"'Cohabitation' is the ideal, bring-them-to-their-feet track to kick off an album. Brian Betz is stoked by a rhythm section (pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Steve Varner and drummer Jim Miller) that seems to get additional firepower from the song's slightly dissonant bridge, which they use to push the guitarist to a boiling point. His solo begins with short rhythmic phrases that build into fast melodies. He operates the same way on 'Razor Sharp (for Denny),' another fast number. Following a fiery Ridl solo with some upper-register runs, Betz enters playing slow clipped riffs that bounce off and on the beat, eventually cutting into a fast sprint. In 'Carrot Cake,' he shapes and reshapes his ideas, building and twisting them with subtle variations.
Although the quartet sounds most impressive in the fast tempos, it handles the ballads with just as much skill. 'The Twenty-Second Day' moves slowly, with some skilled octave work from Betz. He goes it alone on a version of 'Chelsea Bridge' that shows off the strong, warm tone of his guitar. 'The Shadow of Your Smile' is played uptempo, underlined by Varner's walking bass line.
The Betz quartet might be coming out of a traditional, straightahead approach, but the push and pull of their music makes them stand out from the crowd."
"...a program of original compositions and several classic tunes. His fluid technique allows the leader to push his ideas forcefully when desired, or to float a lovely melodic air with the graceful ease of a ballad. Thus, we're faced with the dichotomy that invites fire and ice into his session. The soft edges of his title track theme, for example, combine with an exotic underlying rhythmic spree to wrap the music in contrasting colors. Betz' red and blue states reveal close cooperation between his cool, lyrical melody and the fiery foundation ignited by drummer Jim Miller, bassist Steve Varner and pianist Jim Ridl. Ballads such as 'The Shadow of Your Smile' and 'Chelsea Bridge' give the session a warm glow that seems to last forever. The leader's 'This Way to the Cape,' as well, settles in comfortably with its tropical theme and underlying current of exotic impressions. Betz brings a soft touch to his melodies and improvises casually as if he were conversing with friends. The cohesiveness of his quartet contributes immeasurably, while his up-front guitar lines remain focused on velvet-like interpretations. Echoes of Wes Montgomery abound...
...both mellow and pumped up. His music demands mood swings. The solo guitar interpretation that Betz delivers with 'Chelsea Bridge,' for example, comes laden with a heavy heart and a soulful smile. 'Multicolored,' on the other hand, fires up the quartet with a driving brushfire that clears the countryside for miles around, as the guitarist 'blows' animatedly. His improvised art builds excitement, and his stellar quartet ensures quality. Solos from Varner, Ridl, and Miller lend considerable verve to the session. Betz' dichotomy between warm ballads and fiery romps gives the program variety along with a genuine mainstream charm."
"...an exceptionally cohesive quartet...
Betz's guitar shows no overt stylistic influence, though his slightly oblique feel for harmony might put some listeners in mind of Jim Hall; this is best exemplified by his solo reading of Billy Strayhorn's 'Chelsea Bridge.' His innate feel for that composer's sometimes melancholy moods is joy for the ears.
...Betz's work is lyrical at the same time as it hints at all sorts of harmonic possibilities.
...the outcome is music that on one level is agreeable background, but on another has substance enough to reward closer and repeated listening. More specifically, lovers of jazz guitar played in the idiom of the sometimes pervasive-seeming post bop mainstream will find much to enjoy here."
- All About Jazz
"...ranges from the cooking to the romantic.
...a ripped and respectable session. Ridl is pretty fiery on 'You Stepped Out of a Dream.' Then the quartet gets all liquid and dreamy on 'The Twenty-Second Day.'
Betz is a versatile guitarist who doesn't stomp around without purpose. His solo take of Billy Strayhorn's 'Chelsea Bridge' is pleasantly moody. The title track is modern and challenging, while 'Razor Sharp (for Denny)' fires at an up-tempo rate without feeling rushed. Ridl uncorks some monstrous runs to the frenetic pace set by Miller and Varner."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"...Betz uses Ridl's trio on Dichotomy, a program of 10 tunes (all but three of them originals) that kicks off in high gear with his 'Cohabitation.' Billy Strayhorn's 'Chelsea Bridge' is a lovely solo effort, while 'You Stepped Out of a Dream' engages all four in some fascinating counterpoint on the intro and outro. The hottest track is 'Razor Sharp,' where Ridl really rips it up."
