Penn Live Arts Blog

5 Questions with Samara Joy & Pasquale Grasso

Posted January 28, 2021

Virtual Stage Jazz Penn Live Arts Debuts

She just won the prestigious Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. His guitar technique has garnered high praise from jazz great Pat Metheny. Together, with astonishing talent that belies their youth, Samara Joy and Pasquale Grasso will make their Annenberg Center debut on February 4. In this special double edition of our 5 Questions series, let’s learn more about Samara and Pasquale.

Samara Joy:

1. Name a few artists you love that everyone should check out.

Everyone should check out Sarah Vaughan, Phineas Newborn, and Ben Webster, just to name a few.

2. What projects are you working on currently?

Currently, I'm working on the release of my debut album (coming in June) along with hoping to tour and bring the music safely to people in other states and countries.

3. What is your earliest memory of hearing music?

Hearing my family's album, appropriately titled The McLendon Family: Miracles, usually in the car on the way to church. From the original compositions and arrangements to the harmonies, it never fails to put a smile on my face, listening to my family sing together.

4. What inspires you to create music?

Knowing that I'll never exhaust the creative possibility that music holds is what keeps me inspired. There's always something to learn, an idea waiting to be tapped, and a song to be written or discovered, which never ceases to amaze me.

5: Which of your past collaborations or partnerships were the most memorable and why?

Sitting in with the Barry Harris Trio at Dizzy's Club of Jazz at Lincoln Center during their residency. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, this night was special because it did more than a classroom ever could. It allowed me the opportunity to be mentored by the best, up close and personal. Definitely a night I won't forget.

Pasquale Grasso:

1: What is your earliest memory of hearing music?

That would be when I was about four years old. My parents gave me and my brother Luigi The Quintet: Jazz at Massey Hall.

2: Talk about your background.

I’m originally from Ariano Irpino, Italy, and I grew up around music since I was born. For me and Luigi, music was our favorite game, and the good thing was that we were doing it together, pushing each other to get better. I was fortunate to meet Agostino Di Giorgio, my first guitar teacher, who also introduced me to the great Barry Harris.

3: How would you describe the music that you typically create?

I would say that I tried to always play something that connects me with the people that are listening. My priority is for them to have a good time.

4: Who are your biggest influences?

Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Paul Gonsalves, Charlie Christian, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, and everyone that dedicated their life to music.

5: Name a few artists you love that everyone should check out.

Luigi Grasso, Ari Roland, Zaid Nasser, Chris Byars, John Mosca, Stefano Doglioni, Keith Balla

6: Which of your past collaborations or partnerships were the most memorable and why?

Definitely when I sat in at the Village Vanguard with the Barry Harris Trio when I first moved to New York. I told myself, “you are in the right place now!”