The title of John Favicchia's second independently released recording Dharma may first bring to mind a popular ABC sitcom, but that's just our pop culture talking. On a deeply spiritual level, "Dharma" is a Sanskrit word for one's purpose in life, the reason one is put on this earth. For the New York native and popular, well traveled jazz musician, that means playing the drums. Or more specifically, getting behind the skins with an amazing group of Big Apple musicians at a club or in the studio and playing his heart out. His well-received 1997 solo debut World Time earned rave reviews and was a critics pick for Top Ten of the year by Jazziz Magazine.
On his dynamic follow-up Dharma, Favicchia expands upon the strengths of that recording-brilliant melodies, wondrous eclecticism and tight ensemble playing-with an even wider variety of stylistic excursions, an exciting array of all-star guests (Steve Khan, Chieli Minucci, Dean Brown, David Mann, Harvie Swartz,) and, most importantly, a greater showcase for his ever evolving skills as a timekeeper nonpareil.
"I created my first record for the very simple reason that I was always moved so much listening to the music of other artists and I thought it would be exciting to share the music I'd been playing with more people the same way," says Favicchia. "Along the way I learned that the real joy is in the doing . World Time featured musicians who had played with Pat Metheny and as a result the album had a cool, Metheny-esque, be-boppish vibe. The concept behind Dharma was to be more contemporary, aggressive and upbeat. Last time, my drumming was mostly in the service of the whole ensemble, but here I wanted to play more aggressively, put more of my own stamp on it. There's a lot of diversity here, from world rhythms and Latin grooves to fusion and even smooth jazz, but it's all music that's close to my heart and it's wonderful to have the freedom on an indie project to express myself this way."
For Favicchia, the key to creating Dharma was in finding great songs which worked melodically, harmonically, rhythmically and gave him room to either be featured prominently in the mix or find the perfect spots to do solos. "I wanted each song to have a different feel to it," he says. "Working with or using songs by a wide variety of writers with different approaches really made the tracking unique."
Dharma begins with keyboardist Chris Geith's heavily percussive Fusion tune "Coincidence," on which Geith and saxophonist David Mann carry the lead melody line before Mann and then Favicchia roar in with intensely improvisational solos. Harvie Swartz's "Pyramid" is an old favorite of Favicchia's and is usually done as a straight ahead jazz tune; the band here turns it into an Afrocuban jam featuring a bembe rhythm, opening with a drum solo, leading into Mark Gatz's gentle soprano sax melody, then exploding into a festive jam with Steve Khan's snappy acoustic guitar solo. "Antes Te extremeces," an exotic interlude duet between Favicchia and conguero Cristian Rivera, leads into the fiery, Latin big band hurricane explosion "Te Estremeces," which was composed by keyboardist Mario Cazeneuve. The tune features a small Latin vocal chorus, the nylon string guitar melody of Matt Cardin (enhanced by surrounding horn section accents) and a lively solo by Cazeneuve. "Restless Heart" is Dharma's one smooth jazz flavored piece, a breezy, funky gem led by David Mann's cool tenor melody. After the drum solo interlude "Dharma" comes Cardin's ultra-fusion tune "Pez," which features a balance of mystical atmospheres and a space-age synth melody that may remind listeners of the work of one of Favicchia's early heroes, Chick Corea. "Pa'delante" is a feisty Cazeneuve party perfectly joining aggressive be-bop with exciting, brassy Latin flavors (and includes powerful solos by Mark Gatz on tenor and the composer on keys), while "Animation" gives smooth jazz guitarist Chieli Minucci (who wrote the blistering fusion rocker) a rare chance to stretch out and go completely wild with his axe. "World Time II," a percussion-vocal pastiche written by Favicchia with Jeff Haynes, is a sequel to a similar piece on the drummer's World Time album; each of the five globetrotting sections (Asia, Mediterranean, Africa, Drum Solo, African Vocal) were recorded separately before being edited together. Dean Brown's "The Gauntlet" closes the set with the same type of wild, free for all ensemble energy that defines the rest of Dharma.
