Popular and Improvised Music

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Ever since he picked up a guitar at age ten, Aaron has been forming rock bands and jazz groups and writing original songs to perform. Here are several notable projects:

Silly Songs


I have always had a silly streak in my songwriting, and I love singing songs that make people laugh. Sugar High, performed in Brooklyn in 2009, is one example.



With Eric Biondo, voice and trumpet; Malina Rauschenfels, cello; Rob Jost, bass; Brook Martinez, drums.

After a hiatus of about six years, I revived the rhythm section of Yoga* and brought in two of my favorite musicians from different worlds, vocalist/trumpeter Eric Biondo and cellist Malina Rauschenfels. Here is a recording of Descending a Staircase from a performance in Washington, DC.



With Jason Hassenstab, saxophone; Rob Jost, bass; Brook Martinez, drums

“Yoga for Big Bodies,” as it was originally known, played its first performance at a Starbucks in the East Village. We went on to perform regularly at the Cornelia St. Café and the Knitting Factory. Early Yoga* songs were vehicles for free improvisation, but by the end the group was playing music that was through-composed. Jason, Rob and Brook were the most supportive and intrepid collaborators a bandleader could hope for, and I credit Yoga* with helping me find my stride as a composer. Here are two recordings from our last gig at the Knitting Factory, in February 2002. Brook Martinez wrote the initial melody that I incorporated into Luminosity.

Slide Left


With Josh Cook, saxophone; Brook Martinez, Drums.

This bass-less trio marked a major turning point in my musical development, and it was the first band for which I composed all original music. Slide Left made its debut at performance series I founded at Judson Memorial Church, a highlight of my years at NYU. In retrospect, I can hear how indebted this band was to two of my all-time favorite groups: Tim Berne’s Big Satan with Marc Ducret and Tom Rainey, and the Paul Motian Trio with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano.

I found this song on a rehearsal recording; I don't think we ever performed it, and I have no idea what it was called.

The Aaron Grad Quintet


With Matt Douglas, saxophone; David Turner, piano; Zachariah Hickman, bass; Marcus Jackson, drums.

This high school quintet recorded a CD, Perhaps in the Spring, a mix of original compositions and jazz standards. This is the title track.