Denise La Grassa

is known in Chicago and now central Illinois as a talented songwriter, and soulful vocalist of immense power and feeling. Her 2009 album "April Dreams" received critical praise from numerous outlets, including Jim DeRogatis of NPR's Sound Opinions. "The Blues Ain't a Color" is the soundtrack to her most recent original "Jazz-Theater" show of the same name. Denise is heading to the studio this summer to record "Sunshine in the Toxic Ballroom," a collection of new songs inspired by today's political unrest and the #metoo movement. 

Denise is also a talented actor, with credits including the made for HBO movie Hometown Boy Makes Good, numerous musicals in the Windy City, and on-camera work for the Entertainment Magazine style TV shows "Wild Chicago" and "Art Beat Chicago." She has also won a number of regional Emmy's in her role as producer for those aforementioned shows. La Grassa is also a critically acclaimed comedic writer and performer, having performed with The Second City Touring Company and original one person shows around Chicago, as well as New York City and Europe.

April Dreams

Denise La Grassa

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The Blues Ain't a Color

Denise La Grassa

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A veteran of the Second City Touring Company, suburban Chicago native Denise La Grassa made her mark in that talented troupe with a bit called "Make-A-Song," writing and performing tunes on the spot based on any topic the audience shouted out. That loose, carefree and immediate vibe still permeates her third album, the recent DIY release "April Dreams," but don't let it fool you into thinking the music is tossed-off.

With an impressive but never showy range and a self-assured, conversational delivery that brings to mind a jazzier Aimee Mann, La Grassa offers uniquely personal and melodically powerful takes on romance in standout originals such as "Yesterday's Replay" and "Best Day," while local producer Matt Thompson (the Mighty Blue Kings, Frisbee) captures the spare but perfect accompaniment of a four-piece backing band.

- Jim DeRogatis

Chicago Sun-Times Pop Music Critic & NPR's "Sound Opinions" Host

      

The music I’ve recorded for this CD comes from my Jazz-Theater show The Blues Ain’t a Color, and was made possible by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. In this show, and in many other Jazz-Theater shows I’ve performed, I strive to bring the element of jazz improvisation to my theater pieces by blending the two artistic disciplines into one story, creating a space for jazz and theater to meet and form new artistic exchanges.

In my view, Jazz music has lost a connection to “the street.” With Jazz-Theater, I am showing that this music can and should be connected to "the street" in order to give it context.  The video and visual elements in my shows give context to the song, making an emotional connection to story.  Jazz and blues music are connected to human situations and emotions. We are connecting what is happening on the stage to current events. Therefore we are expanding the community relationship to jazz, and in this show blending jazz and blues as community to have shared experiences with the music. The jazz is not distant and difficult to relate to. Rather, It is directly related to social and cultural issues of interest to the audience.  Many of the jazz standards of our time came from the musical theater stage. The Blues Ain’t a Color continues this tradition.
 


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