The JOE DENINZON TRIO takes an interesting look at the term “standard” on their “Exuberance” (joedeninzon.com). Along with a number of original jazz compositions by the trio – Joe’s nine-string violin accompanied by Steve Benson on guitar and the recently late Bob Bowen on bass – they take music from the near and relatively far past, and put it through a progressive jazz filter. Sure, one might expect it of tunes like Fat’s Waller’s “Jitterbug (Used To Be A)” or even Chopin’s “Nocturne in Eb Op. 9 No. 2,” but they move it significantly further with Steely Dan’s “Bodhissatva,” Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Linemen” (perhaps the one piece that strains the most), Alice in Chains’ “Heaven Beside You,” and even Radiohead’s “The Tourist.” And these guys make it all work so you may not even realize that this isn’t the original genre for those tunes. The one vocal is by guest Luba, whose silky smooth voice slides comfortably over an original, “Sun Goes Down.” Over an hour of cool jazz.
Joe Deninzon Trio: Exuberance
Even listeners familiar with progressive seven-string violinist Joe Deninzon might be surprised when the first two tracks from Exuberance — the latest album to feature his instrumental trio — spill out of their speakers. Steely Dan’s “Bodhisattva” and Alice In Chain’s “Heaven Beside You” subtly echo the originals, but Deninzon, bassist Bob Bowen and guitarist Steve Benson make them their own by embracing the musical nuances of both songs. Sans vocals, these pieces give off pleasures both new and odd. On the other hand, the trio underwhelms with its low-key take on “Wichita Lineman” (which remains a beautiful song, regardless of who performs it and how). There also are covers of “Nuages” by the trio’s major influence Django Reinhardt, as well “The Tourist” by Radiohead and Chopin’s “Nocturne in Eb Op. 9 No. 2.”
Several originals stack up well next to the other artists’ material, with Deninzon’s electric violin dominating, especially on “Surreptitious Soliloquy” and the kinda-sorta title track “Exuberance, in the Face of Utter Anguish and Despair.” “Sun Goes Down,” the album’s only vocal piece, featuring Luba’s singing, was included in the indie film What’s Up, Scarlet? and wouldn’t sound out of a place in a smoky nightclub around 1 a.m.
Exuberance was recorded with all three musicians in one room, playing live with no overdubs or fancy production. You can’t really hear the rawness over the professionalism, but you know it’s there. Sometimes sparse, but always engaging, these 13 songs should please long-time fans of the trio and Deninzon’s rock band Stratospheerius, as well as newcomers.
2) Heaven Beside You
4) Exuberance, the Face of Utter Anguish and Despair
6) Night Coast
7) Sun Goes Down
8) Surreptitious Soliloquy
9) Wichita Lineman
10) The Last Days of Scorpio
11) Chopin Nocturne in Eb Op. 9 No. 2
12) Jitterbug (Used to be a) Waltz
13) The Tourist
by Sean Quigley
Heavily unorthodox and acclaimed Russian-born fusion violinist Joe Deninzon, best known for his jazzy trip funk jam band Stratospheerius and his 1997 solo album Electric Blue has returned with a talented trio and a new album entitled Exuberance.
Exuberance not only features a load of creative, enjoyable original songs from Deninzon and his trio but also an incredibly eclectic collection of covers. From the likes of Alice in Chains and Radiohead to Steely Dan and Glenn Campbell and further on to such performers as Django Reinhardt, Fats Waller and Frederick Chopin, Deninzon has it all covered.
With much anticipation I listened to Exuberance and within a second or two into the opening title track I began to sulk thinking I was in store for another stale violin album which would put me to sleep. But I certainly caught my tongue a few seconds later as the song picked up. Blues drenched Bass, wild yet stylish and refined violin and acoustic guitar which switched back and fourth from solid and generic to creepy, scratchy, psychedelic and undeniably cool.
Exuberance is drenched with such style. With respect for the classics and a daring avant-garde boldness Joe Deninzon’s endeavor is certainly a success. Some of their songs such as “Sun Goes Down” which features the singing talents of Canadian vocalist Luba seem almost tailor made for those lost around the poolside martini bar alone late at night as other songs such as “Surreptitious Soliloquy” sound like it was made some place where both Frank Sinatra and Frank Zappa find common ground. Both Primus or Palao could respect the talents of The Joe Deninzon Trio which to me is their greatest appeal.
