Stratospheerius are a band based out of New York City that play music in a progressive rock, jazz fusion and jam band genres. They are led by electric violinist Joe Deninzon who additionally plays the mandolin and serves as the band's lead vocalist.
Deninzon was born in St. Petersburg, Russia but grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and studied classical and jazz violin at Indiana University. Before relocating to the New York City area in 1998, he recorded a jazz fusion cd Electric/Blue, playing primarily on a 6-string Jensen electric violin. While freelancing in the New York City area, Deninzon was additionally studying at the Manhattan School of Music and teaching at the New School. It was while at The New School that he met and began collaborating with guitarist Alex Skolnick who was studying jazz guitar there at the time. Their band eventually became known as Stratospheerius, and they toured, recorded and released the The Adventures of Stratospheerius album in 2001-2002.
The band consisted of Deninzon on violin, Skolnick on guitar, Rufus Philpot on bass, Scott Chasolen on keyboards, Grisha Alexiev on drums with DJ Big Wiz on the turntables. The 12-track album consisted mostly of originals written by Deninzon as well as covers by Vince Guaraldi, Stevie Wonder, and Wayne Shorter. The band’s live shows became known for their extended jams, musical improvisation and their violin/guitar interplay, often invoking comparisons to bands like Dave Matthews Band and Bela Fleck.
On the strength and popularity of their live shows, the band released a live album, Live Wires in 2004. That same year they additionally won an Independent Music Award for Best Jam Song for their song "What's That Thing". By this point the band’s personnel had started evolving. The band jettisoned keyboards and turntables from their sound, with Jake Ezra taking over for Skolnick on guitar and Ron Baron joining on bass. Drummer Lucianna Padmore was brought into the group by Skolnick and Baron, who knew her as a student at the New School where she was studying jazz. Live Wires included a large number of of the songs from their first album as well as Deninzon’s debut Electric/Blue and featured their current lineup plus two songs that included Skolnick.
The personnel changed once again with bassist Bob Bowen and guitarist Mack Price joining Deninzon and Padmore, with Deninzon switching to a 7-string electric violin built by Mark Wood. This lineup released a live DVD Fiddle Trip Funk Live! in 2006 and a studio album, Headspace, in 2007. Headspace saw a bit of a direction change for the band, as the funk and jazz styles were combined with more melodic and progressive rock.
The band took a break as Deninzon and Bowen teamed up with guitarist Steve Benson as the Joe Deninzon Trio to record the acoustic jazz album Exuberance, released in 2010.
Following Price’s departure and Bowen’s death, Deninzon and Padmore brought French guitarist Aurelien Budynek and bassist Jamie BishopFrancis Dunnery, The Syn into the fold. This lineup recorded the band’s most recent album, The Next World…, released in May 2012. Stratospheerius held a concert in New York City to celebrate its release, with original guitarist Alex Skolnick reuniting with Deninzon and Padmore as he played guitar with the band as a special guest throughout the show.
- 1998 - Electric/Blue (Wilbert's Blues Records)
- 2002 - The Adventures of Stratospheerius (D-Zone)
- 2004 - Live Wires (D-Zone)
- 2007 - Headspace (D-Zone)
- 2012 - The Next World (D-Zone/Digital Nations)
- 2014 - "Behind The Curtain" (single, D-Zone)
- 2015 - "Guilty of Innocence" (single, D-Zone)