This month John Wheatcroft shines the spotlight on the amazing Joe Diorio and his uncanny ability to blend old and new jazz.
Joe Diorio is a staggering jazz guitarist who, for over 50 years has enjoyed renown as both performer and educator. He has played and recorded with jazz heavyweights such as Sonny Stitt, Eddie Harris, Stan Getz and Freddie Hubbard, and participated in collaborations with guitarists such as Pat Metheny, Robben Ford and Mick Goodrick. He is one of founding tutors of the Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT) in Hollywood, alongside performers and educators including Howard Roberts and Tommy Tedesco.
Joe’s playing is a beautiful blend of traditional and modern jazz sounds. While it’s clear that he has paid his dues, assimilating the vocabulary of jazz greats such as Django Reinhardt, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker and countless more, there is a searching and unique intervallic side to his playing, inspired in part by working with avant-garde artists such as Sonny Stitt, and also by his time spent analysing the ground-breaking vocabulary of John Coltrane. Perhaps, however, the true catalyst here was immersing himself in the study of Nicolas Slonimsky’s Thesaurus Of Scales And Melodic Patterns, at the suggestion of saxophonist Eddie Harris. As Diorio states: “I pulled it out and started learning and that really threw my head, because it helps you to hear better all kinds of weird fast stuff.”
There are eight excerpts for you to learn here, inspired directly from Joe’s vocabulary. One of many impressive aspects of Diorio’s playing is the huge connection between the premeditated lines that he presents in his educational material, and the more freeflowing, intuitive ideas that he might draw from when improvising. With most of us there is some kind of disconnect here, when the pre-calculated and ‘worked-out-in-advance’ player inside us sounds quite different to the spontaneous ‘in-the-moment’ side of our playing - the side we ideally need to tap into when approaching jazz.
Jaco used to ask me how was I makIng all of these IntervallIc runs, and I told hIm, ‘You gotta get slonImskY’s book’ Joe Diorio
With this in mind, it’s a really good idea to let these examples ‘suggest’ what you might play in the long run, rather than be seen as explicit directions of what must be delivered. So, while you should commit these to memory in the short term, remember that this is only the start of the process and over time each of these lines will leave a conceptual trace that you can use as the basis for creating ideas of your own; and again, in time, you’ll be able to make these decisions completely ‘in the moment’. I’m sure Joe would agree.
Joe Diorio’s Gibson 175 with open-topped humbuckers