Tom Griesgraber
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Tom Griesgraber

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A Whisper in the Thunder is the first release on Spotted Peccary’s new subdivision label called O3e Music and from the sounds of this one I’m sure it will not be the last. Tom is joined on this release by Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Indigo Girls), Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson) and the California Guitar Trio (Bert Lams, Paul Richards, Hideyo Moriya) who help Tom shine all the more in this stunning debut. Tom composed and produced all the material you hear on this CD and you might be surprised to learn that Tom does not play as much guitar on this CD as you might think from first listen but rather an instrument called the Chapman Stick which he discovered after watching a performance by Tony Levin. Tom decided after seeing Tony Levin play the Chapman Stick that he was going to switch from the guitar and master this new instrument. Judging from what he shows us on this CD he is well on his way to being a master of the Chapman Stick.

The Chapman Stick is better defined by those who know it better but suffice it to say that the appearance is similar to a long stick with strings that you play with both hands sort of like a piano instead of the traditional guitar where one hand plucks the strings while the other fingers the frets. For an interesting little Quicktime video that will explain it visit this page and then explore the site if you desire to know more. http://www.stick.com/method/

Tom takes us through 9 tracks on this CD with each one showing that he is more than capable as a musician and a composer to bring his music to life using this new found instrument. The longest track on this collection of music is 9:14 but that is not typical of the rest of the songs on this CD. Most of the songs are right around 4-5 minutes in length. I would not consider this a bad thing as you get a chance to hear more of what Tom does best which is make the Chapman Stick speak his musical language. After listening to this CD completely through a few times now I would venture to say that there is not a weak track in the set.

The more I listened to Tom’s playing the more it reminded me of another artist on Narada that I have listened to in the past when I wanted to hear some great guitar playing. Billy McLaughlin’s CD Out of Hand is an echo of the style of music that Tom Griesgraber has created on A Whisper in the Thunder. Some of the standout tracks from Tom’s CD are 77 Times which offers us a light an airy piece that has a laid back groove feel to the music while Tom’s playing is precise and evokes a joyful response from the listener. Another fantastic piece is the track called El Prado which shows you exactly how precise the Chapman stick can be in the hands of a master player. Each and every string resonates with a clear and distinct tone that reminds one of the precision of a classical guitarist and yet the melodies and the rhythms explore those areas between jazz, new age and ambient. The most atmospheric track on the CD would probably be The Frozen Ocean which opens with what sounds like the wind blowing across a barren expanse that in my mind creates visuals of an arctic climate. The music builds with waves of sound breaking upon the frozen shore that in some respects reminded me of Craig Padilla’s work Vostok. Near the end of the piece we get Tom’s instrument wailing out of the cold and the wind and then it slides right into the next song Victor’s Chase. Very nice.

All in all this CD offers the listener a wide range of listening experiences from light and airy to expansive, dark and cold. All of the music is a tribute to the compositional skills of Tom Griesgraber and his abilities to bring it all together using the Chapman stick as his main tool. This may have been Tom’s first effort on this new label from Spotted Peccary and the first for the label as well but it has made an impression on my mind that the label stands for quality music which is evident in Tom’s playing. If you are looking for great guitar CD that moves easily between a variety of styles then A Whisper in the Thunder is the CD for you. Recommended. - Ambient Visions


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. - stick.com - Stick Enterprises, Inc


"Tom is a master Stick player. His technique and musicality stand as an inspiration to the rest of us who play the instrument, and we're always eager to see what he'll do next." - bassist/Stick player for Peter Gabriel, King Crimson


"Tom's performances were truly amazing and touched everyone in attendance. His talent, professionalism and grace is in a class of its own." - President of NARAS (The Grammy's)


"Tom is by far, one of the best Stick players around. He provided a great opening set for our tours. I highly recommend checking him out. Great tone and very cool music." - California Guitar Trio


"I’m proud to see one of my instruments used in such a creative way. Many thanks to Tom for an outstanding contribution." - Inventor of the Chapman Stick


"I had seen Agent 22 open for Jazz Mandolin Project earlier in the year and it rocked then...and it rocked First Night. The response from folks coming up to the booth was phenominal, but I guess nothing new for Agent 22...there's a lot of 'wow' factor with Tom Griesgraber playing his Chapman Stick." - Jazz 88FM, San Diego


"Agent 22 took the stage quietly and sneaked into their set of Stick-induced songs full of intelligence and imagination. It was just Tom and his drummer / percussionist (Darren DeBree). They performed with magic and brilliance. It was nice to see an opening band that can play this kind of music and do honor to it. This evening's performance was full of upbeat melody, sensitive sounds and clever arrangements. My head was now in the right place for the next act (The Tony Levin Band)." - Live Magazine


