Alex de Grassi has been a unique voice in the world of acoustic guitar for the past 42 years; his innovative approach to composing and arranging for solo steel-string guitar has influenced a generation of younger players. From his first solo performances in university coffeehouses and as a street musician to his engagements at prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Montreux Jazz Festival, Alex has followed his own vision and helped lay the foundation for contemporary fingerstyle guitar. Inspired by American and British Isles folk and blues artists in his early teens, Alex’s musical pursuits soon expanded to encompass classical, jazz, and world music. He has since become known for his evocative compositions and arrangements, and for his sheer virtuosity. Using a broad palette of techniques and timbre in conjunction with his ability to weave together melody, counter-melody, bass, harmony, and rhythm into a highly orchestrated canvas of sound, Alex’s performances take the listener well beyond the instrument. The Wall Street Journal has called his playing “flawless” and Billboard hails his “intricate finger-picking technique with an uncanny gift for melodic invention.”
Alex’s career has drawn acclaim for numerous studio recordings as well as for live performances as a soloist and within ensemble settings. His 1978 recording, Turning: Turning Back (cited by Acoustic Guitar magazine among their top ten essential fingerstyle recordings), the subsequent recordings Slow Circle (1979) and Southern Exposure (1984), and his GRAMMY® nominated recording The Water Garden (1998) are considered classics of the genre. In 2006, he collaborated with Quartet San Francisco leader and violinist Jeremy Cohen to premiere an original concerto for steel-string guitar, string quartet, and string orchestra, commissioned and published by String Letter Publishing for their 20th anniversary celebration at Herbst Theater in San Francisco. He has twice been commissioned by the New York Guitar Festival to compose and perform live scores for the festival's Silent Films/Live Guitars series. Festival director David Spelman says “Alex de Grassi is a treasure… his technical wizardry as well as his vibrant and poetic music-making make him one of the most distinctive steel-string guitarists performing today.”
His latest solo studio recording, the Bridge (released in April 2020), features six new original compositions plus arrangements of Gershwin (It Ain’t Necessarily So), Hendrix (Angel), and a pair of classic folksongs (Shenandoah, Sí Bheag Sí Mhór). Pop Matters says “The Bridge provides further evidence of his compositional prowess and his ability to fuse the heady world of virtuosity with deep emotions. His inimitable voice remains intact and as awe inspiring as ever.” His first solo guitar recording in 17 years since his Now and Then: Folk Songs for the 21st Century (Tropo Records/33rd Street 2003), The Bridge was recorded by multi- GRAMMY® award winner and TEC Hall of Fame engineer Leslie Ann Jones at the legendary Skywalker Sound studio in Northern California.
Alex has taught at the Interlochen Institute, Berklee School of Music, the Omega Institute, the Crown of the Continent Guitar Workshop, and the National Summer Guitar Workshop. He also founded the Mendocino Summer Guitar Workshop near his home in Albion, California. His guitar transcriptions have been published with Hal Leonard, Stropes Editions, Tropo Music and numerous guitar magazines. The Alex de Grassi Fingerstyle Guitar Method, a reference book on the fundamentals of acoustic guitar technique published by String Letter Publishing in March 2012, is being used as a primary text for the first fingerstyle guitar degree program at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee where Alex is a frequent artist-in-residence.