George Grosman has traveled the world playing music with some of the biggest names in jazz before finally settling here in Winter Haven.
Like many others in the 1960s, Grosman fell in love with music when he first heard the Beatles in his home of Prague, Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. “I’m living in a communist country, so our access to music was limited. We could get it, but it was limited,” he said. “We had relatives in Detroit and my Mother had family in Israel. Occasionally, they would send me a record. So that’s what fueled it.” He wanted to start by learning to play the trumpet but was discouraged because he was thought to have a heart-condition. He then pursued his second interest, the guitar.
At ten years old, he was made to learn classical guitar, which requires the player to hold the guitar in the proper position and lessons can be merely learning scales, which Grosman found boring. An older family friend who played guitar then taught him other styles of music that he learned from playing records over and over again. “I’m 14 years old and I’m learning songs off of records. Put the needle on. Learn one chord. Take it off. Practice it. Put the needle back on. Learn the next chord. By the time you do this a hundred times there’s nothing left of the record.”
When Czechoslovakia tried to democratize in 1968, reformist trends began to develop and a new feeling of freedom created a new atmosphere within the country. “The whole communist façade was crumbling. They opened up the borders and the press and there was this huge wave of freedom. It was like everyone was drunk,” he said. “There were more rock clubs opening and jazz clubs.” An older friend would smuggle him into the clubs and Grosman was able to see some of the hottest acts of the time.
He put together his first band and their very first gig was at a girls’ boarding school. At this same time, Grosman was also starting to write songs and poetry. When the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August of 1968 to take control of the country again, Grosman’s family decided to leave the country and moved to Israel. Although moving to Israel was a bit of a culture shock, Grosman decided he needed to get back to his music and formed a band right away. He lived in Israel for nine years playing with some of the most well known acts on the Israeli music scene.
Grosman wanted to live in an English-speaking country and decided to move to London to study music at the Guildhall School of Music. He then went on to get a music degree from the Royal College of Music in London and a master’s degree from the University of Essex. While working on his thesis statement, he noticed an advertisement on an university bulletin board for teaching assistants at the University of Toronto. He got the job and moved to Canada in 1980. Still playing and writing, he decided in 1995 that he wanted to play music full-time. He became established within the Toronto jazz music scene playing at the prestigious Toronto Jazz Festival on more than a few occasions. Along with live performances, he continued to teach, write and produce music and work with studios.
After too many cold winters and cold gigs in Canada, Grosman decided he wanted to move to the Central Florida area. Grosman took lessons from the late Larry Coryell, a legendary jazz guitarist known as the “Godfather of Fusion.” He became good friends with Coryell who later
sponsored his work visa to the United States in 2011. Grosman soon became established in the Orlando music scene playing at Disney and Universal and as a studio guitarist and vocalist for Full Sail University and other studios around the Central Florida area.
He moved to Winter Haven in 2016 and decided he wanted to find a place in Polk County that could offer music fans great jazz music once a week. He approached Ashley and Brett Hill, the owners of Fire Restaurant in downtown Winter Haven about having a regular mid-week residency gig at the restaurant. The Hills were receptive to the idea, so Grosman found upright bass player, Holly Cordero and drummer, Sam Farmer and they formed The Fire Jass Trio, which now plays every Wednesday night at Fire Restaurant from 6 to 8 p.m. (The spelling of “jass” is intentional. According to George, that’s the way it used to be spelled back in the 1920’s and they liked the look of it!)
“I wanted to establish a place in Winter Haven where people know it’s mid-week and they can come in and enjoy some quality jazz every Wednesday,” he said. “There are tons of places like that in New York and Atlanta and big cities. I wanted to establish that right here.”
Watch The Fire Jass Trio every Wednesday at Fire Restaurant
325 W Central Ave, Winter Haven, FL 33880