BluesWax Sittin' In With
" Enrico Crivellaro "

He's In The Zone...The Mojo Zone!

Italian guitarist Enrico Crivellaro might not be a household name, but I that may be about to change as he has crafted a magnificent new recording Mojo Zone [BluesWax Rating: 9] on the Electro-Fi record label. Unfortunately, Enrico has only recorded two CDs in his own name and has appeared on a couple of handfuls of albums, but I'm feeling that his time has come! If you happen to have the good fortune of seeing Enrico live, just go, you won't be disappointed.

I recently had the good fortune to talk to Enrico live on the air at WFDU in New York City, as he dialed in from his home in Italy just as his sophomore recording was released.

Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Hi, Enrico, where am I speaking to you from?

Enrico Crivellaro: From Italy, near Venice, and it's fantastic to be with you again today.

BW: Correct me if I'm wrong, but the first time I heard you was on Robi Zonca's first CD.

EC: Yeah, my friend from Italy; a great guitar player.

BW: Luther Kent, the singer from Louisiana, just told me Robi is about to go back into the studio and record again.

EC: You know more than I do, as I have not seen Zonca in a while.

BW: It's amazing to me how a guy from Italy like yourself can come up with such a great record like this, as you obviously paid your dues and studied the music. This record just rocks!

EC: Thank you very much, and I don't think this music depends so much as to where you come from, but more of what you put into it. For me it's been a long process growing musically, as I have been traveling back and forth from Italy and states, checking out all the Blues clubs.

BW: Do you have many outlets to hear and see the Blues in Italy?

EC: When I was growing up we had no Internet, so you're right, it was very difficult to find the music that I was looking for. So I would order CDs, actually vinyl at first, and wait for two months for stuff to arrive.

BW: But that's all changed with the Internet.

EC: Yeah, but in a way its almost too easy, but it's great. A lot of things I learned about came from reading liner notes, so when I was fifteen or so I would order LPs just about every week and read everything. Now you can get downloads but the liner notes aren't always included.

BW: I hear you. There have been several artists I have talked to that worry about people not seeing the liners, and also who the supporting musicians are, as well as knowing who authored the tunes. Plus, what happens when someone's iPod explodes or your disk drive craps out, especially if it's not backed up?

EC: Having access to so much music is great, but on the other hand sometimes you don't know that much about the track you downloaded. It's definitely a different world.

BW: A very different world! You've been to WFDU before, are you coming back to visit the States anytime soon?

EC: July of '09, I'll be playing a couple gigs with the Radio Kings.

BW: Some of those guys backed up Eddie Floyd on his latest Stax CD, right?

EC: Correct! I play with Brian Templeton a lot. We just went to Russia together, where it was pretty cold, but it was great. We went to Siberia!

BW: That had to be wild. You mention some of my favorite musicians in your liner notes...

EC: Well, first, my father had a lot of Swing and Jazz records around the house, so I was first influenced by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, so those players were my first influences. Later on, someone gave me a Muddy Waters tape, and that was it for me, as well as Albert Collins, too.

BW: You are in your mid to late thirties, so did you get the opportunity to see Albert?

EC: I am sad to say I am thirty-eight [laughs], and I did get to see Collins right before he passed. He was phenomenal!

BW: Did you see him at festival or a club?

EC: Festival, I loved when he came into the crowd with his two-hundred-foot cord. I still remember that video from Live Aid where Albert sat in with George Thorogood.

BW: Oh, wow, I don't remember this.

EC: You have to check this out. It's classic. I never got to meet him though.

BW: I saw Albert several times, but I never got to meet him. Coco Montoya has all the good stories about Collins, though.

EC: Coco was on the road with Albert for a long time...

BW: Speaking of influences, Ronnie Earl is one of your main guys?

EC: For sure, I met Ronnie in Connecticut in '94 when I came to the States for the first time. I went to a music school and he was one of the teachers. The school is called National Guitar Workshop; my first two teachers were Ronnie and Duke Robillard. But I quickly learned that either I should stop playing the guitar, or study harder! [Laughs] When I saw Ronnie for the first time, he just really blew my mind!

BW: That had to be with the original Broadcasters, what a band!

EC: Exactly.

BW: Every time that band came to the New York area, I just put aside anything I needed to do and went to see them.

EC: I understand completely. It's too bad he doesn't tour that much anymore, maybe once or twice a month nearby his home. But all of his recent recordings are tremendous. \

BW: I agree; Ronnie is amazing.

EC: What also amazing me is the sound Ronnie gets from his guitar, and he can do that on acoustic or electric. Ronnie Earl has a sound in his hands that few people have. He always sounds great. He's one of those people that can put down his guitar for two months, and it just doesn't matter. A lot of people can't do that.

BW: I'm sure. How did you come up with the name of your new CD, Mojo Zone?

EC: I knew I was going to get that question. I wanted to come up with a short title, that was not too complicated that connected with the Blues, so that's pretty much it. < P> BW: And there is no "Mojo Zone" tune on the CD, just the title. Now one of the songs on Mojo Zone is "Sweet and Skanky." Where did that Name come From?

EC: [laughs[

BW: You're from Italy, and you not supposed to know those things. < P> EC: It was a title that Andrew Galloway of Electro-Fi suggested.

BW: I have to give Andrew a hard time about this! This is your second recording for Electro-Fi. Does Andrew get involved with your recordings, or do you do your own thing?

