Marc Gratama of Chicago, IL, played drums and electronic percussion, and Anthony Cox played bass on saxophonist Paul Scea's CD Contemporary Residents. The music blends Afro-Cuban, Peruvian, and American jazz styles. -- Berklee Beat Magazine Alumni Notes
|Undertones from the September 2007 issue of JazzTimes Magazine
Contemporary Residents (Blujazz)
Multi-instrumentalist Scea piles on the electronics in this sextet session, running saxophones and trumpet through effects boxes, augmenting melodies with wind and guitar synthesizers, and generally warping expectations. At times strongly reminiscent of later-period Miles Davis, the nine compositions on this album are rhythmically intriguing, with overlapped or hybrid meters and touches of South American rhythm, while tweaked harmonics and reptilian basslines parry with harsh, taunting horns.
-Forrest Dylan Bryant
Paul Scea © Andrea Canter
November 11, Grismore Scea Group ($10), The Artist Quarter, Minneapolis/St.Paul.
An ensemble tied to the University of Iowa, this modern/free-bop/harmelodic/funk-based
group has been described by Tom Surowicz as “Iowa’s hippest gift to modern jazz.”
At the core are guitarist/educator Steve Grismore, founder and artistic director of the
Iowa City Jazz Festival and former head of jazz studies at the U of I; multi-reedist
Paul Scea, currently head of jazz studies at West Virginia University; and
internationally acclaimed bassist and local legend, Anthony Cox.
The ensemble released Well-Behaved Fish (Accurate Records) in spring 2006, with
frequent collaborators trumpeter Brent Sandy and drummer Marc Gratama.
Noted Jeff Dayton-Johnson (All About Jazz), the group’s third recording is
“tight, tough, exuberant and funky.”
"Well Behaved Fish" CD reviews
"A little gem of an album...it surprises at every turn: the flute has muscle and articulation, the guitar makes rude electric noises of Grismore’s own devising, the ensemble is tight, and the tunes all have a witty, riff-based buoyancy." -BOSTON PHOENIX
By Jeff Dayton-Johnson - Review Courtesy AllAboutJazz.com
The third Accurate release co-led by guitarist Steve Grismore and reedist Paul Scea is tight, tough, exuberant and funky. Their quintet applies the head-solos-head format imaginatively to ten originals and a cover of Ornette Coleman’s “Dancing in Your Head” (which perhaps takes its child-like wonder a little too much at face value), helped by the fact that the heads and the solos are uniformly excellent.
The compositions are anything but offhand. “Benevolent Psychopathology” sounds a little like Monk’s “Well You Needn’t,” taken slightly sideways. The combination of gentle guitar and a slightly eerie trumpet/reed statement of the theme of “I’m Being Held Hostage to Your Failure,” meanwhile, invites favorable comparison to the ballads from Paul Motian’s recent Garden of Eden (ECM, 2006). The rousing closer, “Good God,” seems to be inspired by James Brown. (The title’s oblique reference to the Godfather of Soul strengthens my conviction that drummer Marc Gratama is indeed quoting Brown’s “Funky Drummer” in the fading moments of “Dancing In Your Head.”)
Solos are edgy, adventurous, and barely under control--and I mean that as a compliment; frequent bouts of simultaneous soloing (sax and trumpet on the Coleman cover, or flute and trumpet on “Spinach Dip”) are especially exciting. Amidst the improvisational plenty of Well Behaved Fish, it seems caddish to single out particular solos for commendation, but Grismore’s guitar-synth playing on “Cletus N’gugu” sounds like both a Fender Rhodes and an African thumb piano, and Brent Sandy’s Clifford Brown-meets-Cynthia Robinson trumpet on “Good God” will stay with me for some time.
The record’s improvisational strength is enhanced by the unconventional texture of the group’s performance, including some sounds which can be difficult to attribute to a given instrument. Given that no keyboardist is credited in the liner notes, I’m assuming these are down to either Grismore’s guitar synth or the afflatus of Scea’s mysterious-sounding “wind controller.” Taut rhythm adds to the appeal: Gratama’s drumming would not sound out of place in a Live/Evil-era Miles Davis performance, although bassist Anthony Cox’s playing is considerably more supple than Michael Henderson’s work with the early-'70s Davis group.
