Ben: "We hope it''s apparent that we do not take the standard approach to improvisation. Instead of leaving the theme behind after a chorus or two and simply improvising on a song''s chord structure, we try to keep coming back to the melody as the basis for our solos. We try to give each song its own character, so that even the most familiar ones sound fresh and new. We borrow techniques from classical, romantic, and contemporary styles, including theme and variation, development of melodic and rhythmic motifs, imitative and counter themes, etc. We also try to de-emphasize conventional jazz harmonic formulas and over-used melodic ornaments. The real fun, of course, is applying all of these things in a swinging jazz idiom with another player. I love performing and interacting one-on-one because of the myriad possibilities that can develop. Due to ''happy accidents,'' the journey is always a surprise to the audience, as well as to the two adventurous souls that lead them on it."
Roger: "There''s an inherent difficulty for any instrumentalist or vocalist who attempts a jazz duo project with a pianist. Somehow or other, a musically satisfying flow of ''time'' (which is more than just a sense of pulse or steady tempo) must be supplied without a drummer or bass player helping to ''lay down time.'' The corresponding opportunity, of course, is that you are virtually forced to know your partner on a deeper level, to learn through ''body language'' and subtle musical cues what he is thinking or feeling - or about to do next! When you''re in tune like this, you can explore all kinds of nuances that wouldn''t have suggested themselves otherwise."
About Ben and Roger:
Ben, a free-lance pianist in the Los Angeles area since 1957, has recorded a number of jazz albums, including two trio albums in the early 1960s, "Ben Di Tosti Plays the Music from the Broadway Hit ''Carnival''" (Pacific Jazz) and "Out of This World" (Everest), and a recent solo album, "Solo Jazz Piano -Vol. 1" (Thematic Music, 2000). A recent effort is his co-produced trio outing which features singer Gene Cook, "Late Blooming Jazzman" (Gene Therapy Records, 2003). Just finishing production is "Something New This Christmas" with the same group. Also, a song composed and arranged by Ben, "Right Now!," appears on the new Pat Longo CD, "Extreme Heat" (LongAnn Records, 2003). In future solo projects, he hopes to explore music from the opera and other classics, as well as the great traditional jazz composers such as Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Thelonius Monk, and Lennie Tristano. Another goal is to conduct improvisation workshops at colleges. For more information on Ben''s recordings and other projects, go to https://www.tradebit.com or contact Ben at [email protected]://www.tradebit.com
Roger, a free-lance trombonist and arranger in Nashville from 1971 to 1985, played on many commercial and jazz recordings, including Earwitness "The Secret''s Out" (NJP Records, 1978), Louis Brown Orchestra "Big Band Bridge" (JMH Records, 1978), Nashville Jazz Machine "Eli''s Coming" (AM-PM Records, 1982). Since moving to Southern California to join the Disneyland Band, he has continued free-lance work. Most notable of this period was the Don Miller Orchestra CD, "This Swingin'' Life" (MG Records, 1998), one of Roger''s two solo tracks being used on the trailer of Jerry Seinfeld''s 1998 HBO special, "I''m Telling You for the Last Time." Most recently, Roger has soloed on Edmund Velasco''s "Smoke Rises" (Gemtone Records, 2003) and Doug McDonald''s Jazz Winds/Brass Coalition "Turn" (Sea Breeze Records, 2003). Roger, whose email address is [email protected]://www.tradebit.com, has been increasingly busy since the mid-90s writing essays and reviews on jazz and other topics. These can be accessed from his home page at https://www.tradebit.com
To our listeners:
On this, the inaugural release of my new recording label, I just want to express Ben''s and my deep appreciation to our wives, Junko and Becky, and to our other loved ones and friends and colleagues who encouraged us with this duo project. Sincere thanks also go, for their yeoman work, to Jonas Aras of ARAS Music (mastering) and George Matoian of Gemtone Records (artwork, layout). In the future, we intend to do more duo albums together and, eventually, to release our quintet recording of jazz selections from the Broadway play, "Victor/Victoria." In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this collaboration on "The Art of the Duo"! Appended below are some of the wonderful comments we received from our pre-production mail-out. Best wishes to all, Roger Bissell, president, Muse Seeker Records, Orange, CA, November 2003.
I am perfectly delighted...a number one + one + one, etc....I have never heard trombone playing like that - ever...a trombonist and 3/4s if I have ever heard one...Tone was superb, ideas equally...Clare Fischer https://www.tradebit.com
[Their] CD is fantastic...Anyone really interested in adventurous, beautifully played, swinging jazz will be thrilled with this great duo...Dave Brubeck https://www.tradebit.com
Very tasty! I thoroughly enjoyed, and you will enjoy, the melodic gifts of Roger Bissell on this new CD...Bill Watrous
Not since the Phil Wilson/Makoto Ozone duets of 1982 and the J. J. Johnson/Joe Pass duets of 1983 has there been a collection of duet recordings like the one you are reading about right now. Like their predecessors, Roger Bissell and Ben Di Tosti are superb musicians, and the combination of Roger''s sometimes witty, always elegant melodies with Ben''s beautifully crafted and interactive accompaniments results in a most distinctive and worthy addition to this small but choice segment of the jazz world. The delights are many in this baker''s dozen. There is the wonderful musical conversation in the next-to-last chorus of "Pick Yourself Up;" Ben''s contrapuntal improvising in his solo on "Sweet and Lovely;" the ingenious harmonic detours in "Sweet Georgia Brown" (woe be unto anyone attempting to sit in with them on this one!); the matchless tone and sense of line in Roger''s interpretations of "On My Way to You" and "In a Sentimental Mood;" the fine contribution to the jazz repertoire of "The Hazards of Loving You;" the jitterbugging Fats Waller who pops up in "Stardust;" the ... well, you can make your own list. Chances are your list will include the fact that these players can swing-no rhythm section needed....Thomas Owens (Professor of Music, El Camino College; author of BEBOP; THE MUSIC AND ITS PLAYERS, published by Oxford Univ. Pr., 1995)
Question: Which is more important, listening or practicing? Answer: There is no answer. It takes endless practice to be able to play whatever your ears dictate. Roger and Ben do this so extremely well; it''s a true thrill to listen to their talents...Paul Tanner (Former professor of jazz history at UCLA; author of SIDEMAN, published by Cosmo Space Co. Ltd., 2000 and A STUDY OF JAZZ, published by Little, Brown, 1981)
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