by ANDREA SCARPA - Photo by ANDREA COLZANI
BORN IN MILAN
I was born in Milan, in the Macedonio Melloni clinic. I’ve lived here for more than 66 years. So, even though I speak little dialect, I am a Milanese.
My blues is an underground blues that makes you feel the pulse and the clatter of the underground.
THE MANCHESTER’S LION
In 1977 John Mayall, the great father of British blues whose nickname is the Manchester’s Lion, was supposed to come to Milan…
IL PUMA DI LAMBRATE (LAMBRATE’S COUGAR)
…therefore a journalist wrote: ‘All right, but don’t forget that here in Milan we have Fabio Treves, il Puma di Lambrate’. This nice nickname stuck for all these forty years, it accompanied me, and I must say it has also brought me luck, because a lot of people in the street recognize me and say: ‘Hey! Hello Puma’.
LAMBRATE ON MY MIND
Lambrate is the starting point of my long blues path. The first gigs on the benches were at the Lambro park that was obviously in Lambrate.
GOOD MUSIC FROM FATHER TO SON
I started to like music because my father was a great music lover. He was a particular character, one of the first competitors of Lascia o raddoppia’, renowned neurologist and psychiatrist, a great lover of movies, good music and quality readings.
FROM BOSSA NOVA TO BLUES
In short, at home we listened to good music. I mean both Toscanini who led the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bossa Nova, jazz, Miles Davis, bebop, the traditional and also blues… So in the ’60s, when the beat arrived in Italy, the first pop, I felt there was something familiar in it.
ONE THOUSAND POINTS WITH JIMI HENDRIX
At the Carducci, my high school, those who came to school with Jimi Hendrix’s ablum, in 1967, gained more points than those who listened to Morandi, Caselli or Celentano…
FINARDI AND I, THE BLUES BROTHERS
I boast about my nearly fifty-year-long friendship with Eugenio Finardi, who is my ‘blues brother’. He was known as ‘Eugene l’Americano’ because at the student competitions, where each school sent a representative, he made a good impression because he sang in American, he is an American native speaker, while we imitated the sound of the language singing ‘Auonna gonna, beibi beibi…’. He was already a blues rocker, whereas I showed up with my harmonic and played Hoochie Coochie Man for minutes. I’ve never won a contest, of course.
THE RIVER LMBRO IS THE SAME AS THE MISSISSIPPI
I jokingly say that the River Lambro is my Mississippi.
BLUES IN MILAN
It’s the blues of the typical neurosis of the metropolis, the blues of the old warehouses of the factories that remained there.
Blues is also in the characters Enzo Jannacci used to sing about, another friend of mine who passed away. Gigi Lamera for example, who lived behind Baggio, that in order not to tell his wife that he had lost his job he dressed up every day and pretended to go to work ‘Ben annodata la cravatta dell’Upim (Well knotted Upim’s tie)’.
THE MILAN I MISS
That’s the Milan I miss. The characters like the Ganassa, the gambler, the dandy, the loser, those are blues characters because blues tells the story of everyday life.
I have three favorite places: Piazzale Susa up to when I was 10 years old, Piazza Piola-Città Studi from age 10 to age 20, and from 1972 on Loreto-Lambrate.
And then there is the Osteria La Grande Baggio where I can call and say, ‘Would you make me the Cassoeula?’ Finding a restaurant in Milan that makes the cassoeula is impossible now. ‘How would you like it? Good and greasy? Or low-fat?’, he asks me. ‘Make it your way’. He is Bob lo Smilzo (Italian for ‘Skinny Bob’)…
THE METRO’S EXCAVATIONS
One of my strongest memories dates back to the ‘50s, when I saw the first underground works and I went there where the retirees watched what was happening in the yard. The workers were digging and you could not see the bottom in Corso Buenos Aires.
Every city has a Chinatown: San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles… I don’t understand why Milan shouldn’t have one. You can’t act like a snob, a racist, as if you were better… And it’s always like that: if you accept, you will almost always be accepted.
AMBROGINO D’ORO (AND BLUES)
The fact that I was assigned an Ambrogino d’Oro by an administration that recognized my commitment, my stubbornness into spreading the blues culture – because it is a true and proper culture – has made me very happy, of course.
1974, THE TREVES BLUES BAND
I was lucky. When I started in 1974 and decided to form the Treves Blues Band the situation in Milan was that of progressive rock, avant-garde jazz, of political songwriting, songwriters flourished everywhere… And then there was me, and I played blues. ‘What do you do? Jazz?’. No, blues. ‘Oh well, the same thing…’. This was Milan in those years.
BLUES IS OVER
The beginning was difficult, people told me ‘Are you putting yourself into blues? Careful, in a few months, not years, nobody will care about blues anymore’.
THANK YOU RENZO
But no, I was lucky and I found my great great mentor, one of the few who believed in me since the beginning: Renzo Arbore. He invited me to the Altra Domenica in ’78, Quelli della notte in’85, Doc in ’88.
AFTER DEEP PURPLE, THE ROLLING STONES?
A few months ago I got the great satisfaction of opening four Italian concerts of Deep Purple, who have always been one of my favorite bands, and I said to myself, why not? Dreaming doesn’t cost anything, never say never. So I got in touch with a dear friend, Chuck Leavell, who in the past 20 years has played in all the Rolling Stones’ tours. I told him: ‘You know that I opened the Italian concerts of Deep Purple?’, and then I said: ‘We are available, you talk to the guys… If you ever need a band that plays twenty minutes before you…’. He said: ‘Look, in life never say never’.