Saturday, August 30, 2014

Jon Di Fiore: Yellow Petals

Third Freedom Music
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Yellow Petals

You don’t often find the descriptors “drummer” and “composer” in the same review, but Jon Di Fiore joins Louie Bellson in that regard. The latter, regarded by Duke Ellington as “the world’s greatest drummer,” got his start by winning a contest sponsored by Gene Krupa and the Slingerland Drum Company, besting 40,000 other entrants. The former got his first drum set at age 3 and, because he couldn’t reach everything, began practicing while propped up at his mother’s kitchen table in New Jersey.

Bellson had a wealth of experience, playing with icons Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Harry James, Duke Ellington and many others. Di Fiore’s background was much more restricted, being localized to Jersey and the New York City areas, with musicians from those locales. Both individuals developed into composers of note during their careers, due in part to their ability to play the piano. Indeed, Di Fiore teaches both drums and piano in his present positions as adjunct professor of music at Essex County College, with a sidebar instructional post at Serrano’s Music Academy in Belleville, New Jersey.

Whereas Bellson limited himself to jazz organizations, Di Fiore performs with both jazz and classical orchestras, and has received numerous awards in the latter genre.

For this album, his third, Di Fiore is supported by Billy Test (piano) and Adrian Morning (bass). Di Fiore wrote every track. All compositions are by Fiore. A mere few bars into the first tune — “Demise” — it’s easy to tell that he’s a true musician, and not “just a drummer.” His taste, control of volume, and complexity of emphasis phrases are superb; he never overwhelms the melodic passages. On top of which, Test and Morning also are outstanding. I haven’t heard a smoother unit in a long time. Simply put, these guys are great!

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