The gifted guitarist Eric DiVito made a strong impression last year with his well-received debut Breaking the Ice and its program of original compositions. On his even more impressive follow-up, The Second Time Around, DiVito highlights his interpretive skills by concentrating on standards -- from the Great American Songbook as well as modern jazz classics by Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, and Joe Henderson. The Canadian Pioneer Jazz Collective label (PJC) will release the disc November 12.
A trio date with bassist Corcoran Holt and drummer Alyssa Falk Verheyn, The Second Time Around also features two special guests -- Steve Wilson, the saxophonist's saxophonist who's heard on three tracks, including the driving original ("2nd Story") that opens the album; and vocalist Mavis Swan Poole, one of whose two numbers is a duet ("Skylark") with DiVito.
"I didn't want the album to come off like a jam session," says DiVito, who co-produced the date with Portland-based pianist (and Breaking the Ice co-producer) Ezra Weiss. "The tunes were fairly straightforward, but with little arranging touches that set them apart."
One stand-out is the trio's treatment of Wayne Shorter's "Iris," transformed from a waltz-time classic into a funk-infused workout in 4; another comes at the beginning of Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge," on which Verheyn (whom DiVito knew from blowing gigs in college) plays the head unaccompanied to make a bold opening melodic statement before entering into lively interplay with the leader.
The duo reading of "Skylark" is DiVito's "homage to tradition. I got into jazz through standards like 'Skylark,'" he says, "and I like the tradition of the guitar and voice duo. Swan brings a nice mix of classical Sarah Vaughan and a more soul-oriented sound."
DiVito found the recording process energizing and inspiring. "By the end of the session," he says, "the vibe of the group was so strong, I felt like playing with them forever. In the beginning, it was a little tricky. I sometimes felt weird telling Steve Wilson what to do. I mean he has played on all of these great recordings and made great recordings of his own. But he was so great and accommodating and easy to be around, it was a joyful experience."
Eric DiVito, 32, was born in Huntington, Long Island and raised in nearby Northport. He started out playing xylophone and other percussion instruments in elementary school and took up the guitar in middle school. A fan of Guns N' Roses and Jimi Hendrix, he played his share of rock music in high school (and since 2006 has performed in a Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band he formed called PepperSpray), he was more strongly drawn to the improvisational possibilities of jazz as embodied by such greats as Pat Metheny and Jim Hall.
DiVito majored in classical guitar and music education and minored in jazz at the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY, from which he received a B.M. in guitar performance and music education. While attending the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, where he earned an M.A. in jazz performance, he became increasingly involved in the New York jazz scene -- performing in such clubs as Iridium, Smalls, Miles' Café, the Garage, and Puppet's Jazz Bar and teaching music at Castle Middle School on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The CD release show for The Second Time Around takes place at Smalls, New York City, on Sunday 12/8, 4:30pm. DiVito will appear with Corcoran Holt and Alyssa Falk Verheyn, plus special guests to be announced. The guitarist has also booked a four-city Canadian tour with Verheyn and bassist Daniel Foose: 11/28 Resonance Café, Montreal; 11/29 GigSpace, Ottawa; 11/30 The Rex, Toronto; 12/1 The Jazz Room, Waterloo.