CD1: "That's All" / "Yes In Deedy" (take 1) / "I'll Never Be the
Same" / "Bob-ba-Lou" / "If You Never Come to Me" / "Mood Indigo" / "I
Want to Be Happy" / "Silent Night" / "All of You" / "No More Blues" /
"Sophisticated Lady" / "Yes In Deedy" (take 2)
CD2: "Razor Sharp" / "Good Bait" / "Solar" / "What Is This Thing Called
Love" / "Where to Now?" / "Wormburner" / "Softly As In a Morning
Sunrise" / "Billie's Bounce"
"The Days of Wine and Roses" / "Aria" / "Pacific Ride" / "View
from Pikes" / "Tear Up an Anvil in an Open Field" / "Abbraccio" / "He
Owns the Place" / "A New Kind of Tired" / "Whereyabin" / "Tenderly"
"This brash duet recording finds two pros hanging out on new turf. Denis DiBlasio is perhaps better known as baritone saxophonist, but...holds forth on flute with fellow Rowan faculty member Brian Betz on acoustic guitar.
The eight originals - six by DiBlasio - create their own worlds. Sometimes it's a sassy and bluesy groove, as on DiBlasio's 'Jackson Square.' Other times, it's a more mellow vibe, as on Betz's winsome 'Baby Bree.'
DiBlasio and Betz are pretty expressive in either mode, and they reach high. DiBlasio's haunting 'In Pieces' is dedicated to his father's long struggle with Alzheimer's."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"...(T)heir aesthetic credentials are impeccable: anyone who
dedicates a CD to the octogenarian master Bucky Pizzarelli gets my
approval. DiBlasio and Betz create lilting melodies, swing
effortlessly, let their creations breathe. Technicially assured, they
never overwhelm listeners with notes. DiBlasio plays the baritone
saxophone as if were pocket-sized, with an easy lightness. His work on
'That’s All' reminded me of Zoot Sims; it has the same indefatigable
rhythmic engine. His samba-flavored
'Sophisticated Lady' was respectful but innovative. And his flute work
on five tracks is delightful, because he avoids clichés. The first
thing to praise
about Betz is his lovely sound - I could enjoy hearing him play the
notes as written, and he, too, has a singular rhythmic drive. His
'I’ll Never Be the Same' is fulfilling in itself, and he could easily
support a large group on his own. In this duo, two voices combine to
far larger than themselves.
The second CD, recorded live at Chris’ Jazz Café, adds notable players
(melodic bassist Varner shines on 'Solar') in front of a well-behaved,
clearly appreciative audience, showing how nicely DiBlasio and Betz fit
into a more straight-ahead Jazz combo, with fine work from tenorist
DeLoach (DiBlasio’s equal at constructing logical yet twisting lines)
and the concise, crackling drummer Miller."
"This swinging double CD shows off two sides of a
generation-bridging collaboration. The first disc balances euphoric
burners with earnest ballads as DiBlasio, former musical director of
the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra, weaves delightful melodies on baritone
saxophone and flute, dancing around his young protege's chunky guitar
rhythms and nimble solos...when the larger group clicks, as in the
red-hot 'Wormburner,' it's an electric blowing session that almost
matches the first half's more subtle charms."
"...Needless to say, DeLoach and Diblasio’s interplay is
consistent and hard-bopping at all times. The rhythm section of Betz,
Varner and Miller hold firm on a series of blistering tempos - not for
'What Is This Thing Called Love' is likely the most telling track of
this whole CD. Denis DiBlasio and Gerry DeLoach bob hard and fast in a
fury of notes climaxing in an old-school tenor (albeit tenor and
baritone) battle of years gone by. DeLoach’s haunting and pensive
ballad 'Where To Now?' remains the only departure from some textbook
bebop playing demonstrated by all at Chris’ Jazz Café that evening.
