Live music in Florence: Bob & Emiliano
There is great live music in Florence if you know where to look. We met Roberto (Bob) Uggiosi and Emiliano Tozzi of Abbellicapelli (aka ABC sextet) after seeing them play several times at Volume in Santo Spirito. Their band is excellent and a lot of fun, and Bob and Emiliano are great guys, so we asked them for an interview!
Monika: Hi Bob, thank you for taking the time to interview with me today! So, I was wondering are you a native Florentine or do you just play here in Florence?
Roberto: No, I am from Pistoia. But I work in Florence, and come to Florence 2-3 times a week. Pistoia is 30 minutes from Florence by car - it is a very beautiful, little medieval city similar to Florence, but much smaller.
Monika: When did you first start playing an instrument?
Roberto: I started to play at 15 years old just for fun. I played guitar and sang and realized all the girls loved it!
Monika: When did music become a career for you?
Roberto: When I was younger I had a regular job, not as a musician. I was a mechanic but I did not like it, I did it until I was 30. Then I quit my job and went to the US - to Boston - for my first experience in the States. I went with my best friend, Leo Boni, and we stayed for 3 months at that time. I bought a guitar and many old records, I played a lot of jams and saw many concerts - Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, he was one of the very best blues men around, he is not alive now. And I saw another fantastic saxophonist and then I came back to Italy, but it was at this point I decided to travel around the world and play music. I traveled around the US, Mexico, Cuba, and Europe for the experience of it, to play music, and to meet the people.
Monika: Where was your favorite place to perform?
Roberto: Cuba is fantastic for traditional music, and the US is the best for swing, blues, and Jazz.
Monika: Do you have a favorite club to play at in Florence?
Roberto: Volume this is the best! I have been playing here for 6 years. Neri, the owner, when he opened the club he called me and asked me right away to come and play for them, and I did.
Monika: Do you play your own original music?
Roberto: Yes, but we don't play that often because nobody really cares, we play cover music.
Monika: What musicians inspire you as an artist?
Roberto: There are many! I love Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt...there is a long list. Ella Fitzgerald was the best singer, but I love Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan.
Monika: If there were one musician dead or alive that you could see perform live, who would it be?
Roberto: Louis Armstrong! I love Jimi Hendrix very, very much, but Armstrong is the best for swing music, and Hendrix for rock and blues, he changed the music scene for the next 20 years.
Monika: What do you love most about the life of a full time musician?
Roberto: Right now I really love playing with the swing band because we are all friends, 5 friends, and we all love this kind of music, so it is a wonderful project for us to play together. But I play with many bands because it is very difficult to survive on just the music, so you must play with many different bands and different kinds of music. I have a band for blues, one for swing, one for soul, and one for Cuban music and another for Hendrix music.
Monika: Do you ever have time to listen to other bands or live music yourself in your free time, or are you too busy working?
Roberto: When I was younger and not a professional I watched all kinds of different music and bands, but now I play 5 days a week so when I am off I stay at home!
Monika: What advice would you give to somebody who wants to become part of the professional music scene here in Florence? How can they establish a career for themselves?
Roberto: It is very difficult. You must have the passion for the music, for this job. If you don’t have a passion you cannot do this job because it’s impossible. I have a passion for many kinds of music and everyday I think about it, but it is very hard. But I am happy, I am very happy. I have a positive mind!
Monika: Piacere Emiliano! Thanks for interviewing with me today. So how old were you when you started playing your first instrument?
Emiliano: I started playing piano at 13 years old, but after 1 year I switched to the saxophone. The first song I played by the end of the year was the theme song from the Pink Panther.
Monika: So what instrument do you play with ABC?
Emiliano: I play the saxophone and the clarinet. I can also play bass and piano.
Monika: Like your band mate Bob, do you also play with other bands?
Emiliano: I play with 3 bands!
Monika: Wow! Is this a full time or part time job for you?
Emiliano: Part-time. I am an engineer for my day job. But at 6:00 pm everyday I stop that job and I take of my shirt and jacket like superman and switch to this job I love!
Monika: So what makes you love this 2nd job so much?
Emiliano: That I can play...ever since I started to play music, it is everything in my life. And I need to play because it is something that refreshes your body. I listen to music when I am at work in front of my computer, and then after a day at work if you can play in the evening you are, like... renewed!
Monika: What musicians are an inspiration to you?
Emiliano: As a saxophone player I really like Illinois Jacquet...and a lot of saxophone players from the 30’s and 40’s. Now in this period I really like swing music from the 30’s and 40’s , but I really like rock music too, I am a Beatles Fan! I know everything about the Beatles!
Monika: So if you could see one band or performer, dead or alive, who would you choose?
Emiliano: I really love the Beatles and wish I could have seen their concerts!
Monika: What advice would you give to someone here in Florence, maybe someone new to town, pursuing a career as a musician? How do they break in?
Emiliano: Go and play! Bring your instrument and start playing. Smile. Enjoy. You will see that the people will like it if you enjoy, and you enjoy playing music, people will like it. Maybe you can find new friends and start playing, maybe in a jam session somewhere or something like that.
See Bob and Emiliano playing with ABC sextet on YouTube here
Or visit their website www.abbellicapelli.it