Immensely likeable, fun and smart, Well Behaved Fish is an argument for adding Iowa City (Grismore's home base and the place where the disc was recorded) to the list of jazz capitals-in-waiting.
By Dan McClenaghan - Review Courtesy AllAboutJazz.com
Well Behaved Fish opens with Ornette Coleman's “Dancing in Your Head,” an upbeat, obstreporous, hard-driving electro-orchestral performance, and a fitting introduction to a plugged-in set of sounds reminscent of some of Miles Davis' mid to late-'70s work. But the Grismore/Scea Group, co-led by guitarist Steve Grismore and multi-reedist Paul Scea, gives the sound more focus and structure than Davis' defiantly amorphous approach.
Like Miles' much maligned On the Corner (Columbia, '72), a set that seems to be getting a critical upgrade of late, the individual instruments on Well Behaved Fish are at times difficult to identify. Wind controller, guitar synth, and amped-up saxophones mingle together, though Scea's flute drifts distinctly at times, wailing into the electro-smear on “Spinach Dip.”
“Baghdad” reins in the pace, with floating Middle East string instrument sounds and percussion behind Brent Sandy's tart trumpet. “Crush” showcases a beefy trio rhythm--Grismore's intensely blurry guitar lines, Anthony Cox's beefy, seismic bass, and Marc Gratama's heavy rock-like drum work. The closer, “Good God,” sounds funkily mainstream, with Grismore wah-wahing behind Scea's searing hot tenor sax solo.
Both leaders teach, Grismore at Augustana College and the University of Iowa, Scea at West Virginia University--two geographical locales that are a long way from the modern jazz meccas. With Well Behaved Fish they prove that the “location, location, location” mantra does't hold a lot of water in terms of making modern and intriguing first-rate jazz sounds.
Starcandy "Up Close" CD release
Few bands are able to translate the energy and essence of their live shows to the studio. Although starcandy's debut offering, "Set It Off," was well-received by the music press-"a heated mix of funk/jazz/soul with perspiration clinging to the lip," "a great batch of original tunes heavily influenced by Philly soul, Motown rock, and classic funk," "often funky, sometimes Latin-inspired, and always lively"-the recording was a studio rendering of the band live, a snapshot of where it was in 2002.
The group knew it had to figure out a way to represent all the facets of its sound, and the first step was to take total control from the start of its follow-up offering. To that end, drummer Marc Gratama and bassist Tim Deuchler oversaw the recording of starcandy's second disc. Vocalist Renée Ruffin, saxophonist and vocalist Marqueal Jordan, and guitarist Scott Leff collaborated with them on the project's production. The decision was made early on to take time to experiment in order to capture the sounds and performances the band knew they had in them. In addition, the group stripped all of the tunes down to the bare bones and then built them back up in the studio.
The result is starcandy's second disc, "Up Close." Featuring 14 originals, it captures the feeling of the tunes as performed live but expands on that vision with layers of vocals, loops, and sounds treatments. Since the band oversaw all facets of the recording-production, performances, overdubs, mixes, and mastering-what emerged was an end product consistent with the essence of each of the tunes. Touching on the all of the band's influences, from rock to soul to funk and all points in between, "Up Close" is a cohesive musical statement and reveals a band that has matured from a group that knows how to put on a great live show to one that understands how to create moods and tell stories.
starcandy is made up of established musicians from the Chicago scene. Formed in the fall of 2001, the band has built a reputation for electrifying live shows and has played such venues as the Metro, Wise Fools Pub, Beat Kitchen, and others as well as the Taste of Chicago and other street festivals. starcandy has been featured on WXRT's "Local Anesthetic," and its music was featured in the documentary film "The Bulls of Suburbia." The group was the featured entertainment for the Lookingglass Theatre's 2004 Mad Hatter's Ball.
Iowa City Press-Citizen: Life
Published on: 1/11/2003
For Scott Leff and Marc Gratama, there's no place like home.
Scott Leff, right, and Marc Gratama, left, of Iowa City, are members of the band Starcandy.
"I spent a lot of time at Gabe's and my best memories are from playing there with Funkfam," said Gratama, Starcandy's drummer. "It's also where I met my wife when I was playing with Dagobah, so it will always be a special place for me."
