Sound It Out: “20 Questions” #10 — Ricardo Grilli

Another installment of the recurring “Sound It Out: 20 Questions” feature on, with an artist answering a survey inspired by the famous Proust Questionnaire…

(Ricardo Grilli in New York City, by Daria Huxley.)

Guitarist Ricardo Grilli, born in 1985, grew up in São Paulo, Brazil. He moved to the U.S. at age 23, graduating from the Berklee College of Music and New York University – then going on to play top clubs around the world, interacting with the likes of Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Jon Cowherd, Kevin Hays and Chris Cheek. The guitarist has developed a style that blends the luminous tone of John Abercrombie with the fluent melodicism of Pat Metheny, along with incorporating influences from Peter Bernstein to Kurt Rosenwinkel to Radiohead. Ricardo’s recent sophomore album – the sleek, sophisticated 1954 – sees him leading an A-list studio band featuring pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Eric Harland. “Arcturus,” a characteristic highlight from the album, glows like neon reflected off wet city streets, a sound that’s urban and evocative – and, as The New York Times suggested, “ultramodern.” It’s simultaneously a shade left-of-center and utterly accessible, thanks to Ricardo’s flair for rock-like dynamics and the sheer tunefulness in both his compositions and improvisations. He first played the Sound It Out series as part of the “Motian in Motion” tribute/fundraising show of Paul Motian’s music in June 2017, pairing spectacularly with fellow guitarist André Matos – even though they had never met before that night, let alone played together. Ricardo makes his first appearance for Sound It Out as a leader on November 10, 2017, fronting a virtuoso quartet with pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer Kendrick Scott. — BB

  1. What was the first jazz album you fell in love with and stayed in love with?

Stellar Regions by John Coltrane, oddly enough. When I was 17, I remember being intrigued just by the photo on the cover – and the music was amazing, even though I didn’t have much of a concept of jazz at the time.

  1. What’s one of your all-time favorite non-jazz albums?

Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan.

  1. What do you think is one of the most overrated jazz albums ever?

The Epic by Kamasi Washington.

  1. What’s the last album you listened to from beginning to end – and did you like it?

Signs Live! by Peter Bernstein – liked it a lot!

  1. What’s your favorite film score?

Cinema Paradiso by Ennio Morricone. I just love a beautiful melody.

  1. What was the most recent concert – of any genre – that made you fall in love with music all over again?

The EarRegulars at the Ear Inn in Manhattan, with Jon-Erik Kelso and Matt Munisteri (an amazing guitarist) and the group playing early swing – gorgeous.

  1. Which are your very favorite and least favorite venues for live music?

My favorite is the Village Vanguard – for the sound, the magic, the dream. As for my least favorite, well, I like most venues that feature live jazz. That said, I have been treated terribly at some. You know who you are…

  1. What’s your favorite quote about music?

“I want to be the force which is truly for good.” — John Coltrane, in an interview with Frank Kofsky. 

  1. If you could have a drink with any visual artist of the past, who would it be?

Pablo Picasso.

  1. What are the top three tools of your trade?

Guitar (loving this Westville Vanguard model at the moment), staff paper, pencil.

  1. What’s your most indispensable piece of technology that isn’t music-oriented?

My French press, for coffee.

  1. What non-musical/non-technological quality is most important to being an enduringly creative musician?

Being thick-skinned. It can be hard and lonely to do this sometimes. A lot of beautiful, creative musicians give up or move on to other things. You have to stick with it – believe in yourself and carry on working hard. 

  1. What living person do you most admire – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most admire?

My parents. I was very lucky in that my folks are level-headed, open-minded people. I also admire their ethics in both work and life, as well as their selflessness. If we’re talking about jazz people, I’d have to say Peter Bernstein and Mark Turner – wonderful musicians and real gentlemen. I admire their focus and musicianship, as well as their care and seriousness for the art.

  1. What living person do you most despise – and what’s one quality he or she has that you most despise?

Oh, it’s a big one. I don’t want to say the name, but you know who I’m thinking about – an egomaniac, a narcissist, a racist. You name it, he’s got it – and I despise it.

  1. What’s your favorite place in the world?

Anywhere I’m playing music for people – for the catharsis, the growth, the fun. Even if it’s very challenging, it is ultimately the only place I can ease my mind and feel that I’m doing something truly right.

  1. If you could live in another time period, when would that be?

No other – with all our problems and as much as I dread the present day, now is still where I belong. I love reading history, having a particular fascination for medieval Japan and World War II, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

  1. What book would you most like to read again?

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

  1. What film haven’t you seen that you feel like you should?

Many of the recent environmental and political documentaries. I know it’s terribly selfish of me, but I’d get too dark and stop functioning if I were to watch them all. I try to remain engaged however I can and watch them in doses. 

  1. What aspect of the past do you miss most – and what’s one thing you look forward to about the future that doesn’t yet exist?

I miss the sense of security and innocence I had as a kid. I have a fairly apocalyptic view of the future and just hope we turn things around. I had hopes for a future in which human decency would be thriving, while socio-political and racial walls would erode; but the reality, as I reach into my 30s, is very much the opposite, with a rise in the selfish old ways and nationalistic beliefs. So, I guess I look forward to a future when humanity comes together, with the breakdown of national borders and a sharp fall in institutionalized religion. 

  1. What would you like your last meal to consist of?

I would go to Stefano, an Italian restaurant owned by a Piemontese family in upstate São Paulo, Brazil, near a cottage my family owns. It’s a special place for me, very spiritual – and the food is amazing. I would have Tagliarini Al Burro i Parmigiano and Veal Parmesan or Milanese. But my mom is a hell of a cook, too, so I would be equally happy eating her Risotto Milanese with a nice steak.