On December 30th of this year Jerry Granelli turns 70. 45 years ago he was peaking as a commercially
successful Jazz drummer- playing with Vince Guaraldi. It was shortly after that success that Jerry took a
hard turn left into the world of improvisation and musical exploration. He has never looked back.
Jazz Times magazine calls Granelli “one of those uncategorizable veteran percussionists who's done it all.”
A Canadian citizen since 1999, Granelli burns with an intensity fuelled by a passion for “the pursuit of the
spirit of spontaneity which drives the player.” A veteran of the San Francisco jazz scene, Granelli's recent
flourish of recordings has documented remarkable collaborations between the generations.
Jerry Granelli's story is one that follows the evolution of the San Francisco Hard Bop jazz scene. Born in
1940 in San Francisco, the boy recognized his passion in 1948 when he spent a day with Gene Krupa.
Hanging out during the 50s in San Francisco nightclubs like the Blackhawk, The Jazz Workshop and
Jimbo’s Bop City, gave him a direct connection to what was happening in New York City. Soaking in the
sounds of Miles, Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones and Monk, his passion grew, eventually leading
him to Dave Brubeck drummer Joe Morello. After two years as Morello's star pupil, Granelli became a
highly sought-after session player, eventually playing, recording and touring with the Vince Guaraldi Band.
He provides the unmistakable steady swing beats for the classic Charlie Brown “Peanuts” theme song.
In the volatile West Coast scene of the 60s, Granelli moved on to the Denny Zeitlin Trio, a group that
included bassist Charlie Haden. A hugely successful recording and touring band, they tied with Miles Davis
for Group of the Year in Downbeat magazine's Critics and Readers Poll in 1965. Throughout the 60s he
performed with many major players on the scene, including Jimmy Witherspoon, Mose Allison, Lou Rawls,
John Handy, Sonny Stitt, Sly Stone, Ornette Coleman and Dewey Redman. He was right there too as jazz
styles began to swing towards the beginnings of psychedelia. His free-form improvisational trio held down
the opening slot for comedian Lenny Bruce for three months in 1963, and shared bills at The Matrix and
The Fillmore with Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Grateful Dead. They
also accompanied the Dead on their first European tour in 1971.
Granelli became a Buddhist in 1970, and from the mid-70s through the 90s he focused on teaching, bringing
his insider knowledge to hundreds of students at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, then Seattle's Cornish
Institute, the Conservatory in Halifax, and the Hochschule der Kunst in Berlin.
In the early 90s Jerry moved to Halifax and immediately became a keystone in the jazz community. Along
with Halifax’s Jazz East organization he founded the Creative Music Workshop a two-week intensive
music program that takes place every summer in conjunction with the Atlantic Jazz Festival. Despite all his
accomplishments, until asked by Divorce Records, Granelli had yet to make a solo drum record. It seems
fitting that after a life behind the kit, Jerry finally should go it alone. No one, including Jerry, knew what to
expect, but the results are remarkable. All the tracks on 1313 except one were played with no overdubs, and
most were done in a single take. For those of us involved with documenting the session, it was a magical
night. 1313 is dark, masterful, and bravely unique --- an outstanding new exploration of percussion and
sound by a man who has been challenging himself musically for 60+ years.
With the release of his solo record he is making plans to organize a far too infrequent solo tour. The
performance encapsulates the new solo album as well as the history of Jerry Granelli’s chosen path -
improvisation and experimentation. The evening will inspire and challenge.