Having witnessed more music-per-pound on disk two than I bargained for,
my ears were ready for a ballad. I was not disappointed by DiBlasio and
Betz on the first duo disk either. Although it is unwise to compare
studio and live recordings, here it is striking to note the different
approach between quintet and duo. Betz’ guitar provides the perfect
orchestration for this less-familiar side of DiBlasio. When he bops
hard on the baritone there is great resonance and edge to his sound.
DiBlasio’s baritone sax here is mellow and tender. Shades of Mulligan
creep in here and there until he barks out a low note or two reminding
the listener that he can go into overdrive at anytime. The
more-familiar sound of flute and guitar are highlighted on two separate
takes of 'Yes In Deedy,' dedicated to Philadelphian Harrison Ridley,
Jr. Lastly, what guitar and flute duo would be complete without a Jobim
tune? The duo plays a noteworthy tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim on 'No
Denis DiBlasio has long been known for his hard-edged baritone, scat
vocals and solo flute demonstrations on the college circuit. He is a
mainstay in music education in New Jersey and across the US. It is a
pleasure to hear him side-by-side with colleagues and former students -
laying it down!"
"The first CD, a duet recording with Betz, features a
cross-section of standards and originals. DiBlasio is a terrific
player, capable of capturing energy bolts and exuding great lightness
of being. 'Yes In Deedy' pays tribute to WRTI's longtime jazz DJ
Harrison Ridley Jr., while a couple of Ellington standards, 'Mood
Indigo' and 'Sophisticated Lady,' underscore DiBlasio's big band links
and show Betz in a pleasant light.
...(T)hen it's time for DiBlasio's quartet...live at Chris' Jazz Cafe,
the quartet is a barn burner, full of energetic soloing and harmonic
derring-do. Maynard would be proud."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"...DiBlasio’s 'View from Pikes' proves once again that his
distinctive style both on baritone sax and flute is not only
technically astounding, as proven by his jaw-dropping performance on
'Tear Up an Anvil in an Open Field,' but also richly appealing whether
on ballads like 'Tenderly' or his interpretation of Eugene Bozza’s
So confident is DiBlasio in the rhythmic abilities of his accompanists
that he plays without drums. That’s as it should be. Jim Ridl has
proven again and again to be eminently adaptable to any musical
situation. And he proves it yet again. Whether he lays down the cushion
of feathery treble-clef chords leading into the impressionistic 'View
from Pikes' or whether he plays in unison with DiBlasio’s flute the
jumping blues line of 'Whereyabin,' Ridl handles the difficult feat of
back-up and rhythmic foundation with assured professionalism. More than
that, DiBlasio and Ridl feed ideas to one another, a fact that is
unmistakably evident on 'Whereyabin' as they trade fours and pick up
one another’s phrases. Bassist Steve Varner holds everything together
with firmness and a confident feel for the music. Varner's loping
phrases on 'A New Kind of Tired' set the mood for the piece, and his
walking lines underlying the melody forcefully anticipate the beat on
But listen to how cleverly and logically DiBlasio develops his solo on
'Pacific Ride' as he employs the entire range of the baritone sax -
-jabbing here, descending through turns and mordants, growling and
wailing, always keeping the sense of swing inherent in his music. On
'Abbraccio,' DiBlasio uses delicacy rather than force to attract the
Two standards, 'The Days of Wine and Roses' and 'Tenderly,' bookend the
CD, wrapping the music contained with familiarity. The trio eases into
the songs with professionals’ attention to the saxophone’s tone, the
piano’s touch and the bass’s pull. This is a trio of musicians who
obviously have performed together often, and the result is recommended
- jazz review.com
"...In addition to possessing strong chops on baritone and
also an accomplished scat-singer. His approach on his main ax is closer
in kin to Mulligan with an airy,
rounded tone and a general avoidance of the horn's more guttural,
brazen qualities. Pianist Jim Ridl
joins bassist Steve Varner in supplying active, yet supple, support.
Ridl's long-standing partnership
with the leader comes through in a lithe two-handed style that makes
use of the entire keyboard. His
comping on the opening 'Days of Wine and Roses' is the first in a
series of gorgeously calibrated contributions.
