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Steel string guitar soloist Alex de Grassi ready for return to Alaska

Posted: Thursday, October 01, 2009

Grammy-award nominated guitarist Alex de Grassi is one of the premiere steel string soloists in the world, and seeing him in concert might not be your average musical experience.

Courtesy Of Alex De Grassi
Courtesy Of Alex De Grassi

He is scheduled to perform at 4 p.m. on Sunday at the Thunder Mountain High School auditorium. It is the opening of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council concert series and will be the first show the local arts organization has held in the new auditorium.

"It's gonna be a variety of solo steel string guitar pieces, some of which I composed and some which are arrangements of materials that includes everything from jazz standards to folk songs to maybe Jimmy Hendrix," de Grassi said.

Born in Yokosuka, Japan, de Grassi was raised in the Bay Area and comes from a musical background. After graduating from college, he cut his musical teeth as a busker in London.

He released his first album, "Turning: Turning Back," through Windham Hill Records in 1978, and has created a following for his intense finger-picking style. While he admits to slowing down in recent years, de Grassi said he still loves to get out on stage and perform.

"I don't perform as much as I used to," he said. "There were times when I was traveling a lot, like doing 150, 200 concerts a year. These days I'm probably doing more like 50."

It's been more than a decade since de Grassi has performed in Alaska, which he has been looking forward to. He came up to the Last Frontier a handful of times in the 1980s and played venues across the state, including Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, Petersburg, Homer, Sitka and others. Unfortunately, Juneau will be the only stop this time in Alaska.

"I'm looking forward to coming up there," he said. "I wish I had more time because I had originally hoped this would happen in a time period where I could hang out and see Alaska for a bit."

Next week de Grassi will head to Europe for about a month of traveling and performing in Scotland, England and Germany.

While he does not yet have a set date, de Grassi has been working on a new album he plans to release in 2010. His last album, "Pure Alex de Grassi," was released by Windham Hill Records in 2006.

"When I'm at home, I tend to work in the morning a little bit and usually in the evening as well to hopefully produce something," de Grassi said.

He also occasionally produces projects or collaborates with other artists that are outside of his norm as a solo performer. He occasionally performs alongside bassist Michael Manring and percussionist Christopher Garcia in a group they've dubbed DeMania Trio.

While not performing or writing and arranging, de Grassi has spent an increasing amount of time teaching.

"Recently I have taken the closest thing to a day job I've taken since I started doing this 30 years ago," he said.

String Letter Music School has hired de Grassi as an artist advisor and part-time teacher. The company also is a fairly good-sized publishing company that produces guitar and string instrument magazines and learning materials, which de Grassi also plans to contribute to.

He has also had several commissions in recent years, including a steel string concerto with collaborating violinist Jeremy Cohen, as well as creating music for classic silent films for the New York Guitar Festival.

"That's kind of fun," de Grassi said. "Those are kind of interesting for me, a different way of going about writing and performing music. It's something to accompany a visual medium. The music tends to seem different than when you get up and play solo in front of people."

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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