In New York City, there are three Broadways. There’s the “main” Broadway, which runs the entire length of Manhattan. But there’s also a West Broadway (in Soho), and an East Broadway (in the Lower East Side).

The latter two were named by shop owners as a ruse to divert customers looking for the main Broadway. A pretty mean-spirited trick; a person on East Broadway, in particular, would find himself pretty far out of his way.

I never dreamed this would be a problem where I live, but last week I played a gig at the 215 Restaurant in Jamestown. I was so excited to get the gig that I neglected to emphasize that it was in Pennsylvania. As a result, a couple of my friends drove out to see me in Jamestown, New York.

So… aside from that, what’s new? I was delighted when, two months ago, my music was given a positive review by no less an authority by Goldmine magazine:

http://www.goldminemag.com/blogs/cornucopia-new-cd-reviews

If you are unfamiliar with this publication, I urge you to make your acquaintance as soon as possible. Among other things, the reviewer John Borack (author of Shake Some Action: The Ultimate Power Pop Guide) stated that “Marzano’s songs… would sound pretty darned good in a small town bar on a Saturday night.”

Sadly, there are no bar owners in northwest Pennsylvania who agree with this sentiment. But, the farther I go out of the area, the better my music is received. Since the last newsletter, I’ve played very successful gigs in Greenville and Titusville, PA, and have future gigs scheduled in Jamestown, PA and Conneaut, OH. Check www.frankmarzano.com for details.

Getting back to New York City… I’ve been visiting the Big Apple every year since 2001. One of my favorite things to do there is partake of the city’s live jazz offerings. (The West Village, in particular, is a “musical Disneyland”.)

More recently, I’ve gathered up the nerve to talk to some of the jazz musicians there. I was nervous at first, but once they saw I was serious about music they opened up like a book.

One of the questions I usually ask is, “What’s your favorite place in NYC to see music?” To a person, they reply, “Smalls”.

Having been to Smalls, I can understand why. The focus is on the music: no pool tables, big screen TV’s, or kitchen. People talking too loud during the music are actually shushed.

If you were to ask a Cleveland resident that question, the response would probably be, “The Barking Spider”. This was my favorite place in the tri-state area to see music until they shut their doors last year.

This was a particularly great disappointment to me; aside from being one of very few places willing to book me on a semi-regular basis, it gave me an opportunity to interact with Cleveland audiences – a different breed from northwest Pennsylvania audiences. One man told me he said to his wife, “Let’s go see someone we’ve never heard before.” There aren’t too many people in this area with that attitude!

Since the Barking Spider closed, I’ve been trying to find someplace else in Cleveland with a similar vibe. But it hasn’t happened. The Barking Spider was a unique and special place precisely because of the unique and special people who ran it.

Finally, I’ve been continuing with the guitar lessons I mentioned in my previous newsletter. Someday, I’d like to be good enough to play unaccompanied instrumental guitar. Of course, that might take twenty years – and, indeed, that day may never come – but that’s okay. If the only thing I get out of this is that I learn more about music, I will still consider the money well spent. In music, there’s no such thing as wasted effort.

 

 

 

 


Every couple of months or so, I wake up from whatever reverie is distracting me and realize… that it’s time for another frankmarzano.com newsletter!

Earlier this year I received a very nice review by Dennis Pilon at Poprock Record, a blog for independent music. Among other things, Pilon noted that,

“Journeymen have done their time in the trenches. They deliver in a solid way, even if they don’t get all the glory. Fame and success – beyond a certain level of talent – is arbitrary, fickle, and fleeting. Marzano has kept soldiering on, dependably putting out great songs, with less than his fair share of fanfare.”

This, in a nutshell, is what keeps me going... the fact that people who know music – like Pilon (and you, too, for that matter) – appreciate what I’m trying to do.

So, when American Proust came out in 2015, I solicited the attention of several music review websites (the Erie Reader, Don’t Believe a Word I Say, Captain Panda, Band Blurb) for a critical assessment of my work.