Several of John Favicchia's great uncles were well known trumpet players who played with legends like Benny Goodman, but the downside of their traveling musical lifestyles led the drummer's father to originally discourage his son's pursuing a career in music. Favicchia's Dharma won out, however, and in junior high, he saved enough money to wheel home in a shopping cart his first used drum kit; he was also by this time playing drums in the marching band in school. His influences soon shifted from progressive rockers like Rush to the jazz eclecticism of Chick Corea and versatile drumming of Steve Gadd. At 16, the Long Island native began studying drums with many private instructors and soon thereafter, he began an intense practice schedule which included many hours of private drum instruction from the top teachers in the country, as well as receiving his A.S. degree in Jazz - Commercial music from Five Towns College. At the same time, he was a drum instructor at the Long Island Drum Center and doing as many side club gigs as possible.
Hailed as "one of the most musical and well-rounded drummers", Favicchia's versatility has enabled him over the years to appear in a variety of musical settings: two Contemporary Jazz CD's by the Billy Eric Band, live NYC Radio broadcasts with the Richard Thomas Big Band, 2 CD's by Chapman Stick player Steve Adelson, concerts with rock guitarists Bob Koelbler and Matt Cardin, dates at the Blue Note in New York with Steve Adelson, jazz clubs with the Bob Gallo Group, and touring Europe with Trumpet player Latco Deczi. In 1993, Favicchia became a member of Deczi's band "Jazz Celula"; his first two month tour took the band through Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxemberg, and Hungry. Some highlights of the tour were playing live on the radio in Prague as well as performing a concert for Czech TV. While in Germany, the drummer played the Burgthann Jazz Festival as well as the Famous Frankfurt "Jazz Keller". He toured Europe two more times with "Jazz Celula", once in 1995 and two months in 1996. Other jazz artists Favicchia has performed and/or recorded with are Steve Khan, Larry Coryell, Harvie Swartz, Chieli Minucci, David Mann, Bob Malach, Jeff Haynes, Philip Halmilton, Dean Brown, Latco Deczi, Gerry Etkins, Jerry Brooks, Lonnie Plaxico, Jay Rowe, Schuyler Deale, Tim Regusis, Tony Kadleck, Carl Fischer, Mike Frost, John Scarpulla, Matt Cardin, Kirk Lions, and Billy Eric.
The record release party for World Time was broadcast live on the Jazz radio station 88.7 WRHU FM. A few months later his band performed on a cable TV show that is broadcast to 750,000 homes in the NY area. In February, 1999 Favicchia recorded bass player Gerhard Graml's CD in Vienna Austria and in April of that year, his band toured Canada and started work on Dharma. He also has been recording a group lead by himself and his Partner Mario Cazeneuve. The group plays Latin/Jazz and the group and the CD are called "Pa'delante".
When not on the road, John resides in the New York area where he is engaged in many creative activities: playing in a Latin/Jazz group called Afro Dysia; doing gigs with Enee recording artist Natural Elements; leading his own Fusion band as well as his own Quintet; running his own music company called FAV MUSIC for which he books Jazz acts for all kinds of situations; and keeping a busy schedule as a freelance artist playing with the (Blue Note Recording Artist) Lonnie Plaxico, Inner Voice Band, Billy Eric Band, Destiny, and Primo.
In the educational field, John has been teaching in his own studio as well as South Island Music School on Long Island. He has written a drum book called the "RTC METHOD". John endorses Vater drum sticks, Attack drum heads, Colby Drum Works Snare Drums, Real Feel practice pads, as well as Zildjian cymbals.
In the spirit of "Dharma" and his belief that we should all use our own individual gifts to help benefit others, a portion of each CD sale will go to cancer research.
"In addition to all of the diverse musical situations I've been able to plug into and create during my career, the most rewarding thing for me is having the opportunity to meet new and different players all the time," Favicchia says. "I love playing with them live and it's been amazing to have the chance to document some of these performances now on disc. Working on Dharma has been an unbelievable journey, from building a small studio in my house to finding writers to write me songs in which I could express myself fully. I'm happiest when I'm playing, and it's so exciting to once again be able to share that joy in this way."
