BluesWax Sittin’ In With
You have to hand it to Enrico Crivellaro, who continues to enhance his craft on guitar, for assembling a finely honed unit of musicians, and for writing and creating new music that should attract new blues fans and beyond. Crivellaro boldly travels and succeeds where many blues (and other guitarists) fear to go, his talents abound, and his band members contribute mightily with their playing skills and their writing abilities. How many blues guitarists would tackle covering Duke Ellington with style and grace? The only other who comes to mind could be Ronnie Earl. In addition, Crivellaro is a master student of the history of American music, and this fact enhances his opportunities to explore new avenues, which is more than welcome by your humble correspondent. You see, Crivellaro understands and nails blues tunes, but he’s quick to capably add elements of soul, funk, and jazz into his already highly tuned arsenal of guitar artistry.
I recently had the opportunity to catch-up with Enrico, who is from Italy, just as he returned from the United States attending the Blues Music Awards in Memphis, plus a side trip to the Crescent City, and just as his latest CD, Freewheelin’, was released on the Electro-Fi label. By the way, Freewheelin’ will definitely be one of my Top Ten best recordings for 2012, as was his previous release, Mojo Zone, (also on Electro-Fi) was in 2009.
Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Nice new album Enrico, are you “Freewheelin’?
Enrico Crivellaro: That’s a good one, Bob! It’s my pleasure to be here with you.
BW: I’m happy for you, especially about this new CD. You and your albums get better and better; this is one heck of a record. But this one took a little more time for it to grow on me.
EC: It took me a long time to make it. Every record our band makes we always try to make it with a different soul and vibe. On the previous Mojo Zone the recording process went very fast. But we thought about this new one more, but I worry that when you think too much, it could create other problems. Yet we had a good time making this new release. Actually this record was ready nearly a year ago, but I wanted to make sure it sounded the way I wanted it to sound.
BW: As you should, these records are documents of your life’s work and reflect to your audience who you are/were at this point in time.
EC: Yes, I definitely don’t want to live with a record that I don’t like. But I do love this recording and think it’s an improvement over Mojo Zone. The reason for the title name, Freewheelin’, is because we tried to do different things on this one.
BW: You’ve receive a lot of feedback from the listeners here at WFDU [in New York City] asking who did you just play?
EC: Thanks, and I’m making more of an effort to get over to North America too. I was just over with the B3 player Raphael Wressning; we went to Memphis together for the Blues Music Awards. We had a great time meeting all these blues legends. The environment is fantastic; four days of nothing but great blues music. I’m definitely going back next year.
BW: That’s great, it’s important for you to get over here.
EC: We’d like to play more often in the USA. We tour a lot in Europe and have visited Asia where is pretty easy to go visit and play, its beautiful there too. But the United States is a very important place to be, in fact it is the place for us to be.
BW: Wressnig has a new album?
EC: Yes, and it’s great! It’s called Soul Gift, with Alex Schultz, Tad Robinson, Kirk Fletcher, Sax Gordon, Deitra Farr; you know Schultz is one of my favorite guitarists.
BW: And conversely as I know he digs you too.
EC: Raphael is doing well. I also like playing with him, as we have done a lot in the past.
BW: You do a lot of homework studying American musical history; I’ll never forget you telling me stories about Abu Talib aka Freddy Robinson.
EC: Freddy was one of a kind, definitely one of the greatest guitar players of all time.
BW: I’ve been on the Robinson bandwagon since when I first heard him in the early seventies with Mayall, and then did all the research finding his other leader and sideman work. Freddy was the real deal!
EC: When I was a kid I bought Mayall’s Jazz Blues Fusion and I was just blown away. I was about fourteen years old when I purchased the record. I was around twenty-six when I met him.
BW: And when you met Robinson was it planned?
EC: No, it was not. I was playing a gig on the West Coast and Freddy just showed up as he knew the singer in the band. When he came on the bandstand he destroyed me, every note he played was amazing. You know when something like that happens, it made me to want to quit playing the guitar, that’s how great he was. I will long remember that day.
BW: That was a one-time shot with Freddy?
EC: Actually it happened twice. Freddy showed up at another jam and he was phenomenal again. By the way, he always complained that about his motorbike accident and said that he couldn’t play as fast as he used to, but not only was he playing fast, he also played with meaning. Some people play fast and that’s it, but not Freddy. He could play fast and soulful at the same time.
BW: Are you familiar with those Blue Mitchell records Freddy did on Mainstream Records?
EC: Oh, yeah!
BW: Blue’s Blues is tremendous with Joe Sample of the Crusaders on keys and John Guerin on drums.
EC: It was ridiculously good. You can immediately tell that the guys on those recordings were great musicians. I was listening the other day to a Stanley Turrentine album with Les McCann, That’s Where It’s At on Blue Note; heard it at a friend’ house, when the piano solo started I just had to find out who the pianist was.
BW: I hear you! I always loved McCann, too. Back in those days things were different; it was a time when a lot of sideman got record deals. I’ve always thought that era of the sixties and seventies brought us a lot of high-quality and spontaneous recordings.
EC: I’m afraid that the time of making music is gone. As you know, the whole recording industry has changed. I don’t think we have that kind of environment anymore. Today there are a lot of great musicians around, but it’s more difficult to make a record.
BW: And you don’t have the budget and time to make the recordings you would like to make.
EC: That’s exactly the thing, it’s a paradox as in a way technically it’s a lot easier to make a record now, but the flipside is that people don’t buy as many records as they used to, which means you don’t have the budget to make as many new ones. This limits the artist’s creativity, and the energy musicians have to put into making new recordings.
BW: Thank goodness for Electro-Fi’s Andrew Galloway.
EC: Yes, because he’s the sweetest man in this music business, he’s very kind. He knows the business and he knows how to be good to people and musicians. He’s one of the soldiers out there, record labels are dying, yet he keeps going on.
BW: And it’s usually more about the love of music than the money.
EC: Yeah, I think most of us are doing it for the love.
BW: I hope you are making a few dollars, especially with all the energy you put into your playing, worldwide touring, and studies. I feel confident that there will be some rewards for you.
EC: But its not really a money matter, the record industry is in this rough state right now, the sixties and the seventies was such a great time for music, people made music readily, which is why we have so much good music from that era.
BW: This ties in Enrico, Joel Dorn was here on the radio with me several times and one day I said to him, “Man you made so many good albums.” And he answered me by saying, “Bob, if you had my budget (especially at Atlantic Records) you could have made good records too.” It was a different time for sure.
By the way, I love the new tune from Freewheelin’ “Popcorn Jack,” where you take on the roll of sounding a bit like Larry Carlton?
EC: Thank you, I love Carlton, too! I’ve seen Larry a lot over the years and think he’s continuing to play better and better.
To be continued…
Robert Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax and a contributing writer at Blues Revue. He is also the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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