Solo Jazz Piano 1
BEN DI TOSTI It is obvious from the first notes of the first song, 'S' Wonderful,' that Ben Di Tosti has a very different approach to playing piano than one usually hears. For instance, while most jazz pianists improvise off of a song's chord structure, leaving the theme behind after a chorus or two, Di Tosti instead uses the melody as the ongoing basis for his solo. No matter how adventurous his playing becomes on Solo Jazz Piano - Vol. 1, one can always hear the theme of each piece just beneath the surface. The 14 songs on this disc are all standards, but Di Tosti gives every song it's own character, making even the most familiar theme sound fresh and new. The last song is an encore of the first-heard in a very different version. =============== Di Tosti explains: 'I treat each individual piece as unique and try to create a new mood each time I perform it. It is similar to the slightly differing moods that result when different conductors interpret the same piece of classical music. The techniques I use I've borrowed from classical, romantic, and some contemporary periods. Sometimes I use 'theme and variation' as with 'Straight No Chaser' and 'Secret Love.' I try for continuity in my improvising by using character development of both melodic and rhythm motifs as in 'Billie's Bounce' and 'Doxy.' One can do a full improvisation on just the syncopations of 'Billie's Bounce.' One of my favorite tools is left-hand development of imitative and counter themes as in 'All The Things You Are' and 'The Way You Look Tonight.' I love exploring the individual mood and atmosphere of great songs, each of which has a unique hook, sometimes quite sublime as with the seventh to ninth measure of the song 'Con Te Partirò,' and most of 'Easy Living' and 'Days Of Wine And Roses.' This allows for extended manipulation and sequential treatment. I also try to de-emphasize the conventional use of jazz harmonic formulas as well as overused melodic ornaments. I have been trying out this mostly unused approach for over forty years. The real fun, of course, is applying all of this in a swinging jazz idiom.' ===============Each of the selections on Solo Jazz Piano - Vol. 1 contain plenty of subtle surprises and grow in interest with each listen including a colorful exploration of Beethoven's famous 'Für Elise' which is turned into a jazz waltz. The emphasis on melody makes the music accessible yet never predictable, and the interplay (and constant conversation) between Di Tosti's two hands (with the left often functioning as an equal voice) keeps the music continually intriguing and exciting. 'My playing is very spontaneous, as one can hear from the two takes of 'S' Wonderful,' in that case using different moods and different tempos. After graduating from high school, Di Tosti studied with Lennie Tristano for a year. 'I remember waiting for my lesson and sometimes hearing Lee Konitz or Warne Marsh during their lesson. The most important thing that I learned from Lennie was the idea of spinning out melodies from chord voicings. It was a fresh approach, quite different than bebop. Sometimes it was atonal and it involved the use of sonorities and unusual voicings of chords, very daring. It opened me up to new possibilities and the idea of going as far as I can in developing melodies.' After serving in the Air Force, he attended the University of Texas and earned a Bachelor's degree in composition. In 1957 he moved to Los Angeles and went to USC where he gained his Masters. 'I thought that I'd become a composer but I soon found myself getting involved in the commercial side of music, playing casuals and parties. I've done some studio work along the way but basically I'm a freelance jazz pianist.' He recorded two trio albums in the early 1960s: Ben Di Tosti Plays The Music From The Broadway Hit Carnival (Pacific Jazz) and Out Of This World (Everest). 'Both records show that I was into my melodic style that early-although not on the same level as I do today.' The release of Solo Jazz Piano - Vol. 1 was inspired by his desire to have many others hear his melodic style. 'I strive to draw my listeners into the music like what happens when one is reading a good book. I've absorbed the influences of the great classical composers-like Bach, Bartok, and Debussy, and I use their influences as a guide to expressing my love for jazz. To me the charm of jazz improvisation is the willingness to take risks in order to sometimes achieve that which surprises me and my listener-both at the moment and, in the case of this recording, afterwards.' Ben Di Tosti has high hopes for the future. 'I love the challenge of playing solo and thought this would be a great set to make available through the Internet. In future volumes in this series, I would like to explore music from some short operatic pieces, and a few classical selections that would work in a jazz context, and-especially-the great traditional jazz composers such as Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Thelonious Monk, and Lennie Tristano. One of my other future goals is to conduct workshops, not only for jazz schools but for classical departments where they never seem to teach improvisation. I want to encourage having fun with music.' There is a great deal of fun waiting for listeners throughout Ben Di Tosti's Solo Jazz Piano - Vol. 1, a long overdue showcase for his distinctive and melodic style. Scott Yanow Author of Swing (Miller Freeman) Due out in Spring, 2000. ....This CD, Di Tosti's first since two trio albums in the early 60s, is fun, swinging, and elegant. It's comparable in quality to many of the solo entries in the famed Concord 'Maybeck' recital series as well as to the recent, highly-touted Keith Jarrett CD, except that Di Tosti's notes seem more clearly and happily headed for a definite goal. Review on 52ndStreet.com by Judith Schlesinger.