Tom Griesgraber - solo, Duo with Bert Lams Marotta/Griesgraber and Agent 22
Live version of "War Dance", November, 2012
Tom Griesgraber and Bert Lams - Unnamed Lands
2012 CD, 14 tracks, $12
Tom Griesgraber: Grand Stick, synths
Bert Lams: acoustic guitar
Unnamed Lands, the debut studio release by the Stick and guitar duo
of Tom Griesgraber (Agent 22) and Bert Lams (California Guitar Trio),
takes us on a settlers' journey through the Old West, an epic tale
often told in legend and song, but now re-imagined by Tom and Bert
through the lens of contemporary sounds, rhythms, harmony and
Thematically, Bert and Tom connect more traditional
sounds and styles with the hopeful point of view of settler
protagonists. From an anthemic "Don't Look Back", to a bucolic "Prairie Suite", a
nostalgic "A Letter Home" and a sentimental "Rebecca", all these
songs are quite "acoustic" in their character. Tom's clean, minimally
processed Stick bass sounds at times like a lower extension of Bert's
guitar strings, one register blending nicely with the other to
complete an orchestra of plucked and tapped strings.
Mysterious, aggressive, cacophonous, atonal and polyrhythmic elements
represent the myriad threats faced by settlers including the unknown
landscape ("Where the Trail Divides"), the hostile natural world ("Insects","A
Red Glow Against the Sky", "Lumbering Prowlers"), and the Native American
inhabitants ("Smoke Signals", "War Dance", "Unearthly
Screams/Scattered"). Each piece has a distinct identity, with
shifting keys, tempos and tonalities propelling the listener further
A beautifully designed and illustrated 12-page booklet (by Milk Graphic Design's Jack and
Laurent Durieux) spins the settlers' tale through
brief vignettes written by Tom, one for each track. The period-inspired
drawings and graphics complete the look and guide us on our journey.
As a duo, these two virtuoso instrumentalists have a chemistry that
can't be faked in the studio, but only comes through extensive
touring and rehearsing. They are both accomplished rhythm players and
soloists, trading these roles as needed, one always complementing the
other in thoughtful dialogue. The arrangements have a spontaneity
that belies the four years it took Tom and Bert to complete this
Unnamed Lands is spectacularly produced, with a clear and
integrated sound throughout, as mixed by Tom and Howard Givens of
Spotted Peccary Records. Though there are no drums present, the naturally
percussive tones of the Stick and the acoustic guitar lay out the groove
with driving precision. This sonic landscape is alive with wailing and
abstract synths, distorted Stick and guitar polyrhythms and leads, and
always that far-off horizon. Who knows what we will hear as we cross
the next ridge on our way to the glorious Pacific?
TRACK LISTING all songs by Tom and Bert, except 2 amd 13, by Tom
1 - Unnamed Lands
2 - Don't Look Back
3 - Prairie Suite
4 - A Red Glow Against the Sky
5 - Where the Trail Divides
6 - A Letter Home
7 - Insects
8 - Vaquero
9 - Smoke Signals
10 - War Dance
11 - Lumbering Prowlers
12 - Unearthly Screams/Scattered
13 - Rebecca
14 - Pacific
Waking the Day Marotta/Griesgraber 2006 CD $12.
For his latest release Southern California Stick artist Tom Griesgraber
has teamed up with veteran rock and prog drummer Jerry Marotta. They call their duo Marotta/Griesgraber,
and they are truly equal partners in contributing to this "expanded duo"
instrumental disc, adding several layers of sound to the core duo they have honed
through extensive touring in Europe and the US.
Fans of Tom's solo work and his band Agent 22 will recognize a few
tracks, re-recorded with a new polish and clarity, including his
very-catchy odd-metered "77 Times" and his anthemic "Ifs Jam."
These tunes are great examples of Tom's compositional style:
strong melodies over pure major and minor tonalities, spiced
up with some odd time signatures and arrangments that have a more
dramatic shape than the typical instrumental "melody-solo-melody" format.
In addition to their Grand Stick and drums, Marotta/Griesgraber add synths, bass
sample loops and guitar, with guest performances by Harvey Jones and Tony Levin.
A Whisper in the Thunder 2004 CD $12.
With his latest solo release, "A Whisper in the Thunder," Tom Griesgraber
brings us a beautiful recording of the absolute best from his work of the
last five years. The fruit of his labor is a masterfully crafted set of nine
original pieces featuring his distinctive Stick work as well as contributions
by the California Guitar Trio, drummer Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel and Tony
Levin Band), King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto, NS/Stickist Don Schiff,
and several other musicians.
Tom has always been a bit of a stickler for the quality of his live sound and
is no different in the studio. His attention to detail pays off big dividends
as the recording of this CD is superb. The sounds of the Stick, clean,
processed and driving MIDI sounds, as well as the drums percussion, guitars
and bass (the last also played by Tom) are lush and clean without being
overpowering at all.
"A Whisper in the Thunder" reflects Tom's ethic of Stick performing and
arranging, where his choices are made in service to his music and not to his
instrument. His strong sense of melody is all over this record. The first
track, "Ahab," jumps right in with signature Mastelotto percussion along with
Tom's airy accompaniment on bass and Stick. From there, the record moves
through a series of solo Stick and ensemble tunes, from the solo "El Prado"
through the catchy "77 Times" and into the "Jungle" composition parts I and
II that lead the listener through a buffet of moods culminating in the loop
laden finale in part II. The record ends with a dynamic and powerful rendition
of a quintessential Griesgraber tune, "Waking the Day."
Besides its great appeal to any fan of contemporary instrumental music
"Whisper" should be considered a "must have" Stick CD of 2004. Tom makes good
use of not only the clean and full sound of the Stick itself but also shows
off tasteful use of audio processing on the instrument as well as MIDI. This
and the inspired sonic interplay between The Stick and the drums and
percussion make this record a joy to hear from start to finish.
Agent 22 - First Witness (live at the Belly Up) 2001 CD $12.
This sequel to Agent 22's self titled album was recorded live during
the group's winning performance at the Belly Up Tavern's Best of the
Year competition in San Diego. The excitement of the competition is
evident in the playing and the crowd response throughout, and with no
knowledge that they were being recorded the group took some chances
musically that might never have happened in a studio setting. Live,
energetic and raw, First Witness presents a unique snapshot of
Agent 22 in action.
Agent 22 1999 CD $12.
Agent 22 mixes the talents of Stick player Tom Griesgraber with dual
guitarist Jimmy Patton and drummer/percussionist Ryan Moran. The
combination of Stick with tapped guitars can at times sound like one
gigantic tapping instrument, and at other times like a small orchestra
of different musicians. The Stick functions in both a "bass" and
"guitar" role using sounds that range from the clean unaffected tone
to distortion with some MIDI and VG-8 sounds thrown in as well. Drums,
congas, tablas and a variety of other percussion sounds round out the
trio. Eleven original instrumental tracks mix rock, jazz and funk.
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