Essential New Music: Danny Paul Grody’s “Arc Of Day”

Arc Of Day cues you right away: This is music that deals with the passage of time. Time, of course, is something that many folks have been thinking about recently. During the pandemic, some had way too much of it, while others found themselves left with no time at all. Danny Paul Grody may know about such things, but that’s not what he evokes on this LP, his first longplayer in a decade to make it to wax. This sequence of six instrumentals is more about being as present as possible to the only time you really have: the moment you’re in.

Of course, one might be more motivated to tune in if one happens to be in the presence of beauty, and that’s another thing that Arc Of Day evokes. The San Francisco-based guitarist’s patient picking on both six- and 12-string instruments stirs images of the sort of natural vistas that you don’t have to work too hard to find if you take a coastal road out near the Bay Area and choose the right turn-off. On opening track “Daybreak,” Grody picks ascending melodies on an acoustic 12-string. As the pitches climb and the notes ring out, it’s easy to imagine light and breeze hitting your face. Advance a couple tracks to “California Angelica,” and the way that Jonathan Sielaff’s clarinet lines wind out and away from Grody’s gambling rhythms might impel you to stick your nose out and try to sniff the titular blossom’s fragrance. As Grody’s reverberant electric lead elongates and fades on lengthy closer “Slow Walk,” you might find your eyes looking for the horizon, the better to see the sun’s retreat. 

This is Grody’s first LP to feature significant contributions from other players. Arc Of Day wouldn’t be so compelling without the contributions of a circle of like-minded West Coasters, whose swaying rhythms, winding woodwinds and swooping pedal-steel flourishes add instrumental color and emotional resonance. During the COVID era, a lot of musicians turned, for obvious reasons, to solo work. But if the trials of recent times taught Grody anything, it’s the value of community. 

—Bill Meyer