This is the second outing from S.F. bay area's drummer Joe DeRose and his electric fusion formation Amici. Comprised of some of the leading improvisers Northern California has to offer each member brings his signature interpretation of the jazz and world idiom blending a sound that is truly a comfort to the soul.
Blend vibrant Jazz Fusion, ECM harmonies, and soulful melodies and you get Joe De Rose and Amici. A multi-cultural, energetic, and completely unique ensemble that will leave every listener truly amazed. Comprised of some of the leading improvisers Northern California has to offer (Joe DeRose – drums, Hristo Vitchev – guitar, Dann Zinn – sax, Murray Low – keys, and Dan Robbins – bass), each member brings his signature interpretation of the jazz and world idiom blending a sound that is truly a comfort to the soul.
Joe DeRose is a San Jose native Joe DeRose is an alumnus of the Alum Rock Jazz Program and Stanford Jazz Workshop. In 1994, DeRose followed his love for jazz and moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music. He graduated in 1998 and began touring with R&B diva Toni Lynn Washington. He also played on jazz singer Robin McKell’s debut CD, Never Let Me Go. Some years later DeRose returned to San Jose brimming with experience and enthusiasm. It was about this time he became friends with jazz legend Louie Bellson. DeRose says, “Louie was like a second father to me. He taught me so much about music, friendship and life. It was a true blessing to have Louie in my life.”
"We've heard from drummer Joe DeRose before as a member of Bulgarian-American guitarist Hristo Vitchev's excellent Bay Area ensemble. On his first album as leader, DeRose utilizes basically the same group, while augmenting the core with saxophonist Dann Zinn. And as to be expected from a drummer - this group takes things in a slightly more combustible direction than the slightly more atmospheric sounds in Vitchev's writing and moves into more of an uptempo fusion direction that is quite exciting. On the opening "Nick's Legacy," (written for his father) everyone gets into the action with outstanding solos from stellar bassist Dan Robbins, Grammy-nominated pianist Weber Iago, Zinn and Vitchev on a fiery electric guitar over explosive drumming by DeRose. DeRose explains that "Amici" means friends in Italian, and many of the songs are dedicated to people (like Louie Bellson on "Drum Angel") who helped him along the way. He also thanks his fellow musicians for their input and it is clear that these musicians truly enjoy working with each other.
Most of the songs were cowritten with Vitchev and his keen ear for warm harmonization is a solid presence. Saxophonist Zinn is also a welcome addition - often taking the lead on the themes - freeing Vitchev to and bringing the music into new dimensions sonically. Songs like "The Skies Below," "Bros At Play" and "Ancient Prayer" navigate the area between the melodic and the rhythmic with abandon. There is an urgent undercurrent of energy barely restrained from breaking out at any time and this tension results is some enthralling music. Even the beautiful "Tears from Tokyo" refuses to sink into slumber, while the catchy title track is the "hit" and offers great solos, especially from Robbins. The Iago-cowritten "Miracles" ends this wonderful recording - finally succumbing to take a breath and chill out a bit." - Brad Walseth (JazzChicago.net)
Listening to his works will bring us to a conclusion: Joe DeRose is truly a wonderful talent. The drum legend, Louie Bellson, also referred Joe as “a wonderful talent and a wonderful friend.” There’s a meaningful story in every beat he let out from his stick work. In his hand, drum is not only an instrument to guard a song and a base of rhythm but also as the beat which could speak louder and clearer about many things. Drum becomes alive with him. Joe DeRose was born in San Jose, California. He started finding his passion on drums at the tender age of 5, taught by his elder brother. He became active in school bands including Alum Rock Jazz Band in 1988 soon after. When he reached 14 years old, he began his professional career by series of appearance along the San Fransisco Bay Area. He got the chance to learn from some great drummers such as Louie Bellson, Joe Porcaro, Freddie Grubber, Bryant Mills, John Ramsay, Wally Schnalle, Karl Carter, Lewis Nash, Kenwood Denard, Mike Mangini and many more. He moved to Boston in 1994 and studied at the famous Berklee College of Music. It was a dream coming true for him to attend this prestigious college. He graduated 4 years ago and got a Bachelor in Performance by Magna Cum Laude. Even while he was in Boston he couldn’t miss the chance to grace the stage. He went on tour with RnB and Blues diva, Toni Lynn Washington.