Would I drive around blasting Exuberance? Probably not. Still I found this album to be truly excellent. Indeed a perfect choice for entertaining if one wishes to break free from the dreadful blandness of “Soundscapes”.
I recommend this album to anybody interested in the mastery of music as well as classical, jazz and alternative rock fans. Deninzon is only doing good for music. Breaking down barriers, opening minds, and carving a respectable niche for himself. Joe Deninzon is sure to soon be on every music snob’s list of notable artists, I can guarantee it.
Reviewer Rating: 4.00 Stars
Joe Deninzon Trio – Exuberance
by Justin Donnelly (J.J.D.) on Myspace
Within the jazz/jazz-fusion realm, Joe Deninzon is a name that’s steadily been on the rise ever since he emerged with his debut effort ‘Electric/Blue’ in 1998 (Released through Wilberts Blues Records).
Since then, the Russian born/New York based singer/song writer/violinist has released a succession of albums (Both under his own name and under the banner of Stratospheerius), all of fuse together traditional jazz, funk, jazz-fusion and straight out rock into a sound that Deninzon himself calls ‘psychojazz trip funk’. Outside of recording, Deninzon also teaches, does session work and tours on a consistent basis, making him without a doubt one of the hardest working violinists within the jazz scene today.
Two years on from his recorded effort with Metro Swings (2008’s ‘Hide The Evidence’ E.P.), Deninzon is back with something new – this time under the name of the Joe Deninzon Trio, and their debut album ‘Exuberance’.
Unlike some of Deninzon’s past projects, ‘Exuberance’ sees Deninzon, guitarist Steve Benson and bassist Robert ‘Bob’ Bowen, take on a more traditional jazz direction, with the bulk of the thirteen tracks on the album virtually laid down live in the studio in order to catch the authentic live vibe of a jazz trio.
The trio open up the album with a cover of Steely Dan’s classic ‘Bodhisattva’, which is something that’s a little unexpected and anything but a disappointment. The song is still largely recognisable (And if it wasn’t, then there would be something seriously wrong, right?), but given a complete makeover within this reworking. Deninzon’s solos are as exceptional as ever, while the backing from Benson and Bowen is executed to perfection without losing sight of the song’s original form.
The follow-up track, a cover of Alice In Chains’ ‘Heaven Beside You’, is another unlikely track tackled, and perhaps a little more traditional sounding in the jazz sense. Again, the band does a killer job in transforming the song.
Django Reinhardt’s ‘Nuages’ again shows another facet of the band’s diverse sound, with the song steering their sound more toward the classical side of things, while Bowen’s own ‘Exuberance, In The Face Of Utter Anguish And Despair’ is an exercise in timing and shifts in tempo, all the while maintaining a distinctly rocking jazz feel throughout.
From here, Deninzon leads the band through some originals, including the Latin tinged ‘Ellipsis’, the subdued jazz smoulder of ‘Night Coast’ and the classically influenced ‘The Last Days Of Scorpio’, before Bowen takes charge with his self-penned ‘Surreptitious Soliloquy’.
Guest vocalist Luba puts in a beautiful performance on the traditional sounding ‘Sun Goes Down’ (Which originally appeared within the 2005 film ‘What’s Up, Scarlet?’), before the band run through a laid back (And I mean quite laid back) rendition of Glen Campbell’s ‘Wichita Lineman’ and a rather unconventional (It’s classical, but not as you might know it!) take on Choplin’s ‘Chopin Nocturne In Eb Op. 9 No. 2’.
Finishing up the album is Deninzon’s own traditional jazz piece ‘The Last Days Of Scorpio’, a faithful rendition of Fats Waller’s ‘Jitterbug (Used To Be A) Waltz’ and a stunning cover of Radiohead’s ‘The Tourist’ (Which is without a doubt my favourite track on the album).
Sometimes Deninzon’s releases can be a little over the place in terms of direction, and I guess in some ways ‘Exuberance’ really isn’t all that different. But where this album succeeds more than others is that the shifts in direction have more to do with sounds and feels, rather than overall direction. There’s a focus here, and that’s something that hasn’t always been the case with Deninzon’s former projects.
Deninzon may well be billed as the star here, but on the evidence of ‘Exuberance’, I would say that all three shine here. It’s a strange album, but nothing short of a triumph for all three within the Joe Deninzon Trio.