"Thank you for giving so much of your time, your energy and your support to the 46th Annual Grammy Celebration Party. Your performance was spectacular and contributed to an extremely successful event. Over 4000 Grammy Nominees, Winners and VIP ticket holders attended the Celebration and had the opportunity to experience the thrilling performances by all of our elite artists such as yourself." - National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences


Instrumental rock has come in many different forms over the years, and they range from surf rock to the folk-rock fingerpickers (Leo Kottke, John Fahey and Peter Lang, for example) to metallic hard rock shredders like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani (the virtuosos who offer some idea of what Eddie Van Halen might have sounded like as a full-time instrumentalist). But Tom Griesgraber is a rock instrumentalist who doesn't fit into any of those categories. A Whisper in the Thunder is probably best described as instrumental progressive rock; there are parallels between Griesgraber's evocative, atmospheric, reflective material and artists like Pink Floyd and Genesis, although the latter two are known for being vocal-oriented. Griesgraber, however, is far from a clone of Pink Floyd, Genesis or anyone else in prog rock. He has an appealing vision of his own, and this thoughtful effort finds the guitarist/bassist bringing elements of jazz, ambient electronica, new age (the meatier, more substantial new age) and world music to his rock foundation. One sometimes hears traces of guitarist Pat Metheny in Griesgraber's playing, but while Metheny is essentially a jazz musician with rock influences, Griesgraber is more rock than anything. And it should be noted that Griesgraber's main instrument on A Whisper in the Thunder isn't a conventional guitar or bass but rather, the Chapman Stick -- a 12-string instrument that could be considered a combination of an electric guitar and an electric bass. This 2004 release is slightly uneven -- some of the tracks are stronger than others -- but overall, A Whisper in the Thunder is an enjoyable, well-crafted demonstration of Griesgraber's talents as a composer, producer and soloist. - All Music Guide


Discography

Tom Griesgraber - "A Whisper in the Thunder"
Marotta/Griesgraber - "Waking the Day"
Agent 22 - "Agent 22"
Agent 22 - "First Witness: Live at the Belly Up"

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Bio

"A Whisper in the Thunder" exemplifies Tom Griesgraber’s intuitive and forward thinking approach to creating music. The album’s soulful exploration of sound, with its unusual instrumentation and sophisticated compositions, is artful yet accessible, complex and impressive, inspirational and melodic, further solidifying Tom’s commitment to thoughtful composition and creative performance. Seeking out richly powerful supporting collaborations, Griesgraber enlisted some of the most respected instrumentalists in the world to join the project, including drummers Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Indigo Girls) and Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson) and The California Guitar Trio. The result is profound.

A lifetime in the making, “A Whisper in the Thunder” is Griesgraber’s greatest work so far, culminating much of his extensive musical background. As an honors graduate of the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, Tom had developed a strong foundation in the mechanics of music along with a thorough proficiency on the electric guitar. But he yearned for more: he became weary of conventional methods and was compelled to seek out a more atypical means of making music.

This soul-searching came to a new beginning when Tom discovered the Chapman Stick, taking up the unique 12-string instrument shortly after watching a performance by Tony Levin with Jerry Marotta and Steve Gorn. In a dramatic move, Tom put his creative career on hold, set aside the guitar, and focused on the fresh and still mostly unexplored territory of the often unrecognized Chapman Stick. “Logically that decision didn’t make much sense,” says Griesgraber. “It really felt like starting over, but I just knew I had to do it. I believe every one of us has a purpose in life and if we concentrate on doing what we feel called to do, no matter the risks, things work out for the best.”

Griesgraber’s dedication and eventual mastery of the Stick has led to a plethora of career advancing opportunities. As a Stick player, Tom has opened for several national tours with the California Guitar Trio as well as shows with Andy Summers, Al Dimeola, Stanley Jordan, The Tony Levin Band, Bill Bruford's Earthworks, Larry Carlton and Steve Lukather, Tower of Power, Michael Manring, Jazz Mandolin Project, The League of Crafty Guitarists, The Steve Morse Band, The Dixie Dregs, The Bad Plus, Asia, Adrian Belew and Steve Hackett. At the request of Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, he performed for the Academy’s Board of Trustees as well as the Academy’s Holiday Party and the 2004 Grammy Awards Show Post Party. In addition to his solo performances, Tom also plays regularly with drummer Jerry Marotta as the duo Marotta/Griesgraber as well as his own group Agent 22.

“I feel like ‘Whisper’ is just the beginning,” says Griesgraber, “but I feel that way about every project I do. I don’t think I’ll ever be done looking for new ways to make music. It’s the search itself that keeps me in the game.”