In memory of my brother Willie
It's not easy. It is not easy to talk about Willie, because Willie was not an easy person and because the pain for his death is always present in me.
Willie was part of my family, he almost saw my son born, he cried with me when my beloved wife Liviana died in 2012, he helped me when I was sick and he got help from me when he needed it.
We met in September 1999. I was one of the 'house band' musicians of the prestigious live music club Borderline in Pisa and I was asked to play one night with him who was on a solo tour in Italy.
The sound-check was in pure professional style, Willie slurred too few indication and the drummer and I had to interpret as best we could. After the rehearsal, the tension dropped out and the relax came, so we went out for a walk in the center and slowly bringin' our ass to the restaurant.
In those few hours we talked about architecture, photography, painting, sociology, politics, social customs and of course music. A deep mutual esteem and a great curiosity to know each other were immediately born.
After two weeks Willie and Elka were guests at our house, in our farm house lost in the Tuscan countryside, near Volterra. These were very beautiful days and the idea was born to form Willie Murphy Band, a band with which we would then make 5 tours in 10 years traveling far and wide through Italy and Switzerland, from Palermo to Zurich collecting a huge number of successes and experiences.
Between 2000 and 2001 for the second time I spent a period in the United States and in particular the whole month of October in Minneapolis, a guest of Willie who guided me to discover the Twin Cities, West Bank and many deep and unsuspected aspects of the American Midwest and its memories as a child, boy, man. So we got to know each other better and better.
Ours was an elective affinity, we took pleasure in leading ourselves into our respective cultures, ours was a deep political, artistic and social debate as I had only with very few people; yes, sometimes we also argued (in a very funny way) but because neither of us wanted to lie to the other. Willie was honest with me and I was honest with him. And then, who has never argued with Willie?
I could tell a thousand episodes, intense, exciting, ironic, sad, moving and many incredible adventures together on-the-road, of what he taught me and what I taught him (yes, because beyond the rude character, he could also be humble and above all curious).
But I want to talk about his heritage, his legacy. I believe that Willie was a great musician, his great intellectual preparation led him to dig deep into the American cultural and musical tradition.
He was able to play blues with a true and exciting feeling and with all the facets and aspects that made this tradition great, the pre-war country blues, the soul, the rhythm 'n blues, the meticcio and contaminated blues of new orleans but always with the right style, using the right vocabulary and motivations. But Willie did not limit himself to this, he played great jazz songs penetrating its deep meaning, he told a story by playing, making it his own and making it universal. He also understood the bodily secret of funk and reggae and in him there was a kind of negritude, he danced and made people dance. He was also a talented songwriter and a true band leader.
He was not just a musician, he had "spessore", as we say in Italy (thickness?). I have never seen so many different qualities in a musician.
Willie was a true artist. American music has lost a great little piece.
I am indebted to him. He taught me a lot technically and a lot to really understand American music.
I miss him so much, I often think of him, bent over the piano, beatin' his foot and moanin', I hear his voice, the sound of his acid guitar, I think of his cigar butts abandoned everywhere, his being elegantly freak, we laughin' et le bon temp qui roule, our looks of understanding on stage, his goin' crazy for fried artichokes, his affectionate phone calls, i think about our being so close even 12000 km away.
Mi manchi tanto Willie, grazie per la tua sincera amicizia