Jay D'Amico  pianist-composer
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Jay D'Amico pianist-composer

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Pianist and composer Jay D’Amico fuses classical and jazz on this elegant outing with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Ronnie Zito. Drawing inspiration from Italy’s Tuscany region, he has crafted a string of delicate gems that swing lightly while also referencing the likes of Chopin, as on the waltz-time “Nocturne” and the buoyant “Sonata.” Johnson’s beautiful arco work is highlighted on “G Minor Ballade” while “Improvviso” shifts from introspection to uptempo burn, underscored by Zito’s briskly swinging brushwork. Definite niche appeal.
-Bill Milkowski - Undertones from "Jazz Times Magazine"


Album: Tuscan Prelude / Jay D'Amico Trio with Marc Johnson & Ronnie Zito / 11 tracks
Reviewed by Natalie Pinkis
After making a splash on the jazz scene with the 2001 release of his album Ponte Novello, composer and pianist Jay D’Amico is back with an ode to Italy, Tuscan Prelude. This collection of eleven original compositions, written while on an Italian holiday, exhibits a seamless blend of classical influence and jazz.
“I’ve studied both classical and jazz music, and I love them both,” D’Amico explains, “At this point in my career, it feels right to combine them in one recording, because I feel I’ve got a strong enough grounding in both to allow my own style to emerge.”
It is a challenging fusion, but Tuscan Prelude brought together a trio of musicians up to the task. D’Amico stars as pianist, arranger, and composer on all eleven tracks while bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Ronnie Zito join him on nine others. Both artists provide a tasteful and insightful accompaniment to D’Amico’s musical styling, while at the same time contributing their own, unique flavor. The last track, “Aria in D”, features contributions from Jay’s brother Greg D’Amico on the bass, and Vinnie Favata on drums.
You begin your initiation into this new genre with the first number and title song, “Tuscan Prelude.” The premiere track is a perfect ode to Tuscany, opened and finished in classical tones, while encasing a stirring jazz medley which appears in the middle. Johnson and Zito artistically compliment D’Amico’s playful piano tracks all the while enhancing whichever style is more dominant.
This skillful tug-of-war between classical music and jazz is prevalent throughout the entire album. “Theme in Bb minor” and “G minor Ballade” show similar themes – starting with a classical motif, and then spicing it up with jazz rhythms and cadences. In “Fuga”, we hear numerous instrumental voices on the album. D’Amico says, “My music is somewhat comparable to opera, in that it’s singable, even though my compositions are obviously all instrumental.” The flawless bowing combines with intricate piano melodies that play off one another nicely in this, the fourth track.
D’Amico steps it up a notch in “Improvviso”, a stunning number that showcases his impressive classical training, and the composition is seasoned with galloping drumbeats, in a seamless transition from one genre to the next.
By far my favorite piece is the sixth track, “Nocturne.” I have been a student of many of Chopin’s excruciatingly difficult nocturnes, and it is therefore easy for me to appreciate the skill and talent it takes to pull off this number. Most of the song is played as almost a waltz, taking the listener on a ride while you hear variation after variation, of the original theme – each with its own design and colorful attributes.
Tracks seven, eight, and nine are different movements in the same sonata; a perfect example of D’Amico’s talent for applying classical techniques and rules in jazz music. “Mvt. 2,” is the only song on the album which features only the piano and purely classical techniques. It is balanced nicely on both sides, with jazzed up versions of the original motif.
The album closes nicely with “Aria in D,” the only track to feature music by Greg D’Amico and Vinnie Favata. The aria perfectly summarizes the theme of Tuscan Prelude – a beautiful mix of both worlds, in an ode to Italy, classical piano and jazz.
D’Amico began studying all forms of music at a young age. Inspired by everyone from Chopin to Oscar Peterson, D’Amico, “..wanted to be able to do the same thing, to play it!” In the beautifully melded genres of Tuscan Prelude, he certainly succeeded!! - "Riveting Riffs" by Natalie Pinkis


Jack Bowers of All About Jazz:

