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The Grass Gypsys: Press

Chances are, a singer and guitarist from a college jazz band wouldn't foresee a career as an acoustic duo trying to make its way on the coffeehouse circuit. But that's just the path Quincy's Colleen Rusconi and guitarist Justin Kleya, a Millis native, have taken with The Grass Gypsys.
    The pair call their music ....acoustic fusion'' and it is their goal to shake up preconceptions of what small format acoustic music can be.
   They bring in their shared jazz background, as well as world music, folk, blues and rock influences, and they have a handful of local gigs coming up.
Tonight finds The Grass Gypsys at O'Brien's in Allston; Sunday  they visit Medway's Coffee Sensations and Wednesday  they swing into My House in Quincy.
 Rusconi and Kleya met while both were members of the UMass-Boston jazz band and made a musical connection. They went on to play in a world music group together, and formed several jazz combos.
   Sometime after graduation, they went out on their own as a duo.
 ....We really wanted to be able to tour the country, playing music, and it seemed like the duo would be the perfect vehicle for that,'' Kleya explained. ....We definitely look at our music as a fusion, a blend of styles. We both have a firm foundation in jazz, and vocally Colleen is most often compared to Ella Fitzgerald or Norah Jones, with a deep and amazing range, and a smoky quality. My guitar work brings a lot of jazz background into it, too.''
 The pair might perform jazz standards, blues classics, or pop chestnuts, as well as their own tunes.
 ....I'd say we write songs in the folk tradition, but more in a jazz style,'' Kleya said. ....It has not been a very hard sound to sell to clubs and other venues, because it comes out as a pleasing combination – at the basic level, we're all about good songs. They are kinda folkie, kinda jazzy, kinda bluesy, but new and different. We might even cover a Beatles song, for example, but it comes out totally different and fresh.''
 That infectiously melodic and affirmative aura has led to a busy schedule for the duo, and they've played all over the East Coast, the South, and out to the West Coast. Last year they recorded most of their second album in Lexington, before moving out to San Diego to finish it there. The CD, ....Lessons from Eden,'' had its official release in San Diego, and the duo spent much of this spring and summer touring behind it as they worked their way back to New England.
 ....The album is really kind of a chronicle of our past year on the road,'' Kleya said. ....We did a two-month tour, mainly based around route I-10, the highway that runs from San Diego, through the southwest, right down to Florida. We're settling in here again though, and intend to make the Boston area our base. The show at My House is an attempt to branch out in the Quincy area, performing in a club that is not a coffeehouse, but a more typical nightclub setting. We've built our audience with grassroots efforts, and this area is rich musical territory. Out west, venues might be eight hours drive apart, but here in New England you have a lot of places relatively close by.''
 Kleya and Rusconi also got married last summer, so their musical partnership figures to be a long-term one.
 ....The Grass Gypsys is certainly the musical priority for both of us now,'' Kleya said. ....The best thing about this duo with Colleen is that we both feel completely free within it, as if we can take the music wherever it feels right. We're very attuned to each other musically, and on stage things can go in literally any direction, at any time, which is invigorating. So, I would say I see this duo having definite longevity.''
 If the duo format is the prime vehicle, the pair is also experimenting with some added flavors, and the Quincy show will include two more music buddies, Buffalo native and Berklee College of Music grad Brian O'Connell on bass, and Berklee student Dave Scandurra, a multi-instrumentalist/songwriter from Falmouth.
 ....We are calling this our musical collective,'' Kleya said, ....and what we all have in common is positive and hopeful music. We will each play individually, and then play as a four-piece band. It is kind of the electric version of the Grass Gypsys, where we can do even more upbeat and uptempo material. These two guys are incredibly talented, and you'll find the quartet rocks out, and even gets a little funky.''

Jay Miller - The Patriot Ledger (Nov 6, 2008)