pensive introspection to moments of wonder, whether it’s Granite’s glassy, sparkling lines bubbling up through the mix or Alessi’s sudden spears of sonic colour.
Stuart Broomer The Wholenote Magazine(June/July 2012) 

Snow Umbrellas is guitarist/composer Avi Granite's third album as leader, as well as the debut from his New York quartet, Verse. Released on Granite's own Pet Mantis Records, the album features trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Jerry DeVore and drummer Owen Howard on a set of Granite's original compositions that range from the free, improvised feel of "Four for 4" and "Tricycle Dreams" to more danceable tunes, via one or two gentle and romantic numbers.
"Y Not" gets into its danceable groove after a short and pretty duet between Alessi and Granite, with a few excursions into brief, rockier, phases. "Charlie's Shorts" has a similar feel, centering on DeVore's funky bass line. Together, they're the album's most upbeat and immediate tunes. In the musical middle ground are tracks such as "Like John," which ambles cheerfully along, its easy-going ambiance at first hiding the skilful interplay between Granite and Alessi.
"Wayne Winks At The Radio" opens with Granite's solo guitar—a rare example of the guitarist grabbing the limelight—before he moves over to let Alessi's trumpet take the lead. "Mortetia" also ambles, but DeVore's loping, repetitive bass and Howard's skittering cymbals give its movement a more threatening edge.
"Barnacles" is a surprise. The title suggests something rough-edged—a bit hard to grasp—but this is the loveliest composition on the album: Alessi's mournful, muted trumpet floats over Granite's simple, repeated guitar phrase and DeVore and Howard's oddly affecting rhythms to create a graceful and romantic tune.
Given the obvious talents of the musicians it's rather surprising that Snow Umbrellas is a relatively subdued affair, with the quartet seldom moving beyond mid-tempo and never engaging in any real musical excesses. On the one hand, this means that the flow and mood of the music is fairly constant, lacking a little variation. On the other, there is never any sense that the players are letting displays of technical ability triumph over their musical sensibility.
The album is described in the press release as a "modern audio-film." It's an odd and not especially helpful description, but the music readily stands on its own. Snow Umbrellas contains plenty of intriguing ideas and adept musicianship—enough to make Granite's future projects worth watching for.
Bruce Lindsay All About Jazz (Aug.2012)

Born in Toronto, living in Brooklyn (where, it seems, all the good musicians aspire to call home), jazz guitar specialist Avi Granite has recently put forth Snow Umbrellas. It’s his third CD as a leader, and the first with his new quartet Verse, comprised of Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Avi Granite (guitar), Jerry DeVore (acoustic bass) and Owen Howard (drum). A collection of Granite’s original music prompted by personal episodes in Granite’s life, the guitarist makes an album that stresses composition and group coaction over his own tasteful guitar skills.
Snow Umbrellas ranges from straight ahead post-bop to free jazz, but the distinct personalities of the performers and Granite’s angular song construction unifies these disparate tracks into a connected whole. The “distinct personalities” part is especially true of the band’s horn player. Alessi, a noted avant-garde trumpeter since the early 90's, has a distinctive, fragile, contemplative approach not too unlike another luminary of the style, Natsuki Tamura. Given the dispersed nature of Granite’s compositions, his voice not only conforms to Granite’s vision, it often leads the charge.
Granite’s stated influences of John Scofield and Joe Lovano come right to the fore on the descriptively titled “Like John,” it’s lazy, loping funk capturing the spirit of the early 90s Scofield quartet with the tenor saxophonist. “Four For 4? draws you in not just because of the unbounded performing by each of the players, but the way Granite wrings odd timbres from his guitar, and the intuitive interaction between him and Alessi. Granite gets the rhythm section intricately involved in the melody of “Tricycle Dreams” by having Howard and DeVore follow the cadence of Alessi, as Granite himself spins counterpoint lines. 
- S. Victor Aaron Something Else! Blog (Aug.2012)


When Downbeat began its critics poll the category of “rising star” didn’t exist like it does today.  Back then it was called “talent deserving wider recognition.”  As somebody who votes in the poll, I prefer the latter category, as the definition of “rising star” can mean a whole lot of different things to different people.  One of this year’s oddities was Julian Priester getting a significant number of votes for “rising star” trombone, even though he’s been on the scene for decades and has played and recorded with many of the all time greats.  If the category “talent deserving wider recognition” was still around, Priester’s placement near the top would have made more sense.
Which brings me to this post’s point: every jazz fan has their favorite bunch of musicians who they feel deserve wider recognition.  Some of these might be players on their local scene, people they’ve just discovered, or perhaps people who have been around forever and who haven’t received as much attention as maybe they have deserved.  For those of you like me who weren’t already aware of guitarist Avi Granite,  you would do well to add him to the list of talent deserving wider recognition.  And add his recent album Snow Umbrellas to your list of albums to dig into.
Snow Umbrellas consists of nine original compositions by Granite performed by his quartet, which includes trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Jerry DeVore, and drummer Owen Howard. Alessi, who I’ve only heard on a handful of other albums, is himself someone who deserves more praise.
There is a lot to like on this album.  The trumpet/guitar/bass/drums configuration presents a seldom heard combination of colors; the configuration works so well here it’s surprising that there aren’t more groups with this instrumentation.  One of my favorite things about the record is how understated the writing and playing is.  Granite’s tunes and arrangements leave a lot of open space where everything can be heard, which leads to a situation where there is a lot that is implied rather than overtly stated.  For the most part the tracks stay in the medium tempo range, although the bulk of “Four for 4″ is free and the album’s concluding track, the haunting “Barnacles,” is quite slow.  One of the disc’s defining qualities is that the group keeps things nice and relaxed.  This approach is immediately apparent on the opening track “O Blues.”  Granite’s comping behind Alessi’s fairly long and winding solo lines is fairly minimal, placing soft chords into spaces, which often echo or compliment Alessi’s phrases.  His solo relies on single note lines that take their time and are the antithesis of flash and ego.
“Charlie’s Shorts” is another highlight.  The tune demonstrates how locked in Howard and DeVore are, with their light, yet complex and active groove, providing the perfect basis for Alessi’s mix of lyrical, intervallic and runs and Granite’s more measured and careful approach.  That the bass-drums tandem can simultaneously lock down a strong yet supple groove, and stay out of the way of the soloist while giving him and their listeners so much to chew on is quite impressive.
“Wayne Winks at the Radio” shows off the subtlety of Granite’s writing.  Beginning with a brief solo intro from Granite, it settles into a section that alternates between 5 and a lilting 6, with Alessi playing the head.  Where others may have used a fast tempo to create excitement and tension, Granite did so by adding a simultaneous solo section between himself and Alessi (who has a little Dave Douglas in his playing).  Both players weave in and out of each other, engage in call and response, and at times compete.  A short drum solo by Howard, whose touch on the drums is quite soft, completes the soloing and sets up the return of the tune.  The whole performance is episodic and develops organically.
Some folks might have wished that Granite et al had opened things up a bit more and turned up the heat.  I don’t, as I’m guessing that doing so would have led to an album that might have felt forced and untrue to the identity of this group.  Those looking for a high octane smash-and-grab job should look elsewhere.  But if you’re down for restrained and mature writing and playing from a bandleader and group with a distinct identity and point of view, definitely give Snow Umbrellas a shot.  And add Avi Granite to your list of players who deserve wider recognition.
-Chris Robinson's music and culture blog Outside-Inside-Out Blog (September 2012)