Donna Grantis Electric Band: Suites
Fusion music is often lumped in with either rock or jazz, from record
store bins up through modern Internet retail purchasing, because fusion is
looked upon as more of a sub-genre than genre. But when Canadian guitarist
Donna Grantis says, I love jazz, but I'm a rocker at heart, she's
accurately assessed her power trio's debut instrumental fusion CD, Suites.
Grantis studied at McGill University in Montreal, one of Canada's top jazz
schools, before moving west to Toronto, the rocking metropolis where Rush
got its start (recording its live album All the World's a Stage at Massey
Hall, where Grantis is guitarist and musical director for the annual
Women's Blues Revue).
Along with bassist Steve Zsirai and drummer Roger Travassos, Grantis paints
in broad strokes on her debut's 10 tracks, which are broken into five-song
Elektra and Starla suites named for her two PRS guitars. Elektra Prelude
forms a Jimi Hendrix-inspired intro to Elektra, which is based on a
guitar riff reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's The Ocean (complete with
Travassos' muscular, John Bonham-like drum fills and Grantis' frenetic,
Jimmy Page-influenced soloing).
The opening punches to the subsequent Ode To Aja echo Zep's Good Times
Bad Times before the lengthy track goes into more free-form funk and jazz
directions through Zsirai's anchoring bass line, Grantis' wah-wah pedal and
Travassos' off-beat ride cymbal patterns.
The entire trio makes great use of space throughout the CD, especially on
the two-part Isabella the Great medley. The rhythm section provides a
sparse, insistent cadence during the opening piece, allowing Grantis to
alternately echo whisper-to-a-scream blues snippets of Hendrix, Jeff Beck
and Eric Clapton before exploring feels from metal to jazz in part two.
The Starla Suite then opens with Grantis' nimble, distorted metallic
picking on Gold Dust Vixen. The rhythm section enters with a Bolero-like
figure before Zsirai (who employs distortion nearly as much as Grantis)
sets up, and locks in with Grantis on, the main riff. A quieter midsection
leads to the poignant, closing Gold Dust Reprise.
My Purple Heart is a 6/8-timed slow blues number on which Grantis
practically channels Hendrix, and Cosmic Jam an aptly-titled acidic
number where all three musicians leave ample holes for the others to color
The rhythmic closer Kid's Got Moxie alternately echoes Grantis' agility
between rock, jazz, funk and blues. Her two 20-minute-plus instrumental
Suites not only beg, but also pose the question of what made bluesy fusion
acts like Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Led Zeppelin rock bands in
the first place: the fact that they had vocalists. Kid's got moxie, indeed.
Donna Grantis (guitar)
Steve Zsirai (bass)
Roger Travassos (drums)
1. Elektra Prelude
3. Ode To Aja
4. Isabella the Great (Part I)
5. Isabella the Great (Part II)
6. Gold Dust Vixen
7. Gold Dust Reprise
8. My Purple Heart
9. Cosmic Jam
10. Kid's Got Moxie