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Dave Gross - Crawling the Walls


I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Dave Gross twice now as a bandleader for his confidante and musical partner Gina Sicilia. Both times I’ve been impressed at how much knowledge this 20-something guitarist has, and at times knows more than guys twice his age. Gross first burst on the scene like a comet with his 2006 release and 2007-BMA nominated Take the Gamble. The album earned him pretty high praise and the accolades and friendship of the great Bob Margolin. That’s pretty good company to be in for just one album! Since then, Gross has criss-crossed the nation touring with various musicians and playing in various situations to critical acclaim that is not undue. This year, Gross finally got back in the studio to record his follow up, which is just absolutely phenomenal.

Mixing Twenties Jazz, Swing, New Orleans Jazz, Early Rock & Roll, and Blues; this album is a myriad of America’s great lexicon of roots music. If you are a fan of big band arrangements and sounds, this album is clearly the front runner for Album of the Year in that category, hands down. Mixing the great horn work of Gerry Niewood (saxophones, clarinet), Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet), Doug Sasfai (tenor sax), and a few others; the album is a big band swinger, jazzer, and jumper’s oozing aural dream! Gross enlists some Little Richard/New Orleans Rock & Roll complete with horns on the fun “Rock In My Shoe.” Gross handles the early catalog Ike Turner romp “Cubano Jump” with a passion for originality and has a nice rhumba bounce on top of it. He gets up and jumps with the little-know T-Bone Walker side “Inspiration Blues.” The Jimmy Witherspoon-eque but Dave Gross penned original of “You’re Not the One” is my personal favorite. This one comes straight out of a forties jazz and blues club complete with a martini and a cigar. Niewood’s sax smolders and the muted trumpet of Kellso is Gillespie-like blues. You’ll be transported back in time to long days gone by in the popular American music, where musicianship and craftsmanship mattered.

Gross gets in with some down and gritty blues, too. With a fierce growl he tears into the 1955 Bobby Bland single “It’s My Life, Baby” and shows a flair for 50’s Chicago with the original “Find Yourself Another Man” featuring some Little Walter-like chops by cohort Dennis Gruenling on harmonica. Plus, the stinging leads of “Don’t Take Too Long” show a nod to fellow East Coasters Duke Robillard and Ronnie Earl. These are pretty big shoes I’m comparing Gross to, but after seeing him in person, you’ll understand that its not far from the truth.

Gross also single-handedly cuts some pretty nasty swaths of originality in the jazz realm on this disc, too. Copping some riffs but making them all his own, the Django Reinhardt 1937 classic “A Little Love, A Little Kiss” is intimate. Purely Gross and his guitar, this one is gypsy jazz goodness. The original composition “It Was Born In the 20’s” lives up to its name. My clear favorite is the early 20’s jazz pop standard “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home.” This one has a clear tip of the hat to New Orleans.
If you are looking for something old but new, Gross will always be your go-to guy. He has a knack for bringing to life old songs with his own sound but remaining true to the roots. His unrelenting chops will show you he has plenty of tricks up his sleeve that aren’t your typical Stevie Ray Vaughan/blues rock playbook which so many young artists fall into the trap of. His originals are a nod to the past but wholly a giftbag of his influences that all meld into what is Dave Gross and his sound. As I said, this guy is in his mid-twenties and is already leaps and bounds ahead of many in the crowd. Expect more great releases of this caliber to come. Also, you can always expect extreme craftsmanship and taste when you see Gross’ name in the line-up card in anyone’s liner notes for their CD. You’ll be seeing that a lot, as he has a handful of new releases coming up in the next 6 months in which he spreads the wealth of his talents to a bevy of other artists.

Reviewer Ben Cox is a DJ, journalist and musician. Visit his Blog at

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