For fans of Pockets, check out our musical alter ego"Grainger" here
When Gary Grainger speaks, it’s usually in clean bass tones articulated in musical dialects ranging from fusion to pure jazz. Music aficionados everywhere have heard a lot of what Gary has to say.
From his early days with soul singer Luther Ingram to his years as a member of Earth, Wind and Fire's protégé band " Pockets" to his contribution to John Scofield's celebrated quartet, Gary Grainger is talking bass, bass, and more bass.
A self-taught player, Gary learned the bass as a teenager. He gave up his interest in drums when his father brought home an old electric bass given to him by a co-worker. Gary also toyed with the tuba and sousaphone in high school. Though surrounded by musical influences for most of his early life, at 18, Gary enrolled as an art major at Morgan State University in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. He kept his interest in the bass alive by playing in local bands on weekends when his studies permitted- While at Morgan, Gary became involved with both the marching and stage bands.
His local, after hours playing began to expand outside of Baltimore into the clubs up and down the Washington Baltimore Corridor. In 1974, Gary joined soul singer Luther Ingram on a four month gig in Florida. After Ingram, Gary returned home and joined a fusion band called Inner Visions which was later transformed into the Columbia label recording group Pockets. Between 1978 and 1981, Pockets recorded three albums and
toured as EWF"s opening act.
Subsequent to Pockets, Gary began to freelance doing studio sessions. Between Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and New York. During this point of his career, he met EumirDeodato and recorded two albums with him: Night Cruise and Happy Hour. Fortunately, 1986 was not to be the year of exception. Upon hearing one of Gary's live performances on tape, guitarist John Scofield inducted him into his quartet to create the bass platforms that would support Scofield's own style and musical vision.
In 1993, Gary, his Brother Greg and their partner Tony Bulluck, the tour manager for Whitney Houston, developed a sophisticated mini-recording studio. Through a very effective use of space and some creative engineering concepts, the trio designed Hillview Studios to support musicians who want to bridge the two worlds of acoustic and digital sound. Since then, they have been busy producing a broad range of artists whose music runs the gamut from jazz and rap to pop and gospel, as well as creating original jingles and music scores for Umbro Sports, ABC Sports/Nutmeg Mills, Rudo Sports and others.
Gary's other recent endeavors include, both performing and studio work with Maysa, Lonnie L. Smith, Pure Soul, Nancy Wilson, Dennis Chambers and George Duke in the Walt Disney's Clinton Inauguration Special "Celebrations for Youth", also Eric Marienthal, Slim Man, Nelson Rangel, The WPG Trio, Less Traveled and Ken Navarro to name a few. Grainger was also the opening act for the East Coast All Star Jazz ensemble at the Carter Barron Amphitheater in Washington D.C in July of 2004.
In 2019, Gary released his third album "Grainger Phase III" with his brother Greg. "Grainger Phase I and Phase II" were very well received by the public winning 3 Wamma awards, 1997,1998 and 2000. Gary's excitement about the collaboration with Greg is contagious as he explains: "These projects are a serious effort for me. Whenever Greg and I join forces we create a very dynamic chemistry. That's what we're going to get on tape-that special magic that happens between us when we play together. It’s a family thing I guess.”
One of Gary’s finalized endeavors include, The Meritxell Project, a CD with a blend of Contemporary, World, Latin, Funk and R&B. This CD features the vocal styles of Meritxell Negre. Gary is now touring with Bill Evans, the international group Acoustic Alchemy, and currently working on a new signature series bass line with PRS (Paul Reed Smith).
The reunion of his band Pockets has become a successful come back project, and the group is currently working on booking events for 2020.
As a small boy growing up in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, Greg was weaned on the grooves and rhythms of such acts as Parliament and Weather Report. He began drumming at age seven, jamming with his musical family and neighbourhood buddies.
Greg says, “Even as a kid I ate drums, drank drums, and even dreamt about drums. I didn’t want to be good, I wanted to be better than good.” At the age of 14, his efforts and aspirations received more encouragement when he was awarded a scholarship to the highly respected Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University.
His world debut came at the age of 19 as the youngest member of the group Pockets, the protégé band of Earth, Wind and Fire. The group produced three albums with Earth, Wind, & Fires’ Verdine White. The Pockets experience was followed by a stint with Peaches and Herb on their Reunited tour. In 1988 he was chosen to play for Whitney Houston on one of her most successful world tours.
“When you’re working with other artists, it’s all about support,” he explains. “For me, it’s about being creatively aware and weaving into the musical fabric that’s happening at that moment. When I work with singers, it’s about paying attention to what they’re singing and the way they’re singing it. In a purely instrumental setting, however, the focus is a little different. There, you get your feel from playing along with all those instruments and getting the music to happen on its own level”.
In the early nineties, Greg developed an interest in studio production. Taking time off from touring, he studied computer programming and audio engineering; combining those new found skills with his experience as a sought after session player for such clients as PBS, CBS, Warner Brothers and MCA on numerous album, radio and television projects, he became an accomplished and sought after producer.
“At the time it seemed only natural for me to become a producer. I had worked with a lot of producers and artists and felt that I would like having control over the technical and creative processes involved with music production, and the unlimited creative possibilities that the studio environment offers”. And so in 1993 along with his brother Gary (a world renowned bassist) and Tony Bullock (Whitney Houston’s tour manager), he built Hillview Studio. That studio has produced many local artists as well as music for national commercials for Umbro Sports and ABC television.
Something very close to Greg’s heart is The Musicianship. The charity was inspired by Greg’s daughter Dianne to help provide instruction to children who may otherwise not have the opportunity to study music and who are suffering from an underfunded school music program. You can learn more about the charity at www.themusicianship.org.
In recent years Greg has managed to remain busy as a producer and session player, while maintaining a rigorous touring schedule, playing with such artists as Kim Waters, Acoustic Alchemy, Maysa and the Sax Pack. He is also the ‘house drummer’ for PRS guitars meaning he regularly gets to play behind such rock legends as Santana, Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Mark Tremonte (Creed). As if that wasn’t enough, he recently released a third album titled Phase III for “Grainger”, the band he has with his brother Gary (the first two albums Phase 1 and Phase 2 have received world-wide critical acclaim), and has recently co-founded G*Funk, described as the funkiest jam band on the planet.
CURRENT MEMBERS OF POCKETS
GARY W. GRAINGER
GREGORY K. GRAINGER
ORIGINAL POCKETS MEMBERS
Original Members 1976 - 1981
IMANI FREEDOM (2016-2018)