JP Jazz Man Who Survived Porch Collapse Debuts Song About It
Nick Grondin will premiere a piece that came out of a near-tragic experience where more than a dozen people were injured.
Guitarist Nick Grondin has lived in Jamaica Plain for a couple of years. He’s performed jazz at St. John’s Church, and jazz with a rock edge at the Midway. On Wednesday, he’ll lead his current ensemble, the seven-piece Nick Grondin Group, in an evening of music at Regattabar in Cambridge.
Grondin, 28, grew up in New Hampshire, then moved to the area to study at New England Conservatory. He developed a passion for jazz guitar, but only after trying other instruments and listening to and playing a lot of pop and rock.
How did jazz become your main interest?
I grew up listening to the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Paul Simon. And my father is a guitarist and pianist. So I was always watching him play rock. I started playing alto saxophone. It was a great instrument, but the band program in school wasn’t doing it for me. So I switched to piano.
But when I was 13 I thought, time to go rock ’n’ roll here, so I got a guitar. I took some lessons from my dad, but after that I was mostly self taught, learning by ear. Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton were my best teachers. I was playing guitar in the jazz band in high school. I had good players around me and a very good music teacher. But I didn’t get really serious about jazz till the end of high school and early college.
What exactly happened to you at that point?
I went to Macalester College in St. Paul. They had a very good music program there, and I started writing music for jazz combos.
On your recent album “SongTeller: The Jazz Orchestra Project” you pretty much reinvent “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
I took the original song apart. I found different elements in the melody and used them in many differentways. It was kind of an intellectual approach, like “What can I do with this?” Then I discovered a whole bunch of cool things to do with it, and found a way to put them together. It’s really a derivative of “Strawberry Fields,” not a cover of it.
You were one of the people on the second floor porch that collapsed in JP in June. Now some music is coming out of the experience that you’ll be premiering at the Regattabar.
We were hanging out on the porch, having a wonderful time. A little after 9:00, we heard a crack, and suddenly the weight dropped out from under us. Somehow I knew instantly what was happening. I went from relaxed party mode to hyper-focused. Time slowed down. I remember watching my friends across the deck start to panic, but I didn’t panic. The deck fell. It hit the first story, and broke some of our momentum. Then we kept going and went all the way down. The next thing I knew I was on my feet again. I saw other people wounded and on the ground, and the adrenalin kicked in and I knew instantly that it was my job to get them out. I got some scrapes and bruises and my ankle was swollen for two weeks, but I was extremely lucky.
I’m still working on the piece. I want it to start with something that reminds me of the beautiful experience we were having at the party, and then have the feeling of time slowing down. That will be a really interesting musical concept, to get a feeling of time stretching and slowing down, before it got all chaotic.
The Nick Grondin Group plays at Regattabar in Cambridge on Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $16. Call 617-395-7757. There's a YouTube video of one of the group's performances in the photo section.