To describe Joseph
Diamond merely as a pianist, composer, and producer is to present an
image that is far too narrow. It's true that his pianistic abilities run
into the virtuosic range, which is not surprising given his jazz and
classical pedigree: daily childhood studies with his mother, jazz
explorations in high school with George Handy, trial-by-fire in the
University of Miami music department, and further college study with
jazz icons such as Jackie McLean, Nat Reeves, and James Williams, as
well as the late Jaki Byard and Walter Bishop, Jr. It's possible to
trace still other significant influences on Joseph's musicianship by
following the path of his lengthy tours on Caribbean cruise ships and
Broadway road productions, as well as the years he spent mastering Latin
piano styles at New York's Boy's Harbor, a legendary hotbed of Latin
But knowing all this still won't prepare you for the impact Joseph's
music may have on you when you hear it. Elements of all these influences
come in and out of his compositions, but it's Joseph's ingenuity and
creativity - okay, his chops, too - that make each tune a self-contained
world of clever orchestration, beguiling melody, and burning grooves,
unlike any you've heard before. The lines between tradition and
innovation are blurred in Joseph's world, though he hasn't penned a tune
yet that wasn't true to the integrity of the styles embodied in it. Live
or on disc, Joseph's music is fresh and engaging.
In fact, Joseph's two CDs are the fruit of his own production efforts,
from top to bottom. Anchored by his long-time favorite rhythm section of
Leo Traversa on bass and Vince Cherico on drums, each disc was recorded
only after months of live shows and rehearsals. This allowed the band to
fine-tune their ears to each other's strengths, and to create an
ensemble sound that never flagged or stumbled. As a result, Joseph's
recordings have a live feel and energy, but with studio precision.
His first release, Not Your Typical New Yorker, featured the work of his
late friend and main man, woodwind and keyboard artist Drew Francis, as
well as that of percussionists Emedín Rivera, Joe Barnes, Norman Hedman,
Pocholo Segundo, and Rudy Romero. About half the tunes on the disc show
Joseph's Latin side, and half could be said to come from his jazz roots.
But each composition is thoughtfully arranged and full of humor, energy,
and excitement - all trademarks of Joseph's music.
For his second self-produced album, Island Garden, Joseph expanded his
palette to include a host of guest musicians on winds and percussion.
His arranging talents grew to accommodate the increased resources,
applying them not just for color, but to play integral compositional
roles. His own playing is over the top, from blazing montunos to mad
The variety and depth of these two albums is testimony to Joseph's
determination, musicality, and imagination. Catch him playing live
somewhere in New York, and you'll be similarly rewarded with melodic
gems, endlessly interesting arrangements, and foot-tapping rhythms - and
some dynamite piano playing to boot.