Miami jazz sceneIra Sullivan and Jaco Pastorius
I met Ira Sullivan briefly in Chicago, but I got to know him better after I moved to Florida in the late 60's. As far as I'm concerned Ira's the best. I joined his quartet, which was like going to finishing school. Jaco Pastorius was very active on the Miami scene. [Pastorius and Diorio played on Sullivan's Horizon record, 1975]. We played with Ira several gigs, and Jaco continued to play with Ira for several months after I left. I used to go by Jaco's house and play with him. He played stand-up [bass violin] sometimes, and it was as good as anything you heard, but he had broken his wrist one time so it was painful. He had the right flavor and the right everything to play that stand-up. Sweet guy, he was totally straight [no drugs], and we had a nice rapport. I recognized his talent, but I had no idea he'd take off like he did. He was a genius musiciana great pianist, great composer, just a gifted guy.
Guitar duets vs. playing with a piano
I love playing guitar duets. The problem is finding the right guitarist. I think the best accompaniment for a guitar is another guitar. The piano is a little too percussive, and unless you transcend the everyday kind of playingyou're playing and the piano is comping or the piano is playing and you're compingit doesn't work. If you're both playing (in the spirit of a Bach Invention) I think you can get away with it. There are certain piano players I like: Hod O'Brienwe've known each other since we were teen-agers. It was great to rediscover him last year. I was very disappointed I couldn't get on the gig with him last December. I almost delayed the operation, but they told me I had to go in. [Diorio suffered a heart attack and had a bypass operation from which he is recovering.] Hod's coming out [to Los Angeles] again in the summer, and we'll do something.
Teaching is the highest thing you can dohelping people to help themselves or maybe fulfill their dreams. People say I'm a good teacher. It's not easy, though. Some people get energized by it. I don'tI'd much rather be playing and creating, but the economics are such that you can't make anything as a club musician. Teaching is not just one sidedit teaches you a lot. It may start you in a direction you hadn't thought about. That's happened to me many times. Somebody asks me to teach her the chords to this tune. While we're learning the tune I'm learning some new changes or a new reharmonization. I may inspire the student or the student may inspire me. I don't teach formulas. I take each individual where he's at at the moment. I help him work with his weaknesses. I was one of the first teachers at the Guitar InstituteRon Eschete, Howard Roberts, Don Mauch, and myself. I only expected to stay there a few months. The next thing I know I got stuck in it. They finally let me goit was a strange thing. A Japanese guy took over and said, "Jazz is an East Coast thing. Well Joe, we love you, but that's it."
Somewhere along the line I started playing that way. This is just an example: you play a simple scale from C to C. Let's take every other note and put it in another register. So you've C and you've got D. But D is not in its normal positionit's an octave above. The next note, E, will stay where it is. The next note F goes up an octave. G is in its normal position and so on. You're jumping aroundit's almost like watching a heartbeatit doesn't stay in one direction. A lot of people became interested in it, but it takes a good technique to do it so I don't teach it too early on. You should learn how to play more inside first. These wide intervals make you sound more contemporary or outside.
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