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Review: Ex-Prince guitarist Donna Grantis explores fusion

March 20, 2019
This cover image released by eOne shows "Diamonds & Dynamite" a release by Donna Grantis. (eOne via AP)
This cover image released by eOne shows "Diamonds & Dynamite" a release by Donna Grantis. (eOne via AP)

Donna Grantis, “Diamonds & Dynamite” (eOne)

Like with Miles Davis or David Bowie, having played with Prince is an entry in a musician’s resume that’s worth a thousand recommendations. Canadian guitarist Donna Grantis spent four years in various capacities with the late artist who once changed his name to an unpronounceable glyph. Among other credits, Grantis wrote the title tune for “PlectrumElectrum,” Prince’s 2014 album with the group 3rdEyeGirl, which she was also part of.

For this eight-track instrumental collection, she has teamed up with a trio of Minneapolis aces — drummer JT Bates, bassist Cody McKinney and keyboard player Bryan Nichols — as well as New York-based, Minneapolis-born tabla virtuoso Suphala.

“Mr Majestic” is a mellow opener, with Grantis varying her guitar’s volume to hover over a lush base provided by electric piano and Suphala’s delicately high-pitched percussion. It’s followed by the title track — a wide-ranging composition darting across the spectrum of funky, jazz-rock fusion — which Grantis says was, as the rest of the album, greatly influenced by her experiences with The Purple One.

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready adds fiery string work to “Violetta” and “Trashformer,” two of the heaviest tracks on the record.

Grantis saves one of the best and most dynamic tunes for last. “Elsa” closes the album with plenty of all-around movement, lively interplay between Suphala and Bates, a fuzzy keyboard solo and some nasty guitar tones.

Recorded live-to-tape in just two days, a pace similar to that of many great jazz albums, “Diamonds & Dynamite” is an experimentally adventurous set, which contains ample evidence why Prince held Grantis in such high regard.

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