Jiosa comes home to share talent, knowledge at local store seminar

Huntington native Denny Jiosa (left) illustrates a point by playing a tune during a guitar clinic he conducted Monday, June 20, at Copper Chord Music.
Huntington native Denny Jiosa (left) illustrates a point by playing a tune during a guitar clinic he conducted Monday, June 20, at Copper Chord Music. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published June 27, 2016.

It’s been 15 years since Denny Jiosa has been back to his hometown of Huntington, but he says things have remained pretty much the same.

Jiosa, a 1976 graduate of Huntington North High School, left the small town life to become a professional musician, composer, engineer, producer and recording artist. He now lives in Nashville, TN, where he has a music recording studio. After four Grammy nominations, seven albums featuring his smooth contemporary jazz/blues guitar style and production credits on countless more for other artists, Jiosa is doing all right.

On Monday, June 20, fresh off a couple of concerts at Sweetwater Sound’s Gear Fest and a gig each at Two EE’s Winery and Fort Wayne’s RibFest, Jiosa shared his musical expertise with about 20 attendees at a clinic on “Achieving Tone,” held at Copper Chord Music in downtown Huntington. He was joined by a buddy, keyboard master Kenny Zarider, who also presented a keyboard clinic. Sitting in with them on drums was Mike Kreiger.

Jiosa has held such clinics before, helping musicians fine-tune their sound.

“It’s for guitarists to be able to learn how to care for their instrument, achieve tone and get the right kind of sounds out of their guitar,” he explains. “A lot of the reviews in magazines I’ve brought up talk about my tone being so good, you know, I guess. I’ve studied it my whole life. Every guitar player and every time I go do a show they come up and go, ‘Man, your tone is crazy good!’”

Jiosa says there are some very fine guitar players out there, but their sound often comes off “harsh” to the ears, in his words, because they don’t have it “dialed right … not as sweet as it could be,” he says.

He began playing the guitar at 7 years of age and has been known to take apart old radios and guitar amps, experimenting with how to get the best sound out of them. He says it takes all of the equipment a guitarist uses to produce the final product.

“From the fingers to the pick to the cable to the kind of guitar and pickups, to the kind of amp – whether it’s a tube or solid state amp – all of these things come into play,” he says. “Everything affects your tone.”

Jiosa prefers tube amplifiers to digital amps, with a passion.

“A tube is much warmer, and it ‘breathes’ with the sound. There is actually real movement going on inside of a tube,” he explains. “If you were to watch a tube when a guitar player plays, there’s a filament in there where the harder you hit the bluer it gets. It’s taking on more power and it pushes that tube into overdrive. It gives you just a little bit of an edge on it, and it’s just very pleasing. It’s a harmonic distortion that happens that is pleasing to the ears.”

Jiosa’s own musical “sound” has been described as a conglomeration of classic, contemporary, cool and smooth jazz tones with blues and Latin notes – much like the fine wines he searches for in his travels and blogs about on his website, Jiosa.com. His musicianship has been compared to guitar greats Wes Montgomery, Eric Clapton, George Benson, Jeff Beck and Santana. His seventh release, “JIOSA On The Edge,” is receiving rave reviews for its more progressive, rockier tunes.

Mike Davis, who had owned the old Studio One store in town, put Jiosa in touch with David Geders, the owner of Copper Chord Music, and the music clinic was arranged, according to Geders, who was happy with the store’s inaugural session.

“Our goal is to do clinics once every two months,” he says. “It’s a way for people here in town that are interested in music to get another outlet – to be able to learn.”

Although he still has a few relatives in the area, Jiosa hadn’t been back to his hometown since 2001.

“It always feels good to come back and see friends and family,” he says, “but it hasn’t changed a whole lot.”