by Steve Lopez,
I could tell
you about six dozen things about popular guitarist Jim Dragoni and
his work. The $6 pawn shop junker he started with nearly 30 years
ago. The sessions with saxophonist Odean Pope and bassist Tyrone
Brown. The years of study with master teacher Dennis Sandole,
whose students have included John Coltrane, Pat Martino, Randy
Brecker, Jim Hall and Jim Moody. The 60 or more original
compositions, gig at Lincoln Center, the Ivy League music
scholarship. The daily search for something new in a sun splashed
flat above an art studio in one of Philadelphia's oldest
But none of that matters.
It does to Jim of course. But he knows, and every other musician
knows, that when you get out there, you plug in, and you let it go,
only one thing matters. The sound of the music.
At Jim Dragoni's performances, the rhythm of the
music pulls people in, the melody grabs them, and the improvisation
holds them. Nobody asks about his resume. They ask when he's coming
back, or where he's playing next.
One thing that catches their attention is that Jim
Dragoni's music is not like anything else they've ever heard. Mostly
it's jazz, usually with bass and percussion laying down a low cloud
cover, and Jim Dragoni, on his vintage Gibson hollow-body, burning
through it with unhurried lightning. Sometimes it rocks, sometimes
it swings, sometimes it is pure sweet poetry. Off in the distance,
you might hear some Wes Montgomery, or Thelonious Monk. Everyone has
their influences. But in an age of reheated ideas, safe parodies and
outright clones, Jim Dragoni's music is true to himself, true to the
listener, true to the art. There is no reason to perform, he says,
unless you have something to say. Something that hasn't been said
before by anyone else. That is why first time listeners take notice.
That is why they soon become regulars at Jim Dragoni performances.
And that is why they go away thinking there's hope, after all for