EC: He pretty much let me do what I wanted to do. He's very supportive, and that's a good thing. I had a lot of freedom to do this record, which was great. Plus, he's a great guy to work with too.

BW: Cool, but don't wait another six years to make your next recording!

EC: Yeah 2003 was the last one.

BW: Thank goodness we heard your guitar playing on Raphael Wressnig's CD from Austria, but we need more Enrico Crivellaro music here.

EC: Alright! I'll work on that.

BW: Are already thinking about your next record?

EC: Actually I am. We had a lot of songs for this CD. We recorded five or six more that did not turned up on Mojo Zone, so we almost have enough material for another disc. And we picked the tunes that we thought went well together to make this record homogeneous.

BW: The songs do flow well, and are sequenced intelligently, too.

EC: It took long to work on the sequencing. I was particular about it as the songs are kind of long, so I think you have to be careful to how tracks segue. But I think in the end, it flows nicely.

BW: I agree. Back to your quote in the liner notes, the names you drop here are tremendous. We obviously have similar tastes in music: Ronnie Earl, Duke Robillard, Kenny Burrell, Lee Oskar, Mel Brown, Alex Schultz, Kid Ramos, Cal Green, Abu Talib...aka Freddie Robinson; are you in touch with him?

EC: You are not supposed to call him by that name. But I actually got to jam with him. I was in L.A., and I was at a club and heard this guy with a big guitar and a small amp. It was Abu. We sat down and started to jam, and he was fantastic! I had no idea who this guy was. He played a beautiful mix of Blues with some Jazz. He sounded a bit like George Benson with more Blues influences! At the end of the set I went up to him and said, "I'm sorry but I don't know who you are?" And he says Abu. "How's it possible I don't know you as you must have recorded a bunch of records?" Later, he gave me a copy of Living Blues magazine, which had a ten-page interview with him. At the end of the article, the author says his name is Freddie Robinson, but don't call him that because he might get upset.

BW: I knew a guy who used to manage him, and the Abu thing made him nuts, as he has one of the most interesting legacies in the Blues. He started pretty much at Chess playing with Howlin' Wolf and others, and then went west and started playing with cats who were in and/or playing with the Crusaders. Who in Blues can say that? I had him for an interview once and asked him how did you go from a hardcore Blues guy to playing with those west coast Jazz guys, and he answered ever so sweetly, "But, Bob, we were still just playing the Blues!" I'll never forget that line. It just was a cool moment.

EC: John Mayall's Jazz Blues Fusion was one of the records I was listening to when I grew up, that was a great band for sure.

BW: He's a great guitarist that is infrequently recorded.

EC: He gave me a solo record he did, just him and his guitar.

BW: Limited distribution, but I have that disc, too. I can talk to you about Abu/Freddie Robinson all day, but back to your liner notes: Chris Cain, Mike Welch, and I have to stop again; Phil Upchurch...

EC: I met Phil at a Jimmy Smith gig and went to his home for a guitar lesson. He was really nice to me and wound up staying with him the entire day. Then he gave me a bunch of his CDs, and we talked a lot about cars, too, so guitars and cars! [Laughs]

BW: Upchurch always grabbed my ears.

EC: What more can you say about a guy who played bass andguitar with George Benson, and guitar with Jimmy Smith. Stop right there!

BW: He's a very underrated bassist for sure. I have several recordings with Phil playing bass, and he kicks butt! One Jack McDuff double LP on Chess comes to mind, The Heatin' System, wow! With Ben Sidran, too, with Clyde Stubblefield on drums. Oh, man! Upchurch is another guy we can talk about all day, but back to your liner notes; Earl Hooker, Freddie King, Magic Sam, the previously mentioned Albert Collins, Pee Wee Crayton, Wayne Bennettt another we can talk about for a while, plus Gatemouth Brown and Joe 'Guitar' Hughes. That's an incredible list of names, buddy, all tasty cats!

EC: Those are a lot of guys who inspired me, and the idea behind Mojo Zone was to pay tribute to instrumental guitar and guitarists. And they all had a very special approach to instrumental music. It's not easy to make music like this. I don't want to do one, two, three shuffle in C.

BW: Some guys think that's true, and weed those guys out quite quickly!

EC: We do, but playing instrumental Blues is really an art form. You have to have a melody, a structure, an idea in mind, and development. These guys I mentioned understood that. They knew there needs to be an intro, a middle segment, and an ending; it just has to make sense to make an instrumental record.

BW: It must be very difficult to make a record without vocals, as not everyone sits down and listens to music like you and I do.

EC: Oh, for sure.

BW: Especially when you are out there trying to make a living doing what you do. Certainly Ronnie Earl has been able to do this, but I think you are on your way, as I feel really strong about this new record, I really do.

EC: Thank you, my fellow Italian!

BW: Definitely let me know when you come to the States, as it would be great to see you again. We'll grab something to eat, and hopefully I can see you perform, too.

EC: Sounds good. Actually, I might fly into New York City, and this is very good news as we are playing at the Montreal Jazz Fest...

BW: Oh wow, I will be there again this year. Which week will you be there?

EC: I will see you, I'll be there the first and second of July playing with David Rotundo

BW: Last time I saw you here, David was with you.

EC: Yes, with his band, and from Montreal we go to Mont Tremblant for three nights at their festival. In between, I will be coming to the States, Boston for sure, and hopefully New York.

BW: Then we'll see each-other either in Montreal or here in New York.

EC: Great, I am looking forward to it.

Bob Putignano: