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Jazz Review

Joe DiOrio Finds Some Time for Guitar

November 22, 2000|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The old adage, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach," is completely out of line when it comes to guitarist Joe DiOrio. The veteran guitarist's busy schedule includes private lessons, teaching classes at USC, maintaining a full international schedule of seminars and master classes, and publishing a series of guitar instruction books.

But none of these activities in any way diminishes his effectiveness as a player. On Monday night he was the showcase guest artist in John Pisano's guitar night at Rocco's in Bel-Air, performing with Pisano and bassist Dave Carpenter.

DiOrio, a compact, bearded presence, started the opening set with no fanfare at all, quietly outlining the melody and harmonies of the Jerome Kern classic "All the Things You Are." After a couple of rubato choruses, he was gradually joined by Pisano and Carpenter, who added brief, disjunct accents, gradually increasing their own musical flow until all three were in sync, driving forward with a brisk, propulsive swing.

Antonio Carlos Jobim's "How Insensitive" followed in similar fashion--no advance conversation, no planning, only a joint willingness to follow, in collective intuitive fashion, wherever the music led.

The results, which bypassed bossa nova rhythms in favor of a straight-ahead jazz drive, were again impressive, so much so that Pisano remarked to DiOrio, jokingly, "Hey, Joe, the rehearsals really helped a lot!"

His point, of course, was that with veteran artists of this stature, performing material they have been playing for decades, the music has far less to do with rehearsing than it does with the magic that sheer spontaneity can trigger.

That process was firmly in evidence in the following number, a rendering of Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean" that began with a ruminating stroll through the theme, followed by a shift of tempo into a crisply rhythmic set of variations reminiscent of the in-the-pocket drive of Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France.

Pisano, as usual, contributed several of his arching, melodically oriented choruses, and Carpenter added firm, imaginative rhythm support and typically impressive soloing. But the real joy of the evening was hearing DiOrio in one of his rare performances, working in a setting that allowed full, spontaneous expression of his expansive abilities.

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