Varner's nimble fingerings alternate from walking patterns to intricate
improvisations and the
resonant properties of his strings come through beautifully in the mix.
As for the fare, it's predominately
from DiBlasio's songbook with the aforementioned standard and two
others, including a ravishing rendering of 'Tenderly,' nodding
knowingly toward Jazz tradition. Three of the originals carry
personal dedications and parts exude the feel of a love poem to a
spouse, particularly the verdant
'Aria' where DiBlasio channels a Websterian rasp through his reed and
piles on palpable romance.
'Pacific Ride' traffics in elastic swing with Varner laying down a
trotting groove and Ridl spinning off
harmonic asides. The leader constructs a rhythm-rich solo along the
scenic route plied by his partners
and the piece wraps up modestly in under six minutes. Enigmatic in
title, 'Tear Up an Anvil in an
Open Field' also contains some of the hardest swinging of the entire
session with DiBlasio hardening
his sound and attack and charging joyously through a folkish set of
changes. The title piece and
this are features for DiBlasio's flute, feathery and tonally
contrastive to his big horn, but no less effective
in communicating earnest emotion. As a mainstream baritone-fronted date
with an accessible
twist, this disc hits the spot and shows the leader as a player well
deserving of wider recognition."
"...(It's) so good for what it does that it deserves attention.
View from Pikes provides consistent listening pleasure from start to
finish. The absence of drums actually facilitates the sweet, laidback
playing of the Denis DiBlasio/Steve Varner/Jim Ridl trio, which
maintains the pulse quite well...In this CD, he honors the "cool"
traditions of baritone saxophonists Pepper Adams and Gerry Mulligan as
he leads a musical tour of moods and perspectives evoked by a couple of
standards and a bunch of originals that lope along in a relaxed manner.
The one rapid-fire track, 'Tear Up an Anvil in An Open Field,' jumps
and sparks in the open field of a drum-less trio, making its title an
apt metaphor for a tune that is a cross between a jazzed up Irish jig
and boogie woogie; a number that would have pleased Mulligan, who
frequently spiced up his music with humor.
Since there are no liner notes...the album title, View from Pikes,
remains something of a mystery. While it undoubtedly refers to Pikes
Peak in Colorado, it must have had a personal meaning for DiBlasio, as
reflected in the title tune as well as other song titles that suggest a
hard-working settler there, such as the aforementioned 'Tear up an
Anvil,' 'He Owns the Place' and 'A New Kind of Tired.' Stretching the
metaphor, and, seeing that Pikes Peak is almost half way between L.A.
and New York, the playing melds East and West Coast sounds and styles.
All three musicians have done time in Philadelphia, which is noted for
its stable of excellent, dedicated musicians, some of whom, like Ridl,
have used the City of Brotherly Love as a home base for careers
elsewhere (but keep coming back on occasion), and some of whom, like
the great tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna, take up lifetime residence
here and whose influence on DiBlasio is unmistakable. Varner, heard
around Philly in numerous contexts, is a top of the line bassist who,
in this CD, artfully sustains the light rhythmic pulse throughout.
Ridl, a truly amazing pianist with enormous creativity and grasp of the
idioms that comprise jazz, is a perfect accompanist for DiBlasio, and
his solos have their own inner beauty and structure, adding to the CD's
interest; one of those special items - juicy, easy-going, and flowing -
that bears repeated listening.
"DiBlasio’s intimately lyrical...
Exposing the baritone sax as a single horn in an acoustic trio doesn’t
happen very often...and Denis DiBlasio ups the ante on View from Pikes
by going drumless, with just pianist Jim Ridl and bassist Steve Varner,
recalling Jimmy Giuffre’s trios of a half-century ago. Although there
are tracks here where DiBlasio evokes the jaunty rumble of the baritone
sax in tandem with punchy rhythms, slow tempos where he exploits the
tough-tender corduroy tone of the baritone prevail, with DiBlasio
weaving smooth, fluent and nimble lines on two standards: a stroll
through 'Days of Wine and Roses' and a languorous bath in 'Tenderly.'
