To call Joe Diorio a guitarist's guitarist is almost a back-handed compliment, a way of dooming him to obscurity. Having served as a sideman for illuminati such as Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Horace Silver and Freddie Hubbard, with chops and creativity to spare, going on to amass an impressive catalogue of 14 releases as a leader, Diorio is a vintage version of talent-deserving-wider- recognition.
1975's Solo Guitar, Diorio's debut date as a leader, is a good introduction to his oeuvre. Mostly solo tracks, with several multi-tracked "conversations with himself (à la Bill Evans' 1963 album) the menu is divided between standards and originals. Treatments of Chick Corea's "Windows and Django Reinhardt's "Nuages feature an expansive palette of chordal colors broken by lightning-fast flurries of serpentine single-note lines, liquid legatos ornamented with melodic curlicues and filigrees. The original tracks often exploit the open strings of the guitar, using them as modal anchor-points for improvisative constructions built on intervallic formulae; Diorio often seems to veer on the brink of painting himself into a corner as he permutates these melodic cells to their not-so-logical conclusions, then deftly lands on dry ground with a turn-of-phrase. Unfortunately, the guitar is not recorded to best advantage: the upper register sounds attenuated, while the low-range chord voicings tend to get muddied. Diorio's great strength is his ability to utilize the layout of the guitar to best advantagewithout sounding guitaristic.
Live is the plectrist's latest releasea time-capsule of a 1991 live performanceand perhaps the finest recorded representation of his work to date. Working with his preferred compadres (bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Jim Plank) in a San Diego hotel, this recording gives new meaning to the term "lounge music. The set consists of well-chiseled standards performed off-the-cuff with minimal preliminary bandstand chit-chat, the familiarity of the material and the familiality of the players creating a comfort cushion allowing, paradoxically, for maximum artistic freedom. Most of the numbers open with Diorio ruminating over the harmonic implications of the piece, fleshing out his thoughts in a variety of voicings, tones, textures and techniques with the fluency of a veteran master who has many options to draw on; he plays a lot of guitar without sounding like he's overplaying, comping for himself in the manner of Barney Kessel. Magnusson is the perfect foil, utilizing slapped staccatos and slow-sliding attacks that seem to arrive at the note just in time, while Plank corners every turn with them; unfortunately again, the recording doesn't do justice to the nuances of his drumkit sound.
Hopefully these two releases will stimulate renewed interest in Diorio's contributions to the improviser's art, respect he richly deserves.
Tracks & Personnel
Tracks: Windows; Nuages; Poem; Invitation; India; A Time for Love; Call to the Center; Without You.
Personnel: Joe Diorio: solo guitar.
Joe Diorio Trio: Live
Tracks: Lover Man; Corcovado; Green Dolphin Street; A Child is Born; Yesterdays; The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.
Personnel: Joe Diorio: guitar; Bab Magnusson: bass; Jim Plank: drums.
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