FB: Hello, once again, out there in Berklee Land. This is Fred Bouchard with Volume 30-something of the Berklee Oral History Project. And today we have our first European-born subject, Marcello Pellitteri, a wonderful drummer from Sicili, came to Berklee a long time ago, and has been on the faculty a long time. And, Marcello, I know you're gonna have some great stories for us about the whole panoply of Euro-American Jazz. Great to have you. MP: Good to be here, thank you for inviting me. FB: Perhaps we should go back to your early childhood in Palermo, give people a sense of what it was like growing up in that amazing Sicilian city. MP: I went to Catholic schools, my entire school-time, 13 years, and I became a Jazz musician out of that, so how about that. During my early teens I started to get into music with some local young players, playing English Rock, primarily, Deep Purple, Yes, Genesis-the early Genesis. FB: Great Stuff. MP: And then, little by little there was this transition into Jazz towards my, maybe, late teens. The reason was, I got given by my- my aunt gave me an Oscar Peterson LP and I said, wow, that's fun. It was so different from everything that I have known up to that point, in music. So, got into Jazz, and the Jazz scene, back then, in the city, it wasn't as developed as it is now. There were a handful of players, mainly the old-school, what we call the old-school. Enzo Rondisi, vibraphone player, Claudio Rocassio, piano player, Gianni Cavolaro, drummer, and there was this brand new Jazz club called the 'Brass Group' which is still active today. Bringing in town, the big names. Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Lee Konitz, Clark Terry, Bill Evans. So I got to see those guys, and in a small club this place was in a basement, maybe 50, 60 people could get to it. It was the days when clubs were filled with smoke, there was pizza of course, an Italian Jazz club, why not? So, that was the scene when I got into Jazz. FB: So this was the same circuit that the American Jazz greats would play along with like Ronnie Scotts and (Kipeche?) and Jazz Monmartre (?), they would make the circuit. MP: Yes. The brass group was one of the venues where a lot of the big names came. Sometimes even in a exclusive day in Italy, for instance. I've heard, I think Milt Jackson, maybe, the year I saw him, came for just one concert, in Palermo, played for the Brass Group. Of course, when they had those kind of names they were having the concert in a theater, renting a theater, otherwise, Dexter, those guys, guys like Dexter, or Charlie Mingus, they're no less of a name than Milt Jackson, but for some reason you were able to see them in the Jazz club, and then Bill Evans or Milt Jackson, they were renting bigger venues. FB: With a lot of these players, I remember living in London and in Rome, a lot of these people would come on their own and they'd pick up a house rhythm section. MP: Lee Konitz was one of them. FB: Who were the cats in Palermo who were like the Ray Santisi, Alan Dawson group here? MP: Ignacio Garcia was a piano player, he's the president of the Brass Group. He was the main pianist playing for all the soloists when they required a band from Palermo. Some of them, for instance Lee Konitz, I remember came with some Roman musicians. Roberto Gatto, Pierra Nunci. Chet Baker came to town and Ignacio Garcia was playing with him, and he is such a great player. Chet wanted him to go on tour with him. I don't know if that ever happened. Ignacio might have refused, I forgot the details. FB: Chet really had a whole career in Europe. He was there for years. So when you were playing as a teenager with the guys you mentioned, what were the gigs like? Would you play at a party or a dance or like a- MP: Oh, no no. There were gigs in theaters, outdoor concerts during the summertime, or small cultural venues, where they had their concert seasons, mixing up Jazz and classical and then some TV as well. Late 70s was the time when in Italy, all over Italy, private TVs started blossoming and in Palermo there were two main ones. One was called TRM- Telleradio de Mai Terranio- May Terranium Radio TV. And another one was TGS which was the television station of Giornale di Sicilia which is the main daily newspaper in Sicily. So- FB: Great to have government support behind good music. MP: Well those were privately owned. FB: Oh okay. MP: This is not right. It was private TV stations. So I was playing a weekly show in one of those TV stations I mentioned and one night I played with the queen of Italian song- Nilla Pizzi which she won the San Remo festival for so many years. That was the only time my father told me later, my father cried in front of the TV set. I could have played with Miles, my father wouldn't have known anything. But because I played with this lady, who was the one that many times we're listening to, at the time, just via radio, it was so much for him. Maybe that's when he realized, this guy, you know, my son is good, he could do something with music. FB: So Sicilian pop music was what she sang. MP: No no no. She was singing Italian pop music. FB: More broadly based. MP: Yeah, yeah. FB: But what was a normal gig for you at the time like what kind of material were you doing, mainstream Jazz, pop tunes, Volare? MP: Yeah, it was old Jazz, in the Swing tradition, those two players I was working with Enzo Rondisi, vibrophone player, very much into the Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, kind of music. So his band was called Swing Ensemble and we were doing repertoire from classical stuff to (what) Lionel Hampton could do. And then we had the band with Claudio Rocassio, that was a tribute to the modern Jazz quartet. We were doing all the classical John Louis's repertoire. FB: John based so much of his thematic material on, you know, the Comedia del Arte, you know, all that great stuff, Fontessa. Yeah, sure.