Gino Vannelli: Moment to Moment (Part 1 of 2)

When I first started this blog I mentioned I hadn’t written much in the past 20 years. Since my heart attack last fall, I decided I would take a journey and rediscover myself through my love of writing and joy of music… As a result TheBluesBlogger was born and I had a canvas to work with.

I always wanted to do an article featuring Gino Vannelli. His story, as you will see, is an interesting addition to this site… From the very beginning of his career, I enjoyed listening to his music. Some of Gino’s songs throughout many of his albums and the level of musicianship involved was remarkable … I have an enormous respect for Mr. Vannelli.

Before I started to write this piece, I kept on thinking about a previous article I did on Vannelli over 17 years ago. I called this the “lost article” as I have searched unsuccessfully for it. A few days ago my wife TBBW came into the den with a playful grin holding something behind her back. Making me close my eyes, she then told me to open them as she held the missing article in front of me. I was a bit surprised as it has been well over 10 years since I’ve last seen it. As I went to reach for it, she pulled it away… “A night of fine dining and good lovin,” she said. Reminding me of the promise I made if she ever found it. It was to be a home cooked meal with no kid too! Boy I had my work really cut out for me. Was it going to be worth it? Well I guess we will see.

Reading through my article after all that time passed, got me even more intrigued to do something else for this very talented artist. Times sure have changed since then. Especially the way we deliver information. I no longer require a publisher to have my work read and I enjoy the freedom to express myself and the process tremendously.

Gino Vannelli

was born in Montreal Canada in 1952. Vannelli developed a love for music at an early age. His father was a jazz musician and it helped inspire Gino who went on to study drums and music theory at McGill University… He gained further influence through jazz drummers such as Ed Thigpen, Joe Morello, Gene Krupa and Elvin Jones.

Vannelli formed his first band at the age of 12 called The Cobras. This band featured his brother Joe on keyboards and it set the stage for Gino to further develop his guitar playing and singing. It would also mark the beginning of a unique and innovative partnership with his brother. At 14 Vannelli love for classical music grew, and he would attend The Montreal Symphony concerts regularly.

At 17 Gino picked up his first record deal with RCA Canada. Shortly afterwards he moved to Los Angeles with Joe in search of a U.S. record deal. The Vannelli brothers had a difficult time getting any real commitments, as their music appeared to go beyond the safe mainstream territory that was so popular in the seventies.

A Desperate Act

Feeling his time was running out in L.A. and with a move back home beckoning, he tried something a little crazy … He would hang out in front of A&M studios and wait for then head Herb Albert to appear. When Gino spotted him in the parking lot of the studio, he ran past security and asked Herb for an audition. Instead of being apprehensive, Albert got interested and granted Vannelli his wish.

As somebody who listened to a lot of music growing up, I welcomed the innovative style when listening to the Gino’s early stuff. The keyboard work of Joe Vannelli was astounding to me. I must admit I digged the whole Vannelli scene. Yes … Gino had that Saturday night fever v-neck white jump suit look, but those were the times, man. The chicks also dug it! As a fan of the music itself, you needed to look beyond just the hair, dance kicks and hips. If you couldn’t, you really missed out on something. He always had great musicians playing with him! Guys like drummers Mark Craney, Casey Scheurell and Enzo Tedesco. Guitar players Carlos Rios and Mike Miller and the list goes on … Gino not only has charisma, he has more talent than a lot people ever gave him credit for. Throughout his career, he created a decent sized fan base and a huge following in both Europe and Canada that still exists until today.

Back in 1991

out of the blue, I was called by a friend who was an entertainment editor. He asked if I would consider writing an article on Gino Vannelli for one of his magazines. At the time, Vannelli just came out with the album Inconsolable Man, three and a half years after his previous album Big Dreamers Never Sleep. It was also going to be his first live tour in 12 years.