THE JAY D’AMICO TRIO Tuscan Prelude: Jazz Under Glass (self-published) Some eight years ago, I reviewed the album Ponte Novello by pianist Jay D’Amico’s trio (augmented on four tracks by a string section), and was impressed by the way n which he transposed to the jazz idiom operatic arias by Puccini, Bellini and Verdi, among others, leaving their inherent beauty intact while proving that those masters have much to say to a contemporary audience if their music is prudently amended under the proper circumstances. D;Amico has sent me an advance pressing of his soon-to-be-released cd Tuscan Prelude, a collection of original compositions that once again draw on his background and heritage to present modern jazz with savory classical/Italian seasoning. If one were asked to describe his recipe in a word, the word "tasteful" might leap to mind, or perhaps "elegant." D’Amico’s themes are invariably handsome, and the Trio approaches them with respect and decorum, rather like the Modern Jazz Quartet without Milt Jackson’s vibraphone. So is this chamber jazz? For the most part, yes, depending upon one’s definition of the genre. The performance certainly validates its subtitle, Jazz Under Glass. On the other hand, there are passages on almost every number that swing freely, usually following the thematic development, as D’Amico never turns his back (or keyboard) completely to Jazz’s inherent bedrock. Even so, D’Amico won’t ever be mistaken for McCoy Tyner, Oscar Peterson or even John Lewis (although he comes closest there). His colleagues, bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Ronnie Zito, are wholly supportive, allowing D’Amico to bask in the limelight while they render decent and unobtrusive impressions of Percy Heath and Connie Kay. Johnson is adept with a bow, Zito likewise with brushes, and they use them quite often. Albeit Tuscan Prelude’s 39:49 playing time is less than half a cd’s peak capacity, this is lovely music, performed with unerring style and grace by three remarkably talented musicians. If you’re a fan of the MJQ it is all but guaranteed to please. Jack Bowers, All About Jazz Tuscan Prelude; Theme in B Flat Minor; G Minor Ballade; Fuga; Improvviso; Nocturne; Sonata, Movement 1; Movement 2; Movement 3; Prelude in A Minor; Aria in D (39:49 - All About Jazz - Jack Bowers


CHUCK GRAHAM
Tucson Citizen
"Tuscan Prelude: Jazz Under Glass" (Consolidated Artists Productions)
Anyone who remembers the Third Stream jazz movement will be able to connect with this collection of 11 original compositions reflecting an improvised blend of jazz rhythms and the harmonic structure of classical music. The chords, progressions and lyrical lines are all drawn from the concert hall traditions of European art music. Pianist Jay D'Amico employs a light touch to present a sophisticated experience reminiscent of the Modern Jazz Quartet and others of that ilk.
An accompanying news release credits the music of Frederic Chopin and the playing of Oscar Peterson with inspiring young D'Amico to leap into the Third Stream. When the impressionable young pianist met MJQ bassist Milt Hinton and they hit it off musically, D'Amico's artistic course was set.
The selections here are for the most part moderately paced. Marc Johnson, bass, and Ronnie Zito, drums, make sure everything swings from top to bottom. D'Amico rides this rhythmic wave, a graceful surfer in a tuxedo playing melodies just as balanced. With such titles as "G minor Ballade," "Fuga," "Nocturne" and a sonata in three movements, you know it will be a good time to lean into the loudspeakers. - "Tuscon Citizen


“Jay D’Amico plays piano with a gossamer touch, canny sense of style, and nicely connected ideas. Not only do his lines flow legato, but there is a certain shapeliness to each solo and a tangible sense of touch, like good sculpture.”

Fred Bouchard
Downbeat Magazine


“Pianist and composer Jay D’Amico fuses classical and jazz on this elegant outing . . . a string of delicate gems that swing lightly while also referencing the likes of Chopin . . .”

Bill Milkowski
Jazz Times Magazine


“Modern jazz with savory classical/Italian seasoning . . . tasteful . . . elegant . . . themes are invariably handsome”

Jack Bowers
All About Jazz

“If there is any one word that would describe the music of Jay D’Amico, it would be “originality.” I recall reading a book by Igor Stravinsky many years ago in which he stated that if there was any “gift” in music, it would be the gift of melody. Jay, with his ability to successfully fuse classical music thinking and the time conception and influence of jazz, displays evidence that he is in possession of this gift and has crafted it into a musical statement of the highest order. Bravo!”

Mike Longo
Jazz Pianist

“ . . .lively and engaging fare . . . D’Amico soars with a glistening touch and beautifully delineated lines . . .”

