Jazz double bassist Larry Grenadier has built an expansive body of work with many of the genre's most influential musicians.
Over the course of a performing and recording career that spans four decades, he's earned a reputation for a detailed, fluid rhythmic sensibility. His playing is instantly recognizable for its lyric sensitivity, imagination, and curiosity, and a fat, woody tone. These traits have made him an in-demand sideman and valued collaborator in a career that began in the mid-'80s with the album Blues for Red as a member of Larry Vuckovich's quartet with Charles McPherson and Dusko Goykovich. Before entering his long partnership with pianist Brad Mehldau's celebrated trio in 1993, he played on tours and recordings with guitarists Wolfgang Muthspiel, Mike Stern, and keyboardist Tom Coster; he also played on half of D'Angelo's debut album, Brown Sugar. During the first decade of the new century he worked primarily with Mehldau and in a trio led by Pat Metheny, but also played key support roles on early dates by pianists Chihiro Yamanaka and Akiko Grace. He is one of jazz's most sought-after sidemen; his diverse credits include work with Paul Motian, Enrico Rava, Jamie Saft, and the Fly Trio -- the collective he formed with saxophonist Mark Turner and drummer Jeff Ballard. Grenadier's intuitive sensitivity has made him a natural accompanist for singers as well, including Rebecca Martin (his life and creative partner), Monica Borzym, Sophie Milman, and Ariel Pocock. In recent years he has played on recordings by trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, formed and recorded an album with jazz supergroup Hudson, and continued working with Mehldau and Muthspiel.
Grenadier was born into an intensely musical family in San Francisco on February 6, 1966. He took up trumpet -- the same instrument played by his father, Albert, who taught him to read music and gave him his first lessons. A year later, he was given his first electric bass, which allowed him to play in a covers trio alongside his brothers Steve and Phil Grenadier. At 12, after witnessing a live performance by bassist Ray Brown, he began exploring the work of such fabled bassists as Charles Mingus, Paul Chambers, Wilbur Ware, and Oscar Pettiford. By age 16, he was working as a professional with various members of his hometown's jazz scene, and backing top-tier performers passing through San Francisco including Johnny Griffin, Bobby Hutcherson, Art Farmer, Frank Morgan, and Toots Thielemans. Most had been introduced to him by pianist Vuckovich, in whose group he also played.
Grenadier's membership in the Fly trio with longtime friends Ballard and Turner has resulted in three critically acclaimed albums, starting with a self-titled effort in 2004, followed by 2009's Sky & Country and 2016's Year of the Snake. He also tours and records with Martin. In early 2017, Grenadier joined Scofield and keyboardist John Medeski in Jack DeJohnette's quartet Hudson. They issued their self-titled debut in June for the occasion of DeJohnette's 75th birthday, and followed it with a tour.
In February 2019, ECM Records issued Grenadier's first album of bass solos -- a label tradition. Titled The Gleaners, it presents originals by the bassist alongside readings of pieces by George Gershwin, John Coltrane, and Motian, as well as a pair of works written especially for him by Muthspiel. Grenadier also included an instrumental interpretation of a song by Martin. ~ Al Campbell, Rovi