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Joe Diorio: Rehabilitation & Reinvention

Joe Diorio

One of the great jazz guitarists since the 1960s, Joe Diorio has flown under the radar of the vast majority of jazz fans. But to the hordes of working guitarists today who studied with him at Hollywood’s Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT) from 1977-97 and later at the University of Southern California, Diorio is revered as a kind of six-string guru; his unconventional methods helped liberate them to cross over the line from the intellectual and the intuitive. As he put it in his 1989 REH instructional video, Creative Jazz Guitar: “The idea in improvising is to free yourself from left-brain thinking. The left side of the brain wants to know exactly what it’s doing through every step of the process, whereas the right brain is purely intuitive. It loves to take chances and be creative. And when that right brain starts to kick in, then you’ll start to come up with things you never thought of before.”

Admired throughout his career by fellow plectrists like Joe Pass, Howard Roberts, Jack Wilkins, Robben Ford, Pat Metheny and Mick Goodrick, the native of Waterbury, Conn., is a part of jazz history for his work on the first-ever gold-selling jazz record, saxophonist Eddie Harris’ Exodus to Jazz (Vee-Jay), which sold in unprecedented numbers in 1961 on the strength of the Top 40 hit single, a jazzy adaptation of the Exodus movie theme by Ernest Gold. Diorio is also highly regarded among guitar aficionados for his creative collaboration during the early ’70s with saxophonist-trumpeter Ira Sullivan and his string of eight brilliant recordings during the mid-’90s for the Italian RAM Records label.

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