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Joe Diorio and Sonny Stitt

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Guitarist Joe Diorio recorded only two albums with saxophonist Sonny Stitt. Both are among my favorite Stitt recordings thanks to Diorio's extraordinary swinging rhythm guitar playing and soulful fills. The first of the pair was Move on Over (1963) and the second was My Main Man (1964). Both were recorded for the Argo label and both featured Stitt in peak form on alto and tenor saxophones. On these dates, Diorio provides aggressive, rhythmic chord comping and ringing guitar solos that linger long after the albums are over. For me, Diorio on these albums rivals Stitt in excitement and catchy ideas—so much so that I often think of them as Diorio's sessions rather than Stitt's.

Diorio, 74, was born in Waterbury, Conn., and studied formally in the 1950s. He has played with Eddie Harris, Ira Sullivan, Stan Getz, Pat Metheny, Horace Silver, and Freddie Hubbard, among others. In 2005, Diorio suffered a debilitating stroke and has been struggling to regain use of his left arm ever since. For more on Diorio's background and career, Bill Milkowski wrote a fine piece in JazzTimes in 2008 here.

Move on Over was a quintet date with Stitt on alto and tenor saxophones, Nicky Hill on tenor sax, Eddie Buster on organ, Diorio on guitar and Gerald Donovan on drums. Diorio here is tasteful and swinging, supporting Stitt perfectly with groovy chord voicings and tasty harmony lines. Many of the tracks open with Diorio's clarion chords setting the mood. Among the finest examples are Stormy Weather, Love Letters and Shut the Back Door.

My Main Man also was a quintet date, teaming Stitt with trombonist Bennie Green. Joining the front line was Bobby Buster on organ, Diorio on guitar and Dorrell Anderson on drums. This album features three hip bossa novas—Our Day Will Come, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes and Flame and Frost. Dig Diorio's rhythm playing here and his deep, rich solo on the last of the three tunes. The remaining tracks are blues.

I have not kept up with Joe Diorio's health progress, but I hope he's mending. These albums remain great rhythm guitar works, with Diorio courageously popping and swinging behind one of the most dynamic and dominant saxophonists of the period.

JazzWax tracks: Sonny Stitt's Move on Over with Joe Diorio is available on Move on Over: The Eddie Buster Sides (Jazz Beat). The CD includes Move on Over and Stitt's At the DJ Lounge (1961), recorded live in Washington, D.C. The CD is available here. My Main Man is available at iTunes or here. You'll find Diorio's other albums as a sideman and a leader at iTunes and at the sites of online CD retailers.

JazzWax clip: For a sense of Joe Diorio's enormous technique and taste, here's a clip of him playing Autumn Leaves...


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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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