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Denis DiBlasio: View from Pikes

Victor L. Schermer By

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Originally released in 2006, this "sleeper" of an album may not contain breathtaking breakthroughs, but 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. DiBlasio did five years as Music Director with Maynard Ferguson, was a prime mover at the late, great Ortliebs Jazzhaus in Philadelphia, and currently directs the jazz program at Rowan University. 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—unfortunately an all-too-common occurrence in the CD and MP3 universe these days—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.

Track Listing: 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.

Personnel: Denis DiBlasio: baritone saxophone and flute, Jim Ridl: piano, Steve Varner: acoustic bass.

Title: View from Pikes | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Dreambox Media


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