His own ballads are lyric sonatas, close to elegiac in tone, including
one where he plays flute. Ridl adds substantially to the deeply lyrical
feel of the ballads and playful swing of the uptempos."
"...DiBlasio is at his most simpatico here.
...a gentle oasis of a set...on a session of mostly originals, he's
mellow and often focused on pulchritude.
Ridl's intro on the title track is pretty gorgeous, and DiBlasio's
flute makes the view come closer.
DiBlasio...shows grace, too, as a composer. 'Whereyabin' exudes a
nervous energy, while 'Tear Up an Anvil in an Open Field' is a
barn-burner of a tune that invites the leader to gurgle pleasantly on
the baritone. DiBlasio also gives the standard 'Tenderly' some serious
ballad feel. This ranks as one of his best recordings."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
PLEASE NOTE: Denis DiBlasio's previous
releases featuring pianist Jim
Ridl, Thelonious Monk Bass Competition First-Place
Winner Darryl Hall
and and guest vocalist Suzanne
on "Tell Me A Story" ("a gem waiting to be discovered by a wider
audience" - Jazz News) are .
But...you can still download "RHINO," "REFLECTIONS OF
CHILDHOOD/DUETS," "PERPETUAL BAGGAGE
CLAIM," and "LIVE"
Tribute to Buddy Rich" (individual tunes or entire CDs) in MP3 format!
w/ the Rowan University Lab Band; Denis DiBlasio, director (EAR-1073)
DiBlasio directs the Rowan Univertsity Lab Band through one of his
originals, seven of his arrangements (of Ray Noble, Jobim, James Moody,
Freddie Hubbard, Vince Guaraldi and Miles Davis classics), and four
other originals by George Genna, Nick Fernandez and Ed Vezinho.
Personnel: (Soloists) Behn Gillece (vibes),
Johanthan Barnes (trumpet), Pam Levecchia (bassoon & contra
bassoon), Adrian Nikolika (piano), Dave Lackner (alto sax), Owen
Sczerba (baritone sax), Alison Mersiowsky (bass flute & flute),
Chris Arter (guitar), George Rabbai (trumpet), Kara Milici (tenor sax),
Maeve Royce (bass & cello), Nick Fernandez (flugelhorn), Jim
Rattigan (French horn), Bradley Chwastyk (euphonium), Dr. Robert
Rawlins (alto sax), Chis Pastin (drums), Doug Mapp (bass).
/ "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars" / "Capriole" / "Jackson Square" / "I
Doug Where the Mapp Said 'X'" / "Joe Beam" / "Dizzy" / "Little
Sunflower" / "Linus and Lucy" / "Walkin' In the Rain" / "Dig" / "All
What the critics say:
composing, arranging or directing the RULB, DiBlasio does things his
way...instead of envisioning a conventional big band and filling the
chairs with warm bodies, he seeks out students who really want to play
in a band and builds the ensemble around them...It's a melange that
works exceedingly well, thanks to a well-constructed program,
perceptive charts by DiBlasio (eight) and clever
compositions/arrangements...The band, skillfully driven by drummer
Chris Pastin, is splendid throughout, and there are a number of
resourceful solos, especially by Pastin ('Dig'), flautist Allison
Mersiowsky, vibist Behn Gillece and bassoonist Pam Levecchia (featured
on 'Quiet Nights'). DiBlasio, a superb baritone saxophonist, resists
the urge to sit in, but other faculty members do have their say -
trumpeter George Rabbai, alto saxophonist and music department chairman
Robert Rawlins and bassist Doug Mapp. 'All Blues,' the lone selection
recorded in concert, and 'Little Sunflower' include guest appearances
by Jim Rattigan, an acclaimed French horn player with the London
Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras. If you appreciate a
hard-hitting ensemble that swings from a slightly off-center stance,
this is your ticket."
