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Rick DiMuzio: First Offerings (2005)

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Rick DiMuzio: First Offerings How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Rick DiMuzio's First Offerings is a very enjoyable album of straight-ahead jazz. DiMuzio, a Boston-based saxophonist and composer, regularly plays in some of the area's best jazz venues, including the Regattabar, Scullers, and Wally's Café. I noted an Eastman School of Music connection with the inclusion of Ray Wright (long-time Chair of Eastman's Department of Jazz Studies and Director of the Eastman Jazz Ensemble before his death in the late 1980s) in the album's acknowledgements. Rick DiMuzio has a master's degree in jazz performance from Eastman, which he followed up with a PhD in composition from New England Conservatory.

Both Rick DiMuzio's playing and composing talents are showcased in this fine first recording, which includes a mix of eight originals, a Sonny Rollins tune, and one songbook standard. Presentation varies from two tenor trios (with bass and drums) to a soprano trio and either quartets or quintets with varying combinations of trumpet, guitar, and piano added to DiMuzio's saxophones, bass, and drums.

The highlights are the two tenor trios, Rollins' "Big House and the standard "Young at Heart. Used by both Joe Henderson and Joe Lovano, the tenor trio is most strongly associated with Sonny Rollins and his 1957 Vanguard recordings. Rick DiMuzio seems to like this format; his tone on these tracks is strong, yet warm and his playing melodic and conversational. DiMuzio's tenor is supported with considerable rapport by the very fine Thomson Kneeland on bass and the superlative John Hollenbeck on drums.

DiMuzio's compositions, which are all settings for improvisition, are very strong melodically. "Waiting for Kate, a quintet with guitar and piano, opens the album attractively with some nice writing in the statement of the theme, which beautifully blends Nate Radley's guitar and Mark Shilansky's piano. "Alpha is an attractive ballad for soprano, piano (Greg Burk), bass, and drums.

Four compositions are grouped as the "Liberty Suite, but no information is provided as to why or what the four individual parts might have in common. The suite is scored for tenor, guitar, trumpet (Phil Grenadier, brother of bassist Larry Grenadier), bass, and drums. These are not fully composed pieces, but like on the album as a whole, settings for solos. Part 1, Head to Head, is underscored with a funky groove created by unison lines of the guitar and bass plus drums. (John Hollenbeck is an active drummer, but his playing always substantially contributes to a composition and the performance.) Guitarist Radley gently opens Part 2, "Night, a very moody, pensive piece, with the theme then stated by Phil Grenadier on trumpet. The third and fourth parts push the edges a bit. These are the most dissonant compositions on the album and the soloists respond in a freer mode.

First Offerings is a fine first effort. This is not a listen-and-file CD; it rewards repeated listening. I look forward to DiMuzio's next recording, which perhaps might include some extended writing.

Visit Rick DiMuzio on the web.


Track Listing: 1. Waiting for Kate; 2. Big House; 3. Alpha; Liberty Suite (4-7) 4. Head to Head; 5. Night; 6. Thou Mayest; 7. Psalm; 8. Common Ground; 9. Philips Follies; 10. Young at Heart

Personnel: Rick DiMuzio - tenor, soprano; Nate Radley - guitar (1, 4-7); Mark Shilansky - piano (1); Thomson Kneeland -bass (1, 2, 4-7, 10); John Hollenbeck drums (1, 2, 4-7, 10); Greg Burk - piano (3, 9); Peter Slavov - bass (3, 8,9); Jamey Haddad - percussion (3, 8, 9)

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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