Starcandy guitarist Leff and Gratama met each other during the fall of 1985 at West High School. Both have been involved in music since nine years of age and played in numerous bands during high school.
Fate struck when Leff's drummer graduated the year before. He said Gratama was the obvious replacement for their classic rock cover band, "Heat of Fusion."
Starcandy, an original five-piece band featuring Iowa City natives Scott Leff and Marc Gratama, will play at 9 p.m. today at Gabe's.
After Leff and Gratama graduated from West High in 1986 and 1987 respectivley, the two went their separate ways.
Leff left Iowa City to attend the University of Kansas and Gratama eventually left Iowa City in 1993 to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Gratama went to see Leff play with his band Fat Time at a Chicago club in late 2001. Starcandy vocalist and sax player Marqueal Jordan also was in Fat Time.
"It was great to see how his (Leff) playing had both evolved and changed drastically," Gratama said.
"Starcandy has great energy," Gratama said. "I think it will be hard not to pick up on it and go with it."
"From the Ears Down" CD by R D Roth - Fufkin.com: Mike Bennett Reviews: February, 2003
"The songs are a nice mix of personal tracks, regarding relationships and stuff, with witty and concise observational numbers. One of the most immediately compelling tracks is "I Need a Guru", kind of a post-modern homespun wisdom gallop, as Roth's plea for a mentor is belied by his trenchant observations indicating he doesn't need one: "keep away from all those right wing critics/they just want us/to take the blame/and you can keep all those left wing cynics/they throw discipline/down the drain." The song lopes along, guided by Marc Gratama brushing the drums, Chico Welch sawing on the fiddle and Gus Friedlander providing the right amount of rustic underpinning on the banjo. And while the rhythm carries the verses, the bridge to the chorus has just the right amount of melody."
Funkfarm - From the Iowa City Press Citizen
"A hot local staple of the early '90s, Funk Farm still gets together most every year, usually when ace tub-thumper Marc Gratama makes it back for the holidays. The sizzling septet on hand for these two nights (with one off in between so the geezers can rest up) includes Gratama, bassist Marty Christensen, guitarist Andy Parrott, lead vocalist Ted Tilton and a sterling horn section composed of Bobby Thompson (Bari sax), Brent Sandy (trumpet) and Stuart Wood (tenor sax)."
"My muse hadn't found me
Or she was keeping it hid
But then she caught me in the jungle
and she ripped off the lid."
With these lyrics, ELASTIC frontman T.J. Holsen describes how two years he spent in the remote mountains of New Guinea seemed to open up new creative sources for him. "I started writing music in college, when I was going after a degree in classical and jazz guitar. But when I went to New Guinea for the Peace Corps I still only had a handful of original tunes. Maybe being away from my album collection and the music scene forced me to figure out how to really plug in to my own stuff. I had to come up with my own songs to interest and entertain me, and the music's been flowing ever since." Returning from the jungle with a trunk full of songs, Holsen began playing around Chicago with various musicians and bands. Inevitably his unique approach to songwriting, blending sophisticated chord voicings and jazz-tinged progressions with funky rhythms and a rock sensibility, attracted drummer Marc Gratama and bass man Michael Weimann. The three of them form the core of ELASTIC, so named because it describes their ability to stretch and incorporate many musical influences, and because they always envisioned their trio-based band as incorporating guest musicians to fit whatever the music demanded.
Dutch-born drummer Marc Gratama is a graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has performed with many well-established musicians including Cuba Gooding ("Everybody Plays the Fool"), Phil Wilson, Hal Crook, Dave La Spina, Hans Dulfer, John Abercrombie, George Garzone, and Jerry Bergonzi. Marc has performed with various rock groups, funk groups, jazz small groups and Big Bands in the United States, Holland, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and Hungary. Visit www.marcgratama.com for more details.
Hailing from the home of the funk, Cincinnati, OH, is bassist Michael Weimann. Mike played in groups in Ohio, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest before moving to Chicago in 2001. Mike's influences include Paul McCartney, George Porter, Jr., Cachao and James Jamerson. He also currently plays with local group Saful Rumba.