Band Blurb responded with a very detailed and insightful review of the album:

http://www.bandblurb.com/frank-marzano/

as did Captain Panda:

http://captainpandamusic.blogspot.com/2016/01/frank-marzano-american-proust.html

and Don’t Believe a Word I say:

https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/jaimie-vernon-american-singers-american-legends-bop-bop-bop/

In the previous newsletter, I broached the topic of age discrimination. While the fact that I’m old(ish) almost certainly contributes to the increasing scarcity of gigs for me, I think that age is more of an indirect factor than a direct one.

To wit, music venues in this area book acts based on how many people come out to see them. This puts guys like me at a disadvantage. At 50, I don’t move in a very large circle of friends anymore, and the few friends that I do have all go to bed at 10:00.

Fortunately, there are those who, despite my balding pate and grey beard, are still willing to book me. Gigs I have coming up include:

Fri. 5/12 – Benson Memorial Library (Titusville, PA) noon – 1 pm

Fri. 6/2 – Voices for Independence (Erie, PA) noon – 2 pm

And that CD I sent to the Erie Reader? After a year and a half, I imagine it must be pretty close to the top of the pile by now.

 

 

 


Boy, 2016 was some year, wasn’t it? An unprecedented number of celebrity deaths, an ugly political race which brought out the worst in everyone, and the continued existence of Chrisley Knows Best.

It was also a year which saw my continued marginalization from the northwest Pennsylvania music scene, a “good ol’ boys” network increasingly dominated by millennials. Sales of American Proust stagnated. Local bars refused to book me as a solo act. Repeated attempts to have my music recognized by local media outlets were met with a stony silence.

I’m convinced at least part of the problem is that I’ve had too many birthdays. As a white, heterosexual, Christian male, I’ve admittedly had things pretty good, but this year I discovered a new form of prejudice: age discrimination.

If the Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn had died when he was 50, we’d have never heard of him today. While it would be unfair to call Haydn a “late bloomer” – he composed eleven symphonies by the time he was 30 – music scholars generally agree that his greatest works – e.g. the “London” symphonies – were composed later in life. Having turned 50 myself last year, I, too, feel that my best music is still ahead of me. More about that in a little bit.

Last year, a friend of mine asked for my opinion on a new album by his band The Vinyl Goods. I was pretty rough on the poor guy. Mainly, I criticized the lack of any discernable progress from the band’s earlier efforts. Twenty-five years after their debut album, the musicianship, songwriting, and singing were still where they were in 1991. I summarized my thoughts by noting that, “mediocrity is not the absence of ability, but rather the refusal to acquire it.”

It was only after I clicked the “send” button that it occurred to me that, everything I told him… also applied to me.

Very few rock musicians take lessons, or know anything of music theory. The “rock and roll approach” consists of plugging in your guitar and putting your fingers on the strings. Whatever comes out, comes out. Granted, many people have made remarkable music using this approach; however, I feel that Frank Marzano has gone as far as he can go with this method.

I’ve been vacationing in New York City every year since first visiting the Big Apple in 2001. Among other things, I like to check out the live jazz offerings. (The West Village, in particular, is a veritable “musical Disneyland”.)

A couple of years ago, I finally worked up the courage to speak to the musicians. I was intimidated at first, but once they saw that I was serious about music, they opened up like a book.

During my most recent trip, I made the acquaintance of Paul Meyers, a jazz guitarist who has created a number of online instructional videos covering scales, composing, and improvisation. The following statement may come as a surprise, but, after 35 years of playing guitar and writing songs… I’m taking guitar lessons!

I’ve wanted to do this for years, but the usual reservations held me back: “I’m not good enough.” “It’ll take too long.” “I’m too busy.” But that’s fear talking. If I had let fear rule my life I wouldn’t be where I am today (wherever that may be).

Believe me, fear still rears its ugly head up each and every day. But I know the kind of life I want for myself, and I’m not going to let fear stop me from getting it. And even if it takes me twenty years to get better… those years are going to pass anyway.

