Joe Deninzon Recalls Kansas’ Reaction To His Improvisation

Elif Ozden

During his recent interview with Gold Mine, Joe Deninzon of Kansas revealed whether or not he had the band’s approval to improvise in their music. When asked if he adhered to the original arrangements or if he sometimes improvised and changed a few parts, the violinist responded with:

“That’s a good question, and you’re not the first to ask it. Tom told me, ‘Use the original solos as your starting point.’ So I’m playing as many of the original solos as I can, and then throwing my own ideas into it. Little by little, there are certain solos that are sacred ground—no one messes with ‘Dust in the Wind.'”

It appears that Deninzon’s choice to improvise varies depending on the song. He explained:

“All the solos in ‘Song for America,’ I pretty much play the way Robby and Ragsdale played it, but there’s stuff where I just shred and do my own thing, like on ‘Down the Road’ I’m pretty much just improvising. On some songs I get to rock out and improvise, such as on ‘Can I Tell You.’ I just approach each piece on a song-by-song basis.”

He also shared his thoughts on the members’ decision about letting him improvise:

“I try to honor whatever they want me to do. There were some songs where I wasn’t sure what to do. I was like, ‘Can I just improv here?’ And they said, ‘No, learn this solo.’ And I was OK with that because they’re great solos to learn. All the solos are so beautifully conceived. I don’t have any problem playing them. I do get to be creative within the structure of it, so it’s cool.”

The violinist has been improvising with his other band, Stratospheerius, and gave a few tips for people who also improvise in an earlier interview. One of his bits of advice said:

“Don’t just practice in your room. Get a friend who plays piano or guitar and jam with them. Go to jam sessions in your town and get up there. No fear! You will never learn to improvise if you don’t give yourself a chance to apply the concepts you are learning to a real life situation. As I said before, you need to fall on your face a few times before you can stand up and rock out.”

Deninzon, who has played with Stratospheerius for over 20 years, joined Kansas in May to replace their former violinist. Evidently, he is enjoying every minute and is very grateful for having the opportunity to have joined the band.

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