ELASTIC's current line-up includes lead guitar wizard Dennis Shepherd. Born and raised in the small town of Menominee, MI, Dennis started playing guitar at age 12, and was hired by the age of 13 for his first professional gig playing the club scene in Northeastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Influenced by rock virtuosos early on, he soon turned his ears to the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Mike Stern, John Scofield, Eric Johnson, Mike Landau, Steve Lukather, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny etc. to form a guitar style that is truly his own. Dennis has won numerous awards for his playing, and in 1995 had the unique opportunity of lending his fiery guitar work to a concert with Victor Wooten of Bela Fleck and Steve Bailey of Larry Carlton's band for their Bass Extremes concerts. Dennis has also performed on stage with the likes of Chicago Blues legend Pinetop Perkins and his band, Texas Blues Virtuoso Chris Duarte, and Greg Koch and the Tone Controls. He has been in various bands over the years and has opened for Cheap Trick, Ian Moore, Bloodline, Alan Parsons, Kansas, Molly Hatchet, Foreigner and other cheese.
ELASTIC recently completed their first full-length CD, recorded at Chicago's School Street Studios, which includes 13 songs that deftly demonstrate the group's tight arrangements, musicianship, and compositional prowess. Guest musicians include Anibal Rojas (www.anibalrojas.com) on tenor saxophone and Perry Meritt on guitar.
Holger Kyas Trio - Oberbadisches Volksblatt, 28. Oktober 1998
Das "Holger Kyas Trio" war am vergangenen Freitag im Clublokal des Jazzclub Lörrach zu Gast. Doch es scheint, als seien die "einheimischen Gewächse" nicht zugkräftig. Eher dürftig war die Zuschauerkulisse im Jazztone. Doch Holger Kyas, der 28jährige gebürtige Rheinfelder, nahm's gelassen, und die Leute, die ins Grütt gekommen waren, erlebten ein ausgewogenes Konzert, das geprägt war von einem zwar modernen Stil, das aber weit weg war von Mainstream und von freien Ausbrüchen.
Es ist erstaunlich, wie sauber das Trio seine Stücke, meist Eigenarrangements- und Kompositionen darbot. Es war faszinierend, mit welcher scheinbaren Leichtigkeit die drei jungen Musiker auch schwierige Stücke meisterten. Da zollte sogar Jazzclubchef Werner Büche großes Lob: "Man unterschätzt oft die Jungen". Das Trio zeichnet sich auch durch eine enorme Improvisationsfähigkeit aus.
Die Formation besteht in dieser Form seit 1995 und entstand aus der Idee, gemeinsam eine eigene Stimme in improvisatorischer und kompositorischer Hinsicht zu entwickeln. Und diese Absicht ist, so der Schluß, den das ausgezeichnete Konzert zuläßt, auch gelungen. Ausgehend aus der Tradition des Jazz entwickelte die Band ein Repertoire bekannter und unbekannter Jazzstandards. Daß dabei auch die ganz Großen des Jazz Pate standen und Orientierungspunkte gaben, ist verständlich. Als Beispiel seien hier Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson und Kenny Garret genannt. Eines der musikalisch ausgezeichnet gespielten Stücke war dann auch eine Hommage an Sonny Rollins, das Holger Kyas titelte mit "Sonnys Theme".
Die meisten Bearbeitungen und Kompositionen stammen aus der Feder des Saxophonisten Kyas. Überhaupt, Kyas ist geprägt von einem enormen Ideenreichtum, der auch verzwickte Übergänge zwischen den Soli gut löste. An seiner Seite der amerikanische Schlagzeuger Marc Gratama, den Kyas während seine Studiums am Berklee College of Music in Boston kennengelernt hatte. Gratama lieferte eine saubere, klar strukturierte Partie ab. Das Trio wurde ergänzt durch den Bassisten Maciej Domaradzki. Der aus Polen stammende Bassist begeistere durch wunderbare Baßläufe und in dem Stück von Theolonius Monk "Friday 13th" griff der Bassist auch zur Tuba. Hier zeigte sich die langjährige Karriere als Trompeter, denn immerhin hatte Domaradzki dieses Instrument zehn Jahre studiert, bevor er zum Kontrabaß griff, auf dem er eine rasante Entwicklung hinter sich hat.
Manfred Herbertz, Oberbadisches Volksblatt