In 2006 he got the honor to perform his debut drum clinic for San Jose Pro Drum, as the opening for Tommy Aldridge. Being back to his hometown, San Jose, was a good decision. In October 2008 he went on a Japanese tour with jazz singer Yoshiko Oda and also Hristo Vitchev Quartet. They performed around Japan including a shot at Okazaki Jazz Festival. Recently he has finished two European tours with Kofy Brown and a northern California tour with Italian singer Pasquale Esposito,also a performance at the AT&T San Jose Jazz Festival. Having learned from many iconic drummers, the Berklee period and around the world experience has raised his skill level to the max relatively fast. And now he continued his journey in different role, as the band leader for the very first time for his own band, Joe DeRose and Amici. We can clearly see how proud Joe is to have his dearest friends in his band. Joe explains the using of “Amici” is meant to describe a band, where great friends, great minds and great souls come together to make great music. As they have known each other well both on and off stage, it absolutely makes them easier to connect in perfect chemistry. When you listen to “Sounds for the Soul”, his first debut album as the band leader, you will certainly feel it.
Most of the songs were mostly composed by Joe DeRose and Hristo Vitchev. “Sounds for the Soul” shows how drum can appear in the front, as the main meal and not just the side dish. What interesting is, even with the drums on spot, the compositions still give enough room for everyone to go solo bringing their explorations and improvisations. 9 songs contained in the album shows the stylishly vibrant set of fusions with the spirit of ECM style of harmonies and soulful melodies. Most of the songs mean very personal to Joe as he tributes them to some of the most important people in his life, his heroes who have contributed a lot to make him as who he is today. Technically speaking, the compositions were made stylishly with enough room for everyone to show their tasteful skill freely. In this album, you will hear the guitar maestro Hristo Vitchev showing his rocking side through some seriously cool riffs besides being the showcase of Joe’s accent in stunning stick work. Weber Iago once again shows that the name “Amazonian” given to him by his friends refers to the unique hand-movements wildly; dancing on the piano is not for nothing. Again he shows his ability to play fast, explorative and wild, just like Weber we used to love. Dan Robbins grooves with his bass on the low end, and Dan Zinn’s blows on his sax giving melodic and soulful sounds in between Coltrane’s approach and smooth jazz patterns. It’s a wonderful combination, it’s magical ingredients.
They create series of sounds to splash our soul with. “Nick’s Legacy” opens up the album wonderfully. This is a song dedicated to Joe’s father, Nicholas DeRose, whom Joe feels blessed to have. “He touched my life and so many others with his love, warm heart and passion for life.” says Joe. “He left so many legacies with us: family values, great food, antipastos, music, laugh.. but the most important one to me is the love he left in people’s heart.” Joe continues. “The composition carries on every detail” said Joe. It has warm melody projecting a thankful heart of a son to his father. This song also delivers the combination of skills among friends in strong chemistry. Joe’s cool drum beating and splashing cymbals fills up the song including a part where Hristo rocks really did well with his electric guitar just like the way a rocker does. The landscapic song follows, “The Skies Below”. It’s a composition enabling you to fly to the high altitude and watch the skies below. Zinn’s saxophone and Vitchev’s roaring guitar act like the wings to bring you fly in the multi-colored sky. “Tal’s Dream” is next. It’s a composition dedicated to Talmadge Hicks, an amazing musician and composer that was very important in Joe’s life.