I recall starting my gig at the recording studio the same year that Gino’s successful 1978 album Brother to Brother was released. Coincidentally, I ended up meeting and working with several of Vannelli’s road people at the time. It marks a very interesting chapter in my life. I guess those guys thought I was cool because they were always trying to drag me out of the studio and onto the road with their current projects.

Anyway …

I agreed to do the article because it was a change of pace from what I was doing in 1991. And I felt that perhaps I could put something interesting together. I remember truly trying to do the best job I could and I really enjoyed the whole experience. My biggest challenge was overcoming my inexperience of the telephone interview. I’m terrible on the phone and much preferred to discuss matters in person. Unfortunately this is not always possible.

After the article was published, Gino requested to meet with me and we got together one night… And he gave me one of the greatest compliments I ever received; a positive endorsement for my writing style. He also said I had a gift that should be explored and I should go after it and see where it took me … We discussed a bit about our studio days and life in general. And then we both set out on our desired paths. I never forgot our meeting and his words of encouragement. How ironic that it became one of the last writing gigs I have done until recently.

I didn’t want to give too much biographical information in Part 1 because I decided I’m going to turn the clock back to 1991 and give my readers of this blog the opportunity to view that Vannelli article. In Part 2 of Moment to Moment, I will take you on journey back 17 years to a musical flashback with TheBluesBlogger and the great Gino Vannelli … And I will also keep you posted on my special night with TBBW. Not too much personal information of course, but perhaps the food portion of the evening. Any ideas on what I should be cooking? I really could use your suggestions!

Look for Part 2 soon … In the meantime …

Keep On Groovin,

TheBluesBlogger

5 Responses to “Gino Vannelli: Moment to Moment (Part 1 of 2)”

  1. pjazzypar July 30, 2008 at 8:12 pm #

    Hey BB, Thanks for sharing this. I hadn’t thought about Gino in a while, although do have the album “Brother to Brother” on wax and CD. This biographical trip down memory lane is very telling. I cannot wait for part two 🙂

  2. The Blues Blogger July 30, 2008 at 8:37 pm #

    You’re very welcome … It is very telling … Gino is a serious and solid talent. I may get a few funny gestures with my blues fans, however this is a reflective blues and jazz blog and it’s certainly an important article for me. I hope others will enjoy this too. Thanks for the comments!

  3. jazzgirl August 1, 2008 at 7:59 am #

    I so appreciated reading your piece. I’m a longtime Gino fan and the more I read about him/hear his music, the greater my appreciation grows. Looking forward to part 2! And I pray that you will continue to recover, to grow strong and continue a long and healthy existence.

    blessings to you and your family!

    Jazzgirl

  4. The Blues Blogger August 2, 2008 at 9:18 am #

    Thanks so much for your kind words jazzgirl. I feel fantastic … I’m currently working on Part 2 now …

  5. Mary August 30, 2008 at 11:19 am #

    Thank you for this wonderful blog on Gino! He deserves so much respect and recognition. I met him on July 5, 2008 in Montreal before and after his concert at the Jazz Fest. It was a dream come true for me, I have always admired and respected this man’s gift since I heard him back in 1978. Gino is truly one of the finest muscians of our time and also a wonderful caring human being. His works will always stand out among the others. Gino’s brilliant lyrics are just one of the reasons his music is timeless. His awareness of the human condition including love, family, passage of time, war and even planetary conditions are all expertly represented in his lifetime works. One of my favorite albums that he did, from 1976, “Gist of a Gemini”, includes songs about war and one song in particular about taking care of the planet. It’s the last song on the album called, “Summers of My Life”, beautifully written music and lyrics. This song should be a standard for todays green way of life. I could go on and on about Gino’s works, I have collected just about everything he has recorded… it’s a real treasure. Hopefully some of your readers will look into more of this man’s life works and appreciate him as he so well deserves…. thanks again for writing these wonderful words and I hope you are well and feeling better…. Mary

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