Drum Ring International 7.25.01
John Favicchia's new 2001 CD release, Dharma, is truly a work of art. Fusion in every sense of the word, Dharma is a melting pot, a potpourri of musical influences from around the world. The CD features some of the best drumming I've heard in a long time. Favicchia has the perfect blend of chops and musicality; never over playing, yet always leaving you wanting more. Dharma is full of poly-rhythmic interplay, mixed meter, rhythmic displacement, slammin' back-beats, dynamic cymbal work, melodic drum solos, and all the energy & technique you'd expect from a world-class drummer. Dharma is full of radio-worthy songs that could fit into the commercial radio format, although thankfully Favicchia doesn't seek to tailor his CD to that genre. Favicchia has obviously invested a great deal of his soul in this music. Every cut on this CD has it's own persona ... yet the mood and cohesiveness of the album is never lost. It's hard to single out a few tracks as my favorites as I love them all. "Restless Heart" is a commercial pop/jazz tune, as is "Coincidence" which has a interesting development/bridge section where John stretches out and solos while the band vamps. "Pyramid" opens with a creative drum solo, nicely setting up the 12/8 (afro-cuban / jazz) feel that this song is built on. "Te estremeces" and "Pa'delante" has some burnin' salsa drum & percussion feels coming from Favicchia and Riveria ... not to mention the brass sections. "Dharma" (a drum solo composition) means "a purpose in life". Listening to John's drumming, it's obvious why he chose to make this the title cut. "Pez" starts out with an intense electronica opening, soon melding into a soothing guitar melody, building back to the opening theme. "Animation" is an esoteric sounding groove tune, with soaring guitar melodies over a funky drum bed. Living up to it's title, "World Time II" takes the listener on a journey of sounds from around the planet. Thick layers of drums, percussion and chant will make this composition one that you'll want to listen back to over and over again ... just to catch all the wonderful subtleties. The heartfelt guitar/sax unison melodies, interplay and solos on "The Gauntlet" really make this a wonderful closing tune ... but wait till you hear Favicchia's burnin' drum solo in the middle section of the tune! John simply tears it up baby! The second of Favicchia's self-produced albums, Dharma is a 'must have' for any fusion lovers CD library and is well worth the price of admission.
- Bart Elliott Drum Ring International
JAZZIZ MAGAZINE 9.01 2001
One of the great joys of being an independent self-released artist is not having to constrain a wide variety of interests to fit into anyone's marketing scheme. The title of John Favicchia's second independently released recording Dharma may first bring to mind a popular ABC sitcom, but that's just our pop culture talking. On a deeply spiritual level, "Dharma" is a Sanskrit word for one's purpose in life, the reason one is put on this earth. For the New York native and popular, well traveled jazz musician, that means hitting the skins with an amazing group of Big Apple musicians at a club or in the studio. Favicchia expands upon the strengths of his first disc World time-brilliant melodies, wondrous eclecticism and tight ensemble playing-with an even wider variety of stylistic excursions, an exciting array of all-star guests (David Mann, Harvie Swartz, Steve Khan, Dean Brown, Chieli Minucci) and, stronger showcases for his ever evolving skills as a timekeeper (including two drum solo tracks). Dharma begins with keyboardist Chris Geith's heavily percussive jazz tune "Coincidence," on which Geith and saxophonist David Mann trade off the lead melody before Mann, then Favicchia roar in with intensely improvisational solos. "Antes Te extremeces," an exotic interlude duet between Favicchia and conguero Cristian Rivera, leads into the fiery, Latin big band hurricane explosion "Te Estremeces," which features a small Latin vocal chorus, the nylon string guitar melody of Matt Cardin (enhanced by surrounding horn section accents) and a lively solo by Cazeneuve. "Restless Heart" is the disc's one smooth jazz flavored piece, a breezy, funky gem led by David Mann's cool tenor melody. Genre fans should also gravitate to the blistering rock/fusion jam "Animation," which gives popular but lately restrained guitarist Chieli Minucci (who wrote the tune) a rare chance to stretch out and go completely wild with his axe. Favicchia's a bit all over the place, but it's clear he's loving every minute of the wanderlust.