Playing guitar in Padua…

All work and no play makes the Jar a dull boy…

After a week of Colli Orientali del Friuli with the “Magnificent 6,” I took time out yesterday to catch up with some of my oldest and best friends in Padua — both of them extraordinary musicians in their own right and genre.

That’s Ruggero Robin (above) in his studio. Ruggero’s played with ’em all: Zucchero, Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, and B.B. King, among many others. And his cerebral, dense style of jazz, jazz fusion, and jazz rock has made him one of Italy’s most admired musical artists (no shit). Ruggero was my “first friend” in Italy back in 1987: we met on the night of my first gig in Italy. And I learned from winemaker Angiolino Maule that Ruggero plays every year at VinNatur. Who knew? We listened to some of Ruggero’s mind-blowing tracks and he also played some tracks by his daughter Sara: she is going to be a huge star… I can just feel it… amazing chops, amazing (and remarkably mature) voice at 20 years old, and SO MUCH soul in her songwriting…

Later in the evening, I caught up with Gabriele “Elvis” Inglesi (above), one of the best friends anyone could ever wish for. The first time I made a real living playing music was with Gabriele (whom we used to call Elvis because of his obsession with life and work of Elvis Presley). We remembered how we played 28 gigs in February 1991 (I was 24 years old): 100,000 vecchie lire (about 60 bucks) per man per night and all the beer and food you could drink and eat… Man, we must have a played a thousand gigs together when I lived in Italy…

Elvis has an amazing voice and since those early days in both of our musical careers, he has become a virtuoso chicken picker, basing his style and technique on the category’s inventor and innovator, James Burton. Just ask McDuff, Nicolas, or Alfonso, who all got to meet Elvis and hear him play… he’s a phenomenal guitar player… we even got to hear a few of Elivs’s legendary jokes!

But dulcis in fundo

I finally got to meet Elvis’s son Ettore (above)… what a great kid…

Looking back on it all, I remembered how music got me through some of the most trying and difficult times of my life and how many rewards it delivered in happy times, too. And most of all, I thought, it brought so many wonderful people into my life, people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, love and friendship, solidarity and camaraderie… I wouldn’t trade any of those memories for all the gold in the world… they’re worth much, much more…

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