Joe DeRose and Amici: Peace Streets

Peace Streets

Following their 2010 debut, Sounds for the Soul, San Jose-based drummer Joe DeRose and his “amici” (friends) break out with their follow-up, Peace Streets. Fronted by guitarist Hristo Vitchev, saxophonist Dan Zinn, keyboardist Murray Low, and bassist Dan Robbins, DeRose presents an album of intelligence and nostalgia. Opener “New Frontiers,” in point of fact, establishes such an unmistakable Pat Metheny vibe that you may just want to start the car now so that you’re ready to hit the road once you press PLAY. Between Vitchev’s gentle voicings and Low’s synth textures, the music’s punctuations surround us with sunlight.

It’s a comfortable vantage point from which to survey the journey to come. With such memorable stops as the 70s-infused “Native Son” and the sweeping Latin groove of “The Spirit of the Room,” and from there the melodic stretches of highway laid by the funky “Smiles for Miles” and the gorgeously emphatic “In a Moment’s Time” (now entering the 80s), there’s much to admire along the way. Through all of it, DeRose’s bandmates make easy work of the changes. Vitchev emotes with virtuosic, snaking starlight, his constellations alive with an unwavering foreword gaze. Zinn commands with his remarkable tonal chops, knowing just when to lay back and when to turn up the heat. Low’s presence is as selective as it is integral. Like Vitchev, he is just as comfortable soloing as he is holding the front line. Robbins, for his part, digs deep, unearthing anchor after anchor. DeRose, too, continually switches places, flitting from side to side with finesse.

Zinn in particular proves himself a most chameleonic player. Whether donning his Lenny Pickett hat in the otherwise laid-back “So It Is!” or morphing into the Jan Garbarek-like register of “In a Single Breath,” he is careful to acclimate himself to the mood at hand. This full set of originals, all from DeRose and Vitchev, lends itself beautifully to this collective palette. Some of the most effective interactions, however, occur between Zinn and Vitchev, sparring playfully as they do in “Native Reprise.” Even the soft lighting of “After the Storm” does nothing to obscure their simpatico dialogues, which reach their most uninhibited levels on the concluding title track.

To be continued, I hope.

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