University's Lab Band is unlike most other college-level ensembles,
thanks to director Denis DiBlasio's unusual approach to putting a band
together. Rather than starting with 'this is what we need' and filling
the requisite chairs with warm bodies, DiBlasio enlists talented
musicians who are truly interested in being part of a jazz ensemble and
builds around them. So instead of the customary five-four-five brass
and reeds plus rhythm section, the RULB consists of two trumpets, three
saxophones and rhythm, reinforced by euphonium, French horn, bassoon,
flute, piccolo, vibes and percussion, and DiBlasio shrewdly
consolidates of every one of those components on the band's impressive
second album, 'Collaboration.'
DiBlasio makes certain he has superb charts to work with including
eight of his own and luminous compositions by trumpeter Nick Fernandez,
George Genna ('Capriole') and professor of jazz composition/arranging
Ed Vezinho, co-leader of the blue-chip Vezinho/Ward Big Band ('Joe
Beam'). Everything was recorded in a studio except for the finale,
Miles Davis' minor classic 'All Blues,' arranged by DiBlasio and
featuring cellist Maeve Royce, professor of jazz bass Doug Mapp and
guest French horn soloist Jim Rattigan, whose other employers have
included the London Philharmonic and London Symphony orchestras.
Rattigan also solos on DiBlasio's burnished treatment of Freddie
Hubbard's 'Little Sunflower.'
The album opens with dazzling arrangements by DiBlasio of Ray Noble's
venerable 'Cherokee' and Antonio Carlos Jobim's 'Quiet Nights of Quiet
Stars...' Gillece solos crisply on the bossa 'Joe Beam' and 'Rain,' the
last of which also includes Bradley Chwastyk's gentle euphonium solo,
while professor of trumpet George Rabbai adds his singular voice to
that of Lackner...
There are three more charts by DiBlasio, each one a gem: Vince
Guaraldi's 'Linus and Lucy,' James Moody's 'Dizzy' and another
composition by Miles, 'Dig,' spotlighting the incisive alto saxophone
of Dr. Robert Rawlins, who not only chairs Rowan's music department but
also wrote the informative liner notes.
While the instrumentation may be slightly unorthodox, DiBlasio has
certainly made the most of what he has, and 'Collaboration' is an
especially appropriate name for the RULB's admirable second album."
- All About Jazz.com (1)
many records in your collection feature a song with a contra bassoon
trading solos with a bass flute, bari sax and a wailing electric
guitar? The song is 'Jackson Square,' the group: The Rowan University
Lab Band on 'Collaboration.'
The playing here is consistently top notch, and the arrangements
(mostly by multiple reedman Denis DiBlasio, Director of Jazz Studies at
Rowan) weave the textures and brush the odd combinations of colors with
a deftness and sparkle that rival the sounds on any big band set out
there. Freddie Hubbard's 'Little Sunflower' features perhaps the
prettiest arrangement on the disc, a mix of light (flute) and dark
(French horn, flugelhorn) colorations in front of rich harmonies.
Jobim's 'Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars,' with its beautiful, smooth,
woody bassoon solo stands out as well.
'Capriole,' composed and arranged by George Genna, Professor of Jazz
Piano, reminds me of a cool (post 'Birth of the...') workout, with its
back-and-forth baritone sax/alto sax conversations. And I can't say
enough about the inclusion of the vibraphone (played by Behn Gillece)
here. As on Dave Holland's recent work, the vibes give the
collaborative sound on 'Collaboration' a beautiful luminescent
Miles Davis' 'All Blues' closes the show, a phenomenal live version
with dark blue solos by Maeve Royce on cello and Jim Rattigan on French
horn. It's a gorgeous, deep indigo take on the classic tune.
An excellent set! Seasoned professionals these may not be, but
wonderfully talented musicians they most definitely are.
'Collaboration' can sit on the shelf and alongside (and play on the
stereo before, after or in between) the best big band sounds out there."
- All About Jazz.com (2)
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