Well, that’s about it for this newsletter. Hopefully by the next one, I’ll have some improvements to report, both in my musicianship and in my gig schedule. Between now and then, check out some of Paul’s excellent music:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYGK8ONRzyga_w2JaxYGAbQ

as well as the most recent album by the Vinyl Goods:

https://www.vinylgoods.com/music

Rock long and prosper,

Frank

 

 

 

 


Seems like we’re barely done with Halloween, and the stores are already selling Christmas decorations. If I were Thanksgiving, I’d be pissed.

I myself have many fond memories of holiday celebrations. My mom had two sisters, and every year all three families would get together for Christmas. The “grownups” would drink Manhattans in the living room, while the “kids” (my cousins and I) listened to records in the den.

At one of these gatherings (1980), my cousin showed us a 12” single. (For the younger readers, this was a 12” vinyl record, played at 45 rpm, containing only one song – usually an extended mix of a hit record.)

“This is gonna be the next big thing,” she informed us, then played the record. When the song was over, I offered my assessment: “He’s just talking over the beat,” I opined. “This’ll never catch on.”

By the end of the decade, everyone from Aerosmith to the Beach Boys was incorporating hip-hop into their music. It just goes to show you how wrong a person can be.

Fast forward to when I was putting together my first band, Childhood’s End. I was writing down some guitar chords for our bass player Tim, and reached for a blank sheet of paper.

Tim instinctively turned it over and asked, “What’s this?” “Nothing,” I replied, “Just some crappy song I wrote in high school.” “How does it go?” he persisted.

I showed him the song (a four-chord “Duke of Earl” knockoff called “I Need a Date”) and the band learned to play it. The song eventually became one of our most popular numbers. Go figure.

“Treat other people the way you want to be treated.” That’s the rule I try to live by, both in life and in music. When I play a live show, I try to give the kind of performance that I’d enjoy seeing. But the previous two anecdotes demonstrate that I’m a breed apart from the typical music listener. There’s a big difference between what I like in music and what most people like.

This may explain why I have such difficulty getting booked at local music venues. I play meticulously constructed original songs – the kind of music I enjoy listening to at live performances. But audiences in northwest Pennsylvania seem to prefer half-baked improvisations (i.e. “jam bands”) and boring covers that never make it out of first position.

Things go better when I play lead guitar for Brenna Bone and Seann Clark. We had a very enjoyable show two weeks ago at the Edinboro Hotel Bar, and we’ll be playing at Pine Junction in Findlay Lake, NY on Nov. 23 (the day before Thanksgiving).

Finally, I would like to conclude this newsletter with a possibly unnecessary (but wholly appropriate) feel-good story. My Peavey Bandit 112 amplifier (my “go to” amp during the Childhood’s End days) has gone untouched for the last two years, so I decided to sell it.

I originally brought it to World of Music in Erie, but they offered me a price only someone who stole the amplifier would accept.

Instead, I decided to put it up for consignment at Phelps Bros. in North East. Patrick Phelps related that his father used to have a Bandit 112. When young Patrick wanted to learn to play saxophone, his dad sold the amplifier to pay for lessons. Patrick, therefore, bought my amp as a present for his dad!

I hope a similar spirit of giving characterizes your holiday season: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just a day off of work. Whatever your notion of December 25 is, I hope it’s a very good day for you.

Rock long and prosper,

Frank

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


"I Dig a Pygmy, by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf Aids!”


Most Beatles fans recognize this as the line with which John Lennon begins “Two of Us”, the leadoff track on the Let It Be album.


Fewer people know that Charles Hawtrey belonged to a group of actors that starred in the Carry On movies, a collection of 30 low-budget, low-brow British films that lampooned diverse subjects such as ancient Rome (Carry on Cleo), the Old West (Carry On Cowboy), and medieval England (Carry On Henry).