While he was the mentor and great friend, as well as introducing jazz to Joe at an early age, it was the soulful melodies he sang to Joe when he grew up that became the source of inspiration for making this composition together with Hristo. Within the composition you could feel that Joe wants to tell many things in colorful lines about his feeling towards Tal. The next track “Bros at Play” is dedicated to his brothers, Gino, Nick and his nephews, Gino Jr and Michael. The teasing and playful drum beats are followed by the same way by the rest of the band. The song should also mean to the brothers who play with him in the band, as you will sense the harmonious interaction between them, the word Joe says in the beginning of the song tells it all: “Okay bro, let’s play.”
The 9 minutes track “Ancient Prayer” comes right after. This is a nice melodious piece that will completely satisfy you especially with the long enough duration. “Drum Angel” is another exceptional composition tributing to Louie Bellson, another mentor to Joe’s life. Louie is not only his musical inspiration but also the one who taught him how to conduct himself as a human being. It’s obvious that musical pattern for this song is beautiful; you will love every single line of it. A nice composition again comes from “Tears from Tokyo”, a melancholic song referring to the time when he missed his mom, Mary DeRose, the most while he was unable to reach her from Tokyo. The melody appeared in Joe’s head, and then Hristo went on harmonizing it. That was the beginning of their collaboration that carries on until now. Then comes the title track, “Sounds for the Soul.” served in groovy and funky rhythm, this song carries on a lot of soulful feeling inside, transferring them from soul to soul. Simply put, it’s the composition that sends the sound to reach our soul elegantly.
The last track speaks about “Miracles”. Joe believes that if every person on the planet helped one another on a daily basis, if we all were kind to one another and took care of one another, that would be the sign of a wonderful world, and that’s the time when miracle can happen through us. With that in mind, this composition made together with Weber Iago sounds very inspiring and optimist. As this is the last song, everyone join hands giving up their last touch of togetherness for this album. And for us, that is also a miracle indeed. When you want to have a showcase of elegant drum beating in excellent collaboration with fully connected team work, when you want to see how chemistry among real friends can make a difference, when you want to feel the creativity of composition and playing by real talented group, this is the album you should have. It’s a brilliant free-for-all fusion served in many textures.
You get the satisfaction for the love of jazz from many eras, the Coltrane’s, the ECM’s, the smooth jazz heyday to the present day’s jazz, also a visit to the roaring-rocking style as well. Joe DeRose and Amici’s “Sounds for the Soul” is a soul transferring album, starting from the circle of friends in the band to the soul of us as the listeners. It’s a breathtaking album brilliantly made that marks the first step of Joe DeRose in his new role as a leader. Through this album we can clearly see there will be more creative ideas come from this wonderful talent in the future. Are you ready to fill up your soul? You can always have it from this.
Hristo Vitchev is a Bulgarian Impressionistic chamber-jazz guitarist/composer Hristo Vitchev is referred by the international media as one of the newest and most innovative voices in modern jazz guitar. Hristo's music has been captivating audiences all across the globe an at only age 33 he has already released 6 critically acclaimed albums as a leader plus two more releases as a co-leader with Joe DeRose and Amici.
Dann Zinn is a world class musician, known for his brilliant saxophone and flute playing, stunning compositions, and contribution to music education in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Hailed as a “guru,” Zinn finds beauty in making music comes from constant reinventing and searching. Zinn’s work has developed into a unique style. Having a sound of his own is tantamount to his creativity. By blending diverse influences, Zinn has made his music accessible, melodic, textured, and emotional in both intense and beautiful ways.
Dan Robbins is one of the most in demand and virtuosic bass players in the Western part of the continent, Dan Robbins’s completely unique approach and voice on the instrument have led him to performances and recordings with international jazz stars Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Danilo Perez, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Benny Green, Giovanni Hidalgo, Peter Martin, Cedar Walton and many more.
Murray Low is a veteran pianist of the Bay Area jazz scene and has been playing, composing, arranging, recording and teaching professionally for over thirty years. His fluency in all forms of jazz and its blending with other idioms has led to a multi-faceted career spanning a wide variety of musical contexts. Murray is perhaps best known for his contributions to Latin Jazz, Salsa and Afro-Cuban musical landscape.