Scott Albin
www.jazz.com - various publications


Discography

'Envisage" The Jay D'Amico Trio with Milt Hinton and Bob Rosengarden (1983, 2003) CAP970; "From the Top" solo piano (1990) CAP901; "Ponte Novello" The Jay D'Amico jazz ensemble (2000) CAP940; "Tuscan Prelude: Jazz Under Glass" The Jay D'Amico trio with Marc Johnson and Ronnie Zito (2008) CAP1013; "The Judge's Decision" Milt Company & Another Generation of Swing (1985) EXPOSURE 6231910

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Bio

Composer, arranger and pianist Jay D'Amico made a strong impact on the jazz scene with his first album Envisage (1982), re-released in 2003 as a classic, and featuring the great Milt Hinton on bass. With his release of Ponte Novello in 2001, he delighted critics with his blend of Italian operatic themes and American jazz. D’Amico has returned to the inspirations of Italy on his new release, Tuscan Prelude. The recording is a further exploration of D'Amico's unique fusion of jazz and classical influences and features eleven original compositions that D'Amico penned during one of his frequent visits to Italy.

“Tuscany holds a special place in my heart because of the Renaissance and the timeless art and music that that era has given us,” says D'Amico. “I've studied both classical and jazz music, and I love them both,” he continues, as he explains his approach. “At this point in my career, it feels right to combine them in one recording because I feel I've got a strong enough grounding in both to allow my own style to emerge.”

Joining D'Amico on Tuscan Prelude are bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Ronnie Zito. D'Amico says that the music on Tuscan Prelude called for a bassist who could execute difficult passages with a bow, and “Marc was just amazing with that.” Zito, who D'Amico first met when he was pianist in residence at New York's Windows on the World, also collaborated with D'Amico on Ponte Novello. “Ronnie is a drummer of great interpretive depth, insight and versatility,” adds D'Amico.

Bassist Greg D'Amico (the pianist's brother) and drummer Vinnie Favata appear on the CD's final track, “Aria in D.” “Greg just swings, and Vinnie--who comes out of the Rat Pack era and who played with Sammy Davis, Jr.--has an incredibly sensitive feel on the drums,” enthuses D'Amico. “I couldn't have made a recording without including them somehow.”

Given the seamless performance that the trio offers on Tuscan Prelude, it's remarkable to learn that they barely rehearsed before joining forces in the studio. “I like having that edge, that freshness,” says D'Amico. “What you're hearing is basically a live recording.”

D'Amico's sound has evolved over the years, honed in performances with his own trio and a variety of other musicians, most notably bassist and lifelong friend Milt “the Judge” Hinton, whom the pianist credits as one of the primary influences on his career. “Several years back, I played a few of the tracks on my earlier release, Ponte Novello, for Milt--he'd only performed on one track on the CD--and he just smiled at me and said, 'Man, you found your niche.”

That niche can be described as the melodious intersection of two very distinct musical roads, which D'Amico says are actually not that diverse to his thinking. “My music is somewhat comparable to opera, in that it's sing-able, even though my compositions are obviously all instrumental. Jazz starts from that same European harmonic tradition and incorporates African rhythms. I'm just finding my own way around that,” he explains.

Born into a family where music was omnipresent, the young D'Amico began to play piano when he was eight years old. Coming of age in the 1960's, D'Amico says his earliest exposure was to American popular music, from the Cole Porter tunes his mother would sing around the house, to his first experience as a performer in a rock group. Under the auspices of Art Podell of the New Christie Minstrels, D'Amico, his brother and three cousins, recorded a single which enjoyed near hit status before the vagaries of the music industry derailed them.

The drive to become a pianist took a firm hold when young D'Amico heard the music of Polish-born composer and pianist, Frederic Chopin. “Actually I saw the actor Cornell Wilde portray him in a movie,” he remembers. Later in college, his piano teacher told D'Amico that the melodies of the Italian opera were the greatest influence on Chopin's music. “I remember being surprised at that, but then I saw that the lyricism of opera, combined with the Polish mazurka and polonaise, came to create his style. I thought, 'I want to be able to do the same thing, to play it all!'” An early Oscar Peterson performance on television, during which his mother told him “This is jazz and they're making it up as they go along,” also resonated strongly with the imminent young performer and composer.

D'Amico first met Milt Hinton in 1974 in a jazz workshop, and the two immediately took to each other so strongly that within a short time D'Amico started teaching the workshop with Hinton. Their collaboration would last for some 18 years, until 1992. Hinton joined his protege on D'Amico's recording debut in 1982, Envisage, which also featured drummer Bob Rosengarden.

In addition to Milt Hinton, another musician whose influence D'Amico cites as key is Mike Longo, established pianist and musical director for many of Dizzy Gillespie's bands. Longo's CAP Records has released all four of D'Amico