In one of the films (Carry On Cruising), a chef named Haines instructs a subordinate to break a large number of eggs to bake a huge cake. When the underling protests that this would be prohibitively time-consuming, Haines replies, “Put the eggs in a carton. Drop the carton. Then strain out the shells.”


Today, the “Haines Technique” is used in data processing to describe any situation where the simplest solution to a problem is overlooked because it runs contrary to intuition.


This was the case when the members of the High Life wanted to see me perform. The High Life (Carl Wozniak, Josh Karickhoff, and Gus Ward) are one of northwest Pennsylvania’s most exciting bands. They’re also fans of my music. But as you can imagine, they’re in high demand, so on those rare occasions when I manage to land a local gig, their busy schedule usually has them playing somewhere else that same night.


Instead, they decided to bring the mountain to Mohammed. When the High Life finally got a Friday night off, they invited me to play at Josh’s house for a select group of family and friends. It was a genuine pleasure to play for such an appreciative audience – without the distraction of flat-screen TV’s or being drowned out by cappuccino machines.


Check out the High Life’s YouTube channel at:


https://www.youtube.com/user/LivinTheHighLife12/videos


Another great show I played was in Toronto last April. As I mentioned in the last newsletter, my song “Tough Cookies” was selected for inclusion on Unsigned, Sealed, and Delivered, Volume 9, a compilation CD of independent artists. A CD release party was held at the Tennessee Tavern, at which I played a short set of original songs.


What a difference between Toronto audiences and Pennsylvania! Every song received significant applause. Moreover, after I had finished, there was a line of people to shake my hand! One young lady wanted to take my picture with her. I didn’t have to pay for a drink the rest of the night. If I had brought CD’s with me, I would almost certainly have sold some.


Unfortunately, this was not an option. Americans can’t play in Canada without a work permit. Prior to the gig, I’d heard horror stories of Canadian authorities checking American musicians’ Facebook pages and turning them away at the border. When I crossed over, my cover story was that I was going to visit friends (which, strictly speaking, wasn’t a lie). But I couldn’t bring CD’s, or anything else that indicated I would be performing publicly.


Another great show I played was a 3-hour gig at the Breakwall BBQ in Conneaut, Ohio last June. To put things in perspective, I used to play 3-hour gigs at Pie in the Sky, a restaurant in Erie. My reimbursement would be a free meal at the end of the night. At the Breakwall, I was paid $150, made over $20 in tips, drank free beer, and got a free meal. (And the Breakwall meal was better than the Pie in the Sky meal.)


https://www.facebook.com/The-Breakwall-109611939212597/?fref=ts


More recently, I’ve been playing Thursday nights at the Lakeview Hotel in Mayville, NY. On alternate weeks I play a solo gig, and on the remaining Thursdays I play in tandem with Adam McKillip, an outstanding singer/musician in the Chautauqua area:


https://www.facebook.com/Adam-McKillip-153079291391783/?fref=ts


Toronto, Ohio, New York… Are you sensing a trend here? This has been my busiest summer in years, but I had to go outside of Pennsylvania to make it happen.


Why are there so few opportunities in northwest Pennsylvania? Part of the problem is a clique where four or five people control everything; hence, four or five musicians play everywhere.


Another issue is that, in this area, I’m still perceived as “the math teacher who plays music”. When American Proust came out last year, Dave Richards of the Erie Times-News graciously agreed to do an interview with me. But when the article came out, it wasn’t about a musician; it was about a math teacher:


http://www.goerie.com/article/20150910/ENTERTAINMENT0301/309109964/frank-marzano-plays-cd-release-show-in-edinboro


Aside from my own songwriting, I’ve also been keeping busy playing lead guitar for the Brenna Bone Band. If you like live music, you should really come see us. I’m the worst musician in the band, so that should give you an idea of how good the band is!


http://www.bnb-music.com/#homepage


I could go on, but this newsletter is long enough as it is. (I’m impressed you’re still reading this!) Thanks for your support, and I promise there won’t be such a long delay until my next newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 


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