- Chico News & Review
"'Dichotomy' is one of your 'best Betz' for 'real jazz' listening. Betz...was named one of nine finalists in the 2004 Betty Carter International Jazz Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
The lead cut, 'Cohabitation' proves Betz to be a fresh and facile voice on the local scene with a lyric facility and sense of ease devoid of pretentiousness... The Afro-Cuban influenced title cut, 'Dichotomy' seemingly has no contradictions, musical or otherwise, but rather maintains a consistent energy as the guitar and piano work unfolds...
Betz shifts gears and turns to the great, American songbook and Johnny Mandelís 'The Shadow of Your Smile.' This is a really tasty treatment with subtle reharmonizations and some very nice swinging solo work by Betz, Ridl, and an overdue turn by Varner...
Betz sticks with the standards for one more track with 'You Stepped Out of a Dream.' Ridl plays counterpoint piano over the guitar melody from the very start, resulting in an interesting and creative rendering of an old warhorse...
'The Twenty-Second Day' evokes the thoughtfulness of Chick Coreaís 'Crystal Silence' and the ethereal charm of Manciniís 'Dreamsville.' I find myself pondering its inspiration but not that of the next cut, 'Razor Sharp (For Denny).' This tune is a burner. Check out Jim Ridlís blistering solo and his exchange with Betz. Great drum work by Miller.
...This is a well-recorded, nicely produced collection of originals and evergreens, displaying top-shelf musicianship."
Personnel: Bassist Steve Varner, drummer Jim Miller, pianist Jim Ridl and special guest Denis DiBlasio (baritone saxophone and flute) interpreting seven original compositions by Brian Betz:
"Water and Oil" / "Peaches" / "Without a Doubt" / "5th St. Bossa" / "Williams Redemption" / "Monday Morning" / "Wine Is Fine" / "All of Me" / "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"
Download individual tunes or entire CDs in MP3 format!
What the critics say:
"Guitarist Brian Betz...assembles a heavyweight crew for this respectable outing...(a) dark, often quiet disc of mostly Betz originals...
He sounds dreamy at slow tempos and is developing well, but the baritone sax and flute work of Denis DiBlasio takes matters to a high level. DiBlasio...serves as an energy generator, and pianist Jim Ridl's poetic sense of color keeps you wanting more. Bassist Steve Varner and drummer Jim Miller help make this intelligent session happen."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Philadelphia guitarist Brian Betz is the latest in a series of exceptional musicians...deserving of notice. Saxophonist and flutist Denis DeBlasio in particular assists with force and sensitivity, enlarging the sonic perspective of the music that Betz has written...on 'Peaches,' the second track, Betzís fluid and reassuring tone comes through in leisurely three-four time...it becomes clear that Betzís attention remains fixed on tonal quality as he develops wordless narratives in each of his tunes. 'Williams Redemption,' for example, starts with Betzís unhurried introduction as the chord changes are considered for their intrinsic value before pianist Jim Ridl deepens the richness with broad harmonies of slowly shifting internal movement. 'Without A Doubt' proceeds with a slight shuffle of repeated phrases, allowing for improvisational elaboration after the first chorus. But still, the salient characteristic of the tune is Betzís glowing tone and his apt choice of notes as he constructs layer upon layer of meaning with grace and professional maturity. 'Without a Doubt' is a fine first recording for Betz as he fulfills his compositional intentions with engaging performances that reach out to listeners in reassuring musical conversation."
- Jazz Review
"'Water and Oil' gets the show rolling with DiBlasio's boisterous baritone playing the latter substance to Betz's former in a galvanizing opening salvo...forwarded on the propulsive current of the Ridl-led rhythm section. 'Peaches' cools the mood through the demulcent tones of DiBlasio's flute, which mesh melodically with the leader's mellow, slowly evolving figures. Once again Varner and Miller shape a porous surface for the soloists to stretch out across and the piece shows the quintet to be equally versed in ballad fare. '5th St. Bossa' covers the Brazilian-flavored bases in laidback fashion and offers another opportunity to witness the close communication between Betz's gossamer smooth strings, DiBlasio's lilting, trilling flute and Ridl's attentive comping. The clean riffing of 'Williams' Redemption' marks a welcome return of DiBlasio's weighty horn as muscular foil to Betz's serpentine frets and the pair trade off solo choruses to fine effect on the cerulean suffused changes. Betz's a capella preface on 'Monday Morning' delivers some of his most contemplative chording of the session...'Wine Is Fine' develops an enveloping tension thanks to the minor-keyed interplay of the rhythm section and Ridl's sparse, vaguely unsettling right hand accents. Betz's own spidery patterns find an accomodating niche in the loping time signature of the piece...Guitarists abound with nearly the same populous frequency as pianists in Jazz and it's a tough prospect carving out a personalized sound. On the impressive merits of this release, Betz seems well on his way."
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