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AMONG FRIENDS—GUITARIST DENNY JIOSA IS BACK IN A RELAXED AND AMIABLE MOOD
First there was Moving Pictures. Then the award-winning Inner Voices. Then came Jazzberry Pie. Welcome now to the fourth installment in the continuing musical biography of Denny Jiosa, a guitarist of surpassing skill—and, as this new CD shows, a songwriter of growing range and confidence.
Among Friends is as relaxed and amiable as its name implies. “The title hit me when I was at the photo shoot for the cover” Jiosa says. “I had all of these wonderful guitars around me, and I suddenly realized how much companionship they bring me, how my guitars are really friends. I sit down and play a guitar, and I relax. I hear the ‘voice’ of the instrument, and it brings me comfort. Just as people have different personalities, so do guitars—different tones and characteristics that cause me to play them differently.”
Other friends are present as well. Jiosa’s newborn son Nicolas is represented by a charming original called “Nic of Time.” His three-year-old daughter Adrianna is also here in the wise admonition “Cahmdaddy” (calm down Daddy). Then there’s an old friend of another sort, the timeless standard “I Only Have Eyes for You,” which Jiosa has loved since he first heard it in Art Garfunkel’s version two decades ago. Jiosa delivers it with a taste and artistry that gives the old chestnut new life. He does the vocal honors, too, but that should come as no surprise. Jiosa is an accomplished singer and was once part of the touring company of Pump Boys and Dinettes.
But Among Friends really belongs to the guitarist/songwriter, and he delivers beautifully. The light, flowing passage work in the title cut, for example, could be a tribute to the great Wes Montgomery. “Y2GRUV,” by contrast, is Jiosa’s contribution to the Year 2000 computer phenomenon—and from the funky tone of the piece, he clearly doesn’t think it will be the end of the world. He’s aided here by the tasteful flugelhorn of Hollie Farris, a familiar collaborator from earlier releases.
Farris is one of several collaborators, all of whom have impressive resumes. Drummer Chester Thompson, for example, has worked with Frank Zappa, Carlos Santana, Weather Report, Genesis and Phil Collins. And saxophonist Kirk Whalum has backed Whitney Houston, among others. (That’s him doing the nifty tenor work on “Nic of Time.”)
But this is Jiosa’s show, and he dominates in his tasteful, understated way—simple, charming melodies that never cloy, harmonies that surprise without jarring, a full palate of tone colors, fast passages negotiated with almost casual virtuosity. Among Friends is another giant step forward in Denny Jiosa’s artistic development. It won’t be the last.
Denny Jiosa (guitar, vocals, programming)
Kirk Whalum (sax)
Chester Thompson (drums)
Chris Kent (bass)
Harlan Rogers (piano and keyboards)
Glen Caruba (percussion)
Hollie Farris (flugalhorn)
PLUS The Nashville String Machine
SONGS Y2GRUV (4:15)
NIC OF TIME (4:16)
I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU (3:57)
AMONG FRIENDS (4:02)
SPIDER DANCE (4:07)
GENTLE SPIRIT (4:10)
WHO I AM (1:22)...................hidden bonus track