2 stars IVCI Laureate Series; Indiana History Center; Feb. 16.
Two years ago, the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis featured Sara Caswell in its first all-jazz program, held in the IHC's Eli Lilly Hall - which doubles as the building's lobby. On most counts it was a success. This last Tuesday, the IVCI held its second one, hosting the Joe Deninzon Trio with guest drummer Lucianna Padmore - this one not so successful.
With Deninzon on violin, Robert Bowen on bass and Stephen Benson on guitar, their excessive amplification, coupled with the live room acoustics, created a miasma of nearly undifferentiated roaring, more like a rock concert. This might be fine for 20 30 somethings, but the sound level was ear-warping for the mostly senior-aged demographic, especially as the program progressed (one senior came over to me to complain about it). Furthermore, the amplification was simply bad, stressing the lower pitches so much that both Denizon's regular violin and his later-used 7-string electric violin left out all the delicate harmonics which give each their unique color. Benson's guitar(s) suffered less while Bowen's bass throbbed throughout the hall, diminishing Padmore's excellence on her drum set.
Their selections gave us crossover repertoire from Jimi Hendrix to an arrangement of Chopin's most famous nocturne - and another one from Bach's E Major Partita, this part of a "tribute to Michael Jackson," said Deninzon. Many of these songs - "Exuberance," "Witchita Lineman," "Ellipsis" and "Surreptitious Soliloquy" - are on a newly released CD featuring just the trio. In listening to parts of it after the concert, I heard all the missing harmonics while missing Padmore's presence. Older jazz buffs need to hear this CD to appreciate this combo's excellence.