Most teenage guitarists have dreams of being big rock stars in big rock groups. When Nick Grinlinton was a junior at Central High School, however, he found his calling in the jazz band.
“Being around other like-minded musicians really fueled that desire,” Grinlinton says. “Those last two years in high school, I really pushed myself to gain more knowledge of jazz and the guitar.”
He would follow that thirst for musical knowledge all the way to the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with a formal degree in Jazz and Studio Music in May 2010. Grinlinton racked up quite the resume along the way. As a college student, he participated in Bobby Watson’s Concert Jazz Band, backing artists such as Randy Brecker, Jaleel Shaw and Sean Jones. He also opened for the Dave Weckl Band in August 2006 at the Trails West! festival as a solo act, and performed with the Coleman Hawkins Mid-West All-Star group at the Coleman Hawkins Jazz Festival earlier that summer. He even won a PTA Reflections award for the best original composition in 2006.
Despite all of his accomplishments, most probably remember Grinlinton as a member of the talented local group Jazz Express, which featured skilled players like Tim Thomas (trumpet), Andy West (bass), Jason Riley (guitar), Scott Conner (upright bass) and Chad Lippincott (drums).
But now, Grinlinton is living in New York City and crafting on his own solo arrangements. You can hear a few of them when he returns for a concert at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 at Wyatt Park Christian Church.
Grinlinton says his compositions are grounded more in experimentation — playing around with sounds — than in music theory. Utilizing harmony and phrasing from the jazz and classical genres, he skews toward lyrical melodies with sophisticated underpinning harmonies.
“Basically, it’s just a discovery for me,” Grinlinton says. “I’m trying to find different sounds on the guitar and follow those sounds.”
There’s plenty of improvisation at his live performances, too. Grinlinton says improvising on the guitar is something he’s really enjoying right now. After all, he plays in a lot of groups in New York, so he doesn’t always get a chance to show off his skills — as both a performer and a composer.
“I was missing it,” Grinlinton admits. “That’s why I’m so excited about this concert. It’s an opportunity to showcase my originals and arranging for solo guitar.”
While the free hour-long concert will focus mostly on his jazz compositions, Grinlinton says it will be very loose and he’ll play a few covers and jazz standards as well. He’ll perform his own version of the Norah Jones tune “Don’t Know Why” as well as Frank Sinatra’s “The Things We Did Last Summer.” Grinlinton says the concert also will include a few lesser-known jazz numbers like “Lush Life” by Billy Strayhorn and selections from Jule Styne. And, with Christmas quickly approaching, he’ll bust out his own rendition of “The Christmas Song.”
All of them will be given Grinlinton’s unique jazz treatment.
“I didn’t want to play it like it would be straight from a recording,” Grinlinton says.
When Grinlinton isn’t performing in New York — or St. Joseph — he’s thriving as an instructor, composer and arranger. He’s currently working to start a few different collaborations in the Big Apple, including a “Tower of Power-style” soul and funk band that will include horns and a rhythm section. He also has found a new hobby in blogging about music and music education.
You can check out the blog — and find out much more about Nick Grinlinton — at www.nick grinlinton.com.