Stratospheerius – Headspace
In my head, there are times I listen to a piece of music and subdivide the beat, then subdivide the subdivisions, trying to look at rhythms in different ways. I was in that sort of mood listening to this CD. The song Old Ghosts is a good example. Vocal rhythm, bass accents, guitar groove, drum groove, percussion, and violin all dividing the rhythm in their own ways yet united at the same time. A funky one, that tune. Sold Out is full of exciting changes – Jean Luc Ponty and Chick Corea gig with the Dregs is what it reminds me of.
Headspace is a cranker of an album, with Joe Deninzon showing some vocal chops in addition to his Herculean violin skills. Drummer Lucianna Padmore, bassist Bob Bowen, & guitarist Mack Price play baffling beats, power passages, and some sweet grooves. Guest artist Benny Koonyevsky adds great percussion as well – a sort of modern day Morris Pert. A high voltage cover of the Police’s Driven To Tears is a welcome addition to this wonderful jazz / rock / fusion / world disc. A massive energy generator of ideas. I needed this.
ALTERNATIVE & PUNK
Stratospheerius Head Space
Psychojazz mavens Stratospheerius bring their violin influenced jams out in full on their latest release Head Space. Blending their influences into a style all their own, Stratospheerius make music that teeters on becoming its own genre. Part Dave Matthews Band, part modern rock and part classical, Head Space bounces from sound to sound with total ease. The violin playing by veteran Joe Deninzon opens up the dynamic of Stratospheerius with total urgency and takes what may at first seem like normal rock songs to an entirely higher level. However, it is not just the violen that makes Head Space a great experience. The vocal performance of Joe Deninzon is on par with his stringed abilities. This is most apparent on Head Space’s far and away hit track “Today Is Tomorrow.” This track still features Deninzon’s trademark strings, but he holds off on bowing them and instead plucks the strings for the first half of the song. “Today Is Tomorrow” also shows off the bands ability to craft a radio friendly song and one that still operates perfectly within the context of the album.
Opening track New Material is an interesting song to start off Head Space with. The song at first seems very Rocky Grass and a listening that does not penetrate the album may not get passed it if they are not a fan of the genre. However, as Head Space progresses, it reveals the many different sides of Stratospheerius. New Material shows a more roots rock and bluegrass influenced sound, “Old Ghosts” shows off the bands summer fest jam band appeal, and “Today Is Tomorrow” takes the band and puts them right into the best parts of the mainstream. On “Mental Floss,” Deninzon shows how he has earned the nickname the “Jimi Hendrix of violin” as he tears threw a distortion heavy solo that points more in the direction of Guns N Roses’ Slash than Yo Yo Ma. The other effected instruments on “Mental Floss” give Head Space a great push in the psychedelic direction, adding to the long list of the bands genre leaping abilities. Head Space is an exciting experience, taking the listener by the hand and whipping them around an Alice In Wonderland like journey of musical exploration.
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.