Diane Monroe is more than simply a fine performer. She is a violinist whose versatility and expressive artistry consistently bring audiences to their feet. Her visibility as a jazz artist began with her long-standing membership as first violinist of the Uptown String Quartet (with Lesa Terry, Maxine Roach and Eileen Folson) and the Max Roach Double Quartet. With those ensembles, she performed with Cecil Bridgewater, Trumpeter; Odean Pope, Saxophonist and Tyrone Brown, bassist, and has recorded on the Soul Note, Philips/Polygram, and Mesa/Bluemoon labels.
In addition to her contributions as a side-person, Monroe has been leading her own ensembles for more than 15 years. The Diane Monroe Quartet appeared on the Kennedy Center’s Women in Jazz Festival in 2012 and has performed at many other venues. She has developed a program for her sextet – “What Is This Thing Called Freedom” – that features vocalist Paul Jost and her longtime musical partner, vibraphonist Tony Miceli. She and Miceli released their debut recording, Alone Together (Dreambox Media), in August 2014. All About Jazz sums up the recording: “Monroe and Miceli are adept and resilient musicians of the highest caliber, so they are able to weave their combined sounds into many expressive variations that create "tone poems" and tell stories.”
Monroe is in demand as an educator, panel specialist and leader of jazz improv workshops, rhythm clinics and master classes. The Verbier Festival Switzerland 2000, highlighted her summer as soloist/conductor of the Fiddlefest Jazz String Orchestra. During this festival, Monroe conducted the string orchestra students in a spontaneous collaboration with the violinist Kennedy, in a blues medley. In 2007, Monroe conducted the jazz string section for the Saxophonist James Carter with his quartet, in a presentation at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall entitled, “Gardenia’s for Lady Day.” At last season’s ASTA conference, she chaired a panel, “Improvised music in the classroom,” which included distinguished composer/pedagogue, David Baker.
READ DIANE'S FULL BIO HERE.
"Her unaccompanied rendition of “Amazing Grace” was one of the best arrangements of the piece this listener has ever heard. It was dignified, heart-felt and served up with a delicious dollop of the blues...She played with exquisite bow control and color."
– The Baltimore Sun
"If Walker's style comes out of European traditions, Composer and violinist Diane Monroe has one foot in the old world and another stylish one in the new. In her Bach, Blues and Beyond for violin alone, sure enough, she quotes from Bach and shifts into jazz and other contemporary sounds. But she does so so deftly that her work seems as if scanning across a radio dial. Her basic style is racing and haunting. The work's most stirring stroke comes when she slides between notes loudly and smoothly, getting a sound almost like a voice singing "whoop."
– Peter Dobrin, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Not straitjacketed to Bach, [Lisa] Kraus (Dancer, Choreographer, Trisha Brown alumna), collaborated with violinist Diane Monroe, who plays Bach well as written, but can extemporize in jazz style.”
– David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"...Her technique is impeccable and her improvisations rich and imaginative. She and the group gave a performance equal to any. And it really swung."
– All About Jazz
“Her warmth and total absorption in the music, the involvement of the audience in her playing, and the overall high level of her performance are reasons for us to invite her back. I am happy to recommend Diane Monroe with no reservation whatsoever. Diane Monroe is a violinist with a special gift for drawing her audience into the performance. Her playing is warm, compelling, and faithful to the music of all genres.”
– Anthony Checchia, Artistic Director, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
“I was greatly impressed with the way you were able to use your music to build bridges to audiences of all ages, cultures and backgrounds, and to inspire young musicians to improve their own performance.”
– Lian Farrer, Director of Education, State Theatre, New Brunswick, NJ
“I now know how to make my dream happen. I must bounce the bow with grace. I must put my heart into the piece… Thank you for making my goals come more to life.”
– Allison Friedlander, Sixth Grade Orchestra, Community Middle School, Plainsboro, NJ
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
“BLUES, BRAHMS, AND BEYOND”
“ESTEEMED VIOLINIST SHOWED NO LIMITS SATURDAY…”
By MICHAEL J. FRESSOLA
TUESDAY, MARCH 15TH, 2005
Last things first: The final sound at violinist Diane Monroe's recital this past weekend at the College of Staten Island was a pure, fiddle strain — sweet, thin and evocative. It's the grace note of Victor Steinhardt's "Sonata Boogie," a 1986 showpiece.
The composition champions the versatility of Ms. Monroe and pianist Michal Schmidt, two Philadelphia-based musicians who know no borders, no limits. But at the moment, that final phrase [of Victor Steinhardt’s Sonata Boogie], seemed like the composer's way of settling the argument for one style over another, Bach or blues, Brahms or jazz. Steinhardt seems to be saying, "Forget the argument and just remember this beautiful sound."
No matter the agenda, Ms. Monroe and Ms. Schmidt clearly had the skill and enthusiasm for it. For years now, Ms. Monroe has moved between jazz and classical repertoire. New music interests her as well. She performed works for accordionist/composer Guy Klucevsek's "Flying Vegetables of the Apocalypse" CD, and she and Klucevsek, who lives in St.George, were both affiliated with Relache, the high-profile new music ensemble.
Saturday's concert concluded a residency that took the violinist into music-student enclaves at the college itself, and into classrooms at Curtis High School. The high point of the residency, Ms. Monroe told a small but appreciative audience at the Recital Hall, was a jam session with the Curtis Jazz Ensemble.
She opened the recital with her own solo, "Bach, Blues and Beyond," a dazzling workout overflowing with thoughtful evidence of the common ground shared by Bach, blues, and 20th century minimalism.
The evening's sharpest challenge may have been "Cavatina" by Fritz Kreisler, one of the go-to composers for challenging writing for the violin. Nothing about it seemed to faze Ms. Monroe. Her playing had the warmth and breath of a human voice.
REVIEW EXCERPT-ALL ABOUT JAZZ (online Magazine)
November 2, 2008
In what may become a trend, Philadelphia vibraphonist and entrepreneur Tony Miceli has begun an occasional series of live internet broadcasts of performances by individuals and small groups. Tony invited me to one of these live sessions to see how the whole thing works. It was held at Pro Line Music Store, 190 Lincoln Highway, in Fairless Hills, PA.
On this particular evening, Tony gathered a fine group consisting of himself on vibes, Madison Rast on bass and James Shipp on percussion to accompany violinist Diane Monroe, an accomplished concert violinist who is equally at home with classical and jazz. She is a marvel of a musician with a lively persona, and the group performed several of her own compositions, both lively upswing and meditative ballads of many moods.
Earlier that evening, Tony had carted in a couple of laptop computers and video cameras. Within a few minutes he set up the equipment and went on line. Then he turned the broadcast over to a cohort, and went on stage to play vibes. A live audience filled the seats, and on the laptops you could see an internet audience signing in from far and wide and beginning to “converse” with one another. At the appointed time, the show began. Diane introduced the group and began to “rock” on the violin, performing all the turns of phrase of a Stephane Grapelli but with her own more terse style. Her technique is impeccable and her improvisations rich and imaginative. She and the group gave a performance equal to any. And it really swung.