Electric/Blue: All-Music Guide [1998]

Review of Joe Deninzon’s Electric Blue: All-Music Guide

by Alex Henderson

Jazz has given us some impressive violinists over the years (everyone from Joe Venuti, Stephane Grappelli, Stuff Smith to Jean-Luc Ponty and John Blake), but compared to saxophonists, trumpeters and pianists, violinists have been a very small minority in the jazz world. One of the few fusion violinists who came along in the 1990’s, Joe Deninzon shows considerable promise on Electric/Blue. This unpredictable jazz-rock effort demonstrates that while the Russian-born improviser has studied the history of jazz violin extensively, he refuses to be shackled by that history. Though Ponty is a strong influence on Deninzon, it’s obvious that he has also spent a lot of time listening to rock guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Steve Vai. Deninzon can be lyrical and charming, or he can be a forceful, in-your-face player who brings elements of hard rock guitar (distortion, feedback) to the electric violin. A musical rollercoaster, Electric/Blue ranges from the poetic “Oasis”, “An Evening Nap in the Afternoon Sun”, to the metallic, “Shock Therapy”, “Bluzak”. he violinist’s own compositions dominate the CD, although he also provides an unusually rock-influenced version of Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t”. Deninzon takes his share of chances on Electric/Blue, and they pay off handsomely.