THE STRATOS ENSEMBLE
is a band and project that has been using improvisation to blur the margins between progressive rock, jazz, world, experimental music and electronic-ambient music ever since 2004. It is lead by producer Dean De Benedictis, originally a fusion keyboardist who is known as electronic musician Surface 10. The term stratos is a metaphoric reference to the idea of space and expanse, the infinite and amorphous nature of the sky, and the idea that truly exploratory music reaches beyond the fringes of conventional moods and atmospheres.
Usually comprised of experienced players, the ensemble's format is almost completely improvisational, but their techniques sometimes yield the affect of being pre-arranged music. In some circles the Stratos Ensemble fits a progressive-jazz-fusion classification, but it's overall sound comes across more cinematic than other ensembles decorating the fusion and improvisational scene. The band was even interestingly referred to once as "sophisticated space rock". Championing fairly obscure pioneers of the 70s, such as those involved in the early ECM Records movement, and the deeper side of early progressive rock, The Stratos Ensemble approaches their work from a melodic-ambient style template, rather than the traditionally non-idiomatic or tamboral school of thought usually reserved for improvised jazz genres, or the down-home grit usually reserved for jam band genres. The Stratos Ensemble prides themselves in having a broader sonic expanse than most improvisational bands, usually ushered by a dramatic use of audio effects.
Everytime The Stratos Ensemble performs, either in public or in private, it is a rather special occasion. It is both the first and last time this music will likely ever be performed. Whenever it is recorded, the band and the audience are literally witnessing permanent work being created and tracked, for all time. This is work that is not merely noise or experimental indulgence, but spontaneous composition and spontaneous sonic innovation. The Stratos Ensemble typically records their performances, and often releases them to the public later, in one form or another.
MORE ABOUT THE CONCEPT
The basic artistic direction of the Stratos Ensemble's music, ever since it's inception, has been a long-time dream and idea of founding member Dean De Benedictis. Aside from him, The Stratos Ensemble is currently a band of circulating members, evolving over time based on member availability. The Stratos Ensemble does gear itself towards a concrete list of personnel, but it simply rides the tide according to the ebb and flow of it's players.
Dean De Benedictis uses methods like melodic motifs and sonic textures to sometimes guide the general direction of each performed set by the Stratos Ensemble, but only enough to trigger what is clearly a collaborative creation. In general, Stratos players are all joining together to interactively sculpt new passages and musical realities by the sheer joy of their raw skill, talent, creativity and musical understanding.
Ever since the band's very first album in 2007, their main record label has been Dean's own Fateless Flows label. However, they have also occasionally appeared on compilation albums for other labels and organizations, always a Google search away.
Visit the music page for an audio glimpse into the Stratos Ensemble's concept and experience.
OUR PRESENT CORE TRIO CONSISTS OF THESE MUSICIANS
Coco Roussel - drums and electronic drum pads
Bob Gross - bass & bass effects
Dean De Benedictis - piano, synths, embellishments, flute, melodica, voice, production
PREVIOUS MEMBERS, CIRCULATING MEMBERS
Shaunte Palmer - trombone
David Strother - violin & violin effects
James Musser - guitar & guitar effects
Dean Pachares - guitar
Brandon McGregor (guitar & effects)
Brian De Benedictis (B1) (spoken word)
Rod McDowell (bass)
Mick Stevens (bass)
Dave Boswell (guitar & guitar synth)
Jim Goetsch (sax and embellishments)
Frescia Belmar (bass)
Perry Lopez (drums and percussion)
Doug Lunn (bass)
Angie Swan (guitar)
Dylan McGee Jones (guitar & guitar effects)
Daniel Coffeng (guitar & guitar synth)
Brock Avery (drums)
Angelo Elonte (violin and 12 string guitar)
Kent Baxter (upright bass)
Brock Bowers (drums)
Carl Royce (upright bass)
Hector Quintanilla (drums)
OUR PRIMARY CAMERA MAN IS A BRILLIANT VIDEOGRAPHER
Chuck Parker - camera 1
The Stratos Ensemble At Sound Studios -
Doug Sessions angle 22
The Stratos Band Shot_edited
3 Live on KXLU in 2004
Old Strato 4
Live at Zen in 2004
Edited Image 2014-1-3-12:4:11
Old Strato 5
2 Live on KXLU in 2004
IMG_2390 - Version 2 fixed b&w darker_edited
Psychosomatic Rec Stratos Flyer
Stratos Thumbnail 1
SE+SE-insert-final (cover crop)
IMG_2395 - Version 2_edited
THE PREVIOUS AND ORIGINAL STRATO' ENSEMBLE
When Dean started the Stratos Ensemble in 2004, it was a completely different lineup of players than it is today, and had a slightly different name. At that time, he called it the Strato Ensemble (taking out the 's' in Stratos). The old Strato lineup went far enough to perform on FM radio and the Fowler Museum at UCLA in 2004, and they released a full-length CD in 2007 called Drawn Straws. That particular ensemble would go no further, disbanding sometime in 2005, even before Drawn Straws was released. Eventually, between 2012 and 2013, Dean found time to reform the ensemble with all-new players, and after a few more bouts with band member commitment issues, Dean decided to label the project as a circulating band.
Old Liner Notes From The Earliest Album "Drawn Straws"
In the fall of 2003, Dean De Benedictis, a progressive fusion keyboardist (yet better known for his electronic music as alias Surface 10), contacted fellow recording artists Giuseppe Patane (bass player from rock band Maata Haari), Andrea "Jako" Giacomini (drum player from rock band Socadia), and Takeshi Nishimoto (guitar player from progressive jazz duo I'm Not A Gun) to start a project. The intention of this project was to keep their chops up as well as keep their sense of progressive-jazz roots intact. The result was an LA-based, improvisational-jazz ensemble yielding an alternative/progressive sound that can be loosely associate with that of Tortoise, Pat Metheny, Ozric Tentacles, and ECM jazz artists from the 70's and 80's. Fateless Music Records has compiled the ensemble's best jam sessions as a CDR release for 2007 called "Drawn Straws."
To purchase a copy of this original Strato Ensemble album, visit:
For more audio downloads of unreleased Strato Ensemble material, visit:
THE STRATO ENSEMBLE:
Dean De Benedictis - keyboardist, programmer, producer
Andrea "Jako" Giacomini - drummer
Takeshi Nishimoto - guitar player
Giuseppe Patane - bass player
Here is a forward that was written by Dean on the back of the album cover of Drawn Straws:
TO THE LISTENER - From late 2003 to late 2004, myself, Dean De Benedictis, along with music colleagues Andrea Giacomini, Takeshi Nishimoto and Giuseppe Patane, banded together to record scattered sessions for a project based on the principal of liberation through improvisation. Rather than take the same atonal, sparsely-punctuated path into experimental jazz, so thoroughly explored and exploited through the generations, we decided to indulge our genuine interest in a modal approach. To us, this allowed for more aesthetic possibilities and qualities, such as theme and emotion.
Some of our pieces were marathons of length, edited down a fraction, which also pays a virtually-intended homage to the tradition of this genre. And, all the better that we exhibit how the music is indeed comprised of pieces, as apposed to being seen as "songs" of any kind (not that there is anything wrong with songs or song format in appropriate genres). Also, in the spirit of experimentation, the ensemble carried out creative impulses that could easily be interpreted by the listener as audio dropouts or blemishes, to which we affirm with utmost confidence were ninety-nine percent intentional.
We hope that, regardless of any individual’s possible tastes or preconceptions, the soul of the ensemble’s sincere-yet-unrefined intentions communicates outwardly, clearly and gracefully.