“The beautiful part of music is the conversation among particular people,” Grenadier said.
Larry Grenadier travels the world playing bass with many jazz groups and, over Labor Day weekend, he returns to Michigan for the free Detroit Jazz Festival. He joins with pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer Nasheet Waits for the program.
The trio performs 2-3:15 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5, at the Carhartt Amphitheater Stage in Hart Plaza on the closing day of the event that begins Friday, Sept. 2.
“We did this recording, Every Note Is True, that came out this year, and I assume we’ll play music from that,” Grenadier said. “It’s all songs Ethan wrote, and it came out on Blue Note Records. I met Ethan in 1991, when he was a student who just moved into New York, and I’ve known him since then. We’ve played together more than 25 years, but not regularly.
“The last time I was in Detroit was four or five years ago with a band called Hudson. I’m amazed that it’s a free festival because that in itself is extremely unique. Because it’s free, there’s a different energy to the crowd. The musicians are in touch that it’s not for the select few who can afford a certain ticket price.”
Grenadier, who is spending 80 percent of his time performing in Europe, started out playing a trumpet given to him by his dad, also a trumpet player who gave instruments to his children. Later on, his dad gave him an electric bass to play with a brother on guitar.
“When I was listening to jazz music, I was hearing the acoustic bass,” Grenadier recalled. “I borrowed one from school and connected with it. I just naturally liked it. I liked the instrument and the communal part of playing music with other people, the social aspect of music. I just really enjoyed it and never looked back.”
Grenadier, born and raised in San Francisco, never doubted that he would be a full-time musician although he earned a degree in English from Stanford University. With both parents Jewish, he identifies socially with the religion and has played about a half dozen times in Israel.
After graduating from college, Grenadier moved to New York looking for more opportunities to play with musicians heard on records. Ultimately, his collaborations have been with many high-profile artists, early on including saxophonist Stan Getz and later guitarist Pat Metheney.
“Every performance is teaching me,” Grenadier said. “Every time I play, I get more ideas of what I have to work on when I go home. When I’m practicing, I’m getting ready for a performance with particular musicians.
“I don’t think about the instruments being played; I think about the people playing those instruments. It’s about the personalities combining my personality and trying to have these conversations to make music out of them.”
Grenadier, 56, is married to singer-songwriter-guitarist Rebecca Martin, and they have a young son. The couple have performed together and made recordings of her work. A recording made in 2019, The Gleaners, features him on solo bass with one track composed by his wife.
“The beautiful part of music is the conversation among particular people,” Grenadier said. “I’m always looking for situations where we have similar ideas of where we want to get to in the music and similar ideals about music in general.
“Performance is kind of a platform for that to take off in the right environment, on the right day and sound the right feeling among us that can get to a really high level of communication.”
Grenadier is taken with the importance of the bass.
“Every band needs a bass player,” he reflected. “There’s never enough. Even in New York City, that’s true. I started that role of performing and didn’t look back. My goal was to play with better and better musicians. That was through practicing a lot. I was learning from them on the job and going back home and processing that information.”
During the pandemic, Grenadier appreciated time staying home with family, reading and cooking; but he is glad to be in front of audiences again.
“Traveling around the world is a beautiful thing,” he said. “We try to take our son on the road so he can see different cultures. You [experience] different ways to think about daily life. At the same time, we see how everybody is connected. Playing music with other people, especially jazz as a democratic situation, teaches us how to be better human beings and how to relate to other people.”
One of Grenadier’s upcoming projects is making a recording with saxophonist Charles Lloyd, and he is looking forward to that. He also is looking forward to seeing Detroit’s architecture.
The free Detroit Jazz Festival runs Sept. 2-5 in Downtown Detroit. For information, go to detroitjazzfest.org.
Other Labor Day events include:
Arts, Beats & Eats
Nine stages of acts, juried artists as well as restaurants and food trucks.
Sept. 2-5, Downtown Royal Oak
$5 before 3 p.m.; $10 after 3 p.m.
Michigan State Fair
Entertainment, livestock booths, indoor vendor events and Shrine Circus.
Sept. 1-5, Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi
$10 general admission only.