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Interview: Indiana artist Tony Marino tells us timeless stories and shares valuable advice on Low Keyed

With a gig story for the ages and exhibiting to us what self-enlightened experience looks like, Tony Marino kindly had a chat with us and is at his honest best. Valiantly representing the original artist and leading us into his incredible life, we find out more about this determined underground great.

Hello there Tony. Thank you for chatting with us today. Where in the world are you as we speak and what did you have for breakfast?

Tony Marino: I am currently living in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I had my usual blueberries, oatmeal, and coffee for breakfast.

You’re known as the quintessential Latin jazz keyboardist. Where did it all start with you musically and what/who inspires you to perform?

Tony Marino: The title “the quintessential Latin jazz keyboardist” was given to me in one of my album reviews. I started taking lessons with Philadelphia Pianist Bill DelGovernatore, Rev. Ernie Hopkins and then Tom Lawton. I played in bands while attending High School and Tech School. After moving from Philly to Fort Wayne I started a band, called Havana Heat. In 1997, I met Claudio Roditi who introduced me to Breno Sauer. I studied Brazilian Music and Tango with Breno. While living in Fort Wayne I also took lessons with Jim Trompeter, Jose Valdes, and Laurence Hobgood. We moved to Santa Barbara, which was another great experience. I was given the opportunity to play with many other world-class musicians. I have been very fortunate to have studied and played with so many great musicians over the past several decades.

3 albums in 1 year. This is extremely impressive. Please tell us all about your new releases?

Tony Marino: Since my wife and I have been together she always wanted me to record a solo piano album. All of my recordings up to this point were instrumentals using various instruments.

Out of all the projects I did to date the piano solo album called “Original Piano Pieces” took the longest, 14 months. I wrote 12 new pieces, remixed two songs from previous albums and re-recorded two older songs. I worked on one song at a time and did many takes until I was happy with each composition’s recording.

The second album “Low Keyed” came together pretty fast. I wrote and recorded 9 new songs and re-recorded three songs from previous projects. This album is a world music album with Latin and jazz compositions.

The third album release “World Music Blues” contains 10 original compositions that use I-IV-V chord changes in major and minor keys. I wrote these songs in different keys, styles, and time signatures.

If you were stuck on a deserted island..which 5 items would you take with you if you could?

Tony Marino: My wife, our children, our dogs, food, and water.

Do you have any funny live performance stories you’re willing to share?

Tony Marino: When I was in high school, I played in a band that booked an after-hours club gig for several months. I purchased a brand-new amplifier, and on the first night playing the gig, the amplifier speaker blew out. I took the amplifier back to the music store and upgraded to a larger amplifier.

On the second night, I set up the new amplifier directly behind me. While I was playing the amplifier volume started to fluctuate, I noticed my shadow flickering directly in front of me on the dance floor and I felt heat on the back of my neck.

When I turned around to look at the amplifier, I notice 3-foot flames shooting out of it. The guitar player pulled the plug, and the bass player punched a hole through the grill cloth and put the fire out with his hand. The entire place was filled with smoke, everyone ran out of the club into the parking lot. A few minutes later everyone went back into the club. I plugged my piano into the guitar player’s amplifier, and we finished the night. I took the amplifier back to the music store and traded it in for another amplifier.

On the third night I set up my new amplifier, the club owner came over to me and placed a huge fire extinguisher next to my amplifier and said if you play one note without this fire extinguisher you will be fired.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Tony Marino: At a very early age, my dear friend, the Rev Ernie Hopkins told me to never use drugs, gamble or date women at work.

Last, if you were in charge of the entire music industry, what would you change and why?

Tony Marino: I would encourage venues and radio stations to book and play original music of all styles. Throughout my music career, I have focused solely on writing and recording original music. As an independent recording artist, it is hard to get decent-paying gigs and music played on major radio stations without big record-label sponsorship. I would also encourage people to listen to new original music by a variety of artists and music styles.

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Interview by Llewelyn Screen