Most musicians have their hands full playing one instrument but Enrico Granafei plays two simultaneously in synchronicity with each other - the hands free chromatic harmonica and the nylon string rhythm guitar, making it seem like the harmonica is singing to the guitar. Granafei’s multi-tasking skills are imprinted all over his debut solo offering In Search Of The Third Dimension, released by Miles High Records. His rapport produces dulcet lines with a bucolic country-blues zing inlayed by Italian-jazz motifs. If you visit any bistro or stroll through any piazza in Rome, Italy, chances are likely that you will find that the music played there has a similar vibe to Granafei’s music. Performing a repertoire of American and Brazilian Standards on this album, Enrico Granafei delivers a palette rich in soothing arrangements and emotive improvisations that fluctuate between a swing-jazz saunter and a cheery gallop. His compositions remind me of conductor/composer George Dunning whose scores made such Hollywood productions as Houseboat (1958, starring Cary Grant), The Big Valley (1965), and Wild Women (1970) memorable with audiences. The only difference is that Granafei is a one-man show.
Granafei’s ability to play the chromatic harmonica (include both whole tones and semitones - sharp and flat keys), invented by Vern Smith, and the nylon-string guitar at the same time has opened up a new dimension in his perspective. With absolutely no overdubbing, a point which Granafei continually stresses in the liner notes, it is unperceivable how Granafei accomplishes the movements that he does in these songs, after all Dunning required a full orchestra to do as much. The coordination is extremely complex from Granafei’s point of view as he plays the harmonica up and down creating vertical lines while the guitar chords form horizontal waves that stretch across the length of the melodies. From the vantage point of the listener, it sounds so good and uncomplicated that they never realize what was involved behind the scenes. If people wanted to know what is the 8th wonder of the world, they might very likely agree that it lies in Enrico Granafei’s playing.
Though Granafei heavily concentrates on the technicalities of playing Smith’s tool, the outcome is music that has all the colors and clarity of a full orchestra. Being able to play both sharp and flat keys on the harmonica opens the door to allowing the songs to sound like horns and accordions being played, and the nylon string guitar makes it seem like an upright bass is bubbling softly through the rhythm section. The listener can be fooled into thinking that there are instruments being played which really aren’t there. The songs are all well known American and Brazilian Standards like "Out Of Nowhere" which starts off the album in a cozy ambience of bucolic fluttering rings, and "Meditation" which is coated in lovely sailing melodic phrases. Another standard "Autumn Leaves" has harmonica twirls that tickle the senses and a soothing feel that cradles the listener in warmth. Granafei's vocals resonate with a Michael Buble intonation as his chords entwine along the soft tones of "You’d Be Nice To Come Home To," and the ethnic-jazz flavoring of "Calabrossa" shows Granafei singing in a dialect that is native to his homeland of Southern Italy. Granafei's vocals are exquisite and definitely another asset in his coffer. The jaunt of blossoming chords opening along "Bag’s Groove" propels a swing-jazz gallop, while the soft Latin flames of "The Shadow Of Your Smile" prop an elegant strut. The Rio de Janero feel of "Wave" is governed by bossa nova accents, and the time changes of "Favors" has Granafei going through a vigorous workout.
Enrico Granafei started his profession as a classical guitarist after graduating from the Conservatory of L’Aquila, in Italy. He taught guitar and performed in jazz ensembles for several years before he discovered the harmonica when a friend played him the album Affinity featuring Toots Thielemans with Bill Evans. Granafei taught himself to play the harmonica which gave him the impetus to move to New York City where he became entrenched in the city’s jazz clubs. He obtained his Master’s Degree in Jazz Performance from the Manhattan School of Music where he was the only student of Toots Thielemans. He continues to record and perform worldwide and has made guest appearances on recordings for Marc Johnson, Ted Curson, and Nnenna Freelon. Presently, he is the proprietor and musical director of the Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, New Jersey where he resides.