Joe Deninzon and Stratospheerius: Live Wires
By David Chiu
Joe Deninzon’s virtuosic violin playing adds an elegant grace and down-home spunk to the rest of the musicians’ fusion grooves. On this live album recorded in Erie, Pennsylvania, Deninzon run through several numbers of hot jazz rock, highlighted by some dazzling playing by the members of Stratospheerius (a variation of Stradivarius-get it, Deninzon’a violinist)-guitarist Jake Ezra, bassist Ron Baron, and drummer Luciana Padmore. In additiono to several of his originals, Deninzon’s also does a rip-roaring version of the Simpson’s theme and an acid-funk take on Stevie Wonder’s Contusion. Fusion music may not be everyone’s bag (there is some people out there who revile it), but this album might prove the contrary through the amazing musicianship.
Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius – Live Wires (D-Zone Entertainment)
Live fusion hot as a habenero! These guys kick major colon! The feel is Jeff Beck meets Takanaka with a hint of Dregs – hot rockin’ jazz fusion that never lets up. Deninzon is wicked on electric violin – his fingers are on fire! Jake Ezra matches him note for note on guitar, and the rhythm section of Ron Baron on bass & drummer Lucianna Padmore are twin firecrackers. There are a few “jam band” elements here, but never to a point of annoyance.
I was enthralled by their reinventing of The Simpson’s theme and a cool cover of Frank Zappa’s “Magic Fingers” from the “2000 Motels” soundtrack. Deninzon originals like “What’s That Thang” and “An Evening Nap In The Afternoon Sun” are tasty, tasty fusion. While not in the prog realm, if your tastes run to “Blow By Blow” era Jeff Beck, Weather Report, or Steve Vai, you’ll find “Live Wires” has much to offer.
Live Wires ÷ Joe Deninzon and Stratospheerius
D-Zone Entertainment, 2004
Originally published October 21, 2004
by Jedd Beaudoin
Classic fusion lives and breathes via Russian-born, classically-trained Joe Deninzon and his amazing band Stratospheerius. Captured blazingly bright live and in the moment on this 10-song live outing, Joe and his magic band bring old music (Jeff Beck, Mahavishnu Orchestra) and new music (fans of the Dave Matthews Band’s most transcendental moments won’t feel lost here) together with a heavenly blend of originals from Deninzon’s two previous studio affairs, Electric/Blue and Adventures of Stratospheerius, covers, and previously unreleased material.
From the latter disc comes the inspiring “Contusion,” the ass-shaking “What’s That Thang” and the aptly-titled Acid Rabbits” (think Jeff Beck’sBlow By Blow), from the former; there’s also Frank Zappa’s “Magic Fingers,” Danny Elfman’s theme from The Simpsons and “Heavy Shtettle,” co-written by ex-Testament guitarist and current jazz ax meister Alex Skolnick (who guests on two tracks here).
While Deninzon’s studio outings served as fine introductions to the New York-based maestro, this little sonic boom captures him unhinged and unencumbered as he leads his fiendishly good mates into strange and bold new worlds that leave now jaw snapped together, no heart beating at anything approaching a normal rate. Sounding more relaxed and confident than ever, Deninzon unleashes the fury on “Shock Therapy,” “The Perfect Storm” and shines in the vocal department on the lovely and amazing “An Evening Nap In The Afternoon.”
As at home in the world of Grappelli and O’Connor as he is in the world of Steve Vai and Jimi Hendrix, Joe Deninzon may very well be our next national violin treasure.