Having discovered the piano in his parents basement at the age of 12, a young Lou Pomanti not only became the first musician of his family, but knew by the time he reached his teens he’d be playing the keyboards for the rest of his life.
Paying his dues throughout the 70s in every dive from Scarborough to Charlottetown, Mr Pomanti was more than ready when he got the call from David Clayton Thomas to join Blood, Sweat and Tears for a two-year tour; an experience of a lifetime for a twenty-something Canadian. Following the tour, Pomanti continued honing his craft by playing six-nights-a-week at Toronto’s infamous Club Bluenote where he was quickly recognized by all the industry types that hung out there. Pomanti soon had a telephone that never stopped ringing with calls coming in from Metalworks and Phase One studios wanting him for full-time session work. Lou Pomanti soon settled in as a studio musician playing with artists ranging from Gordon Lightfoot and Anne Murray to David Wilcox and Triumph.
From 1994 to 2004, Pomanti spent every Saturday night at Toronto’s Orbit Room as the resident Hammond B3 organist with R&B house band The Dexters, while at the same time composing extensively for television and film. He was also the conductor for numerous broadcasts of the Juno, Genie and Gemini Awards. More recently, Pomanti provided the arrangement of the new Hockey Night in Canada theme song following a nationwide contest on CBC Radio. And every year since 2003, Pomanti has served as musical director for the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and considers the 2007 inductee ceremony of Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen as one of the highlights of his career.
Currently, Lou’s music can be heard on the Ron James Show airing Friday nights on CBC Television and with achievements such as these and many more listed at his website, it’s no wonder Lou Pomanti has become a highly respected Canadian artist and three-time Gemini award winner. Lou joins me now to talk about his achievements, his latest work on the new Michael Bublé release, and why the City of Toronto recently came knocking on his door.
Tell me about the session work you did at Metalworks and Phase One studios.
I was the top keyboard session guy in Toronto between the years 1983 and 1990. I’d get calls to play a jingle in the morning, a CBC television show in the afternoon, and in the evening I’d be at Metalworks working on a Platinum Blonde record. I would do 15 sessions a week. As opposed to my career now, I didn’t do much more than wait for the phone to ring. It was fun.
Were you a fan of the artists you were working with?
Well, not all of them. But I didn’t have to go on the road or live with them either. All I had to do was spend three to six hours playing on their records. I loved playing on their records!
So you enjoy working in the studio?
I loved it. Most of the records were done at Phase One. Phase One was the premiere rock studio. You never knew who’d be there. I remember Anvil coming by and they brought their whole Anvil into the studio! (laughs)
But studios aren’t necessary anymore, are they?
Well, not as much. Musicians with their midi studios and their writing studios are one thing, but if you want to record a whole band, you still need a studio.
Variety recently interviewed Devo about performing albums in their entirety. It doesn’t seem like music fans listen to albums the way they were released anymore, so Devo like many other bands are now performing their albums live. At the same time, Blue Rodeo released not only a new cd, but a number of units on vinyl. What do you think of the current way music is being made and distributed?
It’s a good thing. And I’ll tell you why.
Because the old model of the major record label was an evil empire.
I agree the old way was corrupt and all, but the market is saturated and tougher for good artists to make a decent living.
Along with payola and cocaine, the old guys who signed Loverboy thirty years ago, are still getting a free pass! The old days were all about the mainstream; “What can we do to make a trillion dollars?” If an act in Canada sold a hundred thousand copies, it was deadsville. You couldn’t even recoup your money. Now it’s all about niche. Now, if an act can sell ten thousand units and keep ten dollars for each record, they’re doing great. They may just have a career.
And that’s just it. Everybody wants to make a decent living, right?
Yes! But why should artists be at the mercy of a major record label? I remember when I was in my early twenties, trying to get signed. It never happened. I wasn’t deemed worthy.
Well the way your bio’s looking now, you’ve achieved more success than most have ever dreamed!
I’ve seen ‘em come and I’ve seen ‘em go.
(laughs) I hear you’ll be celebrating Motown by directing a 13-piece band for a CBC Radio program. Can you tell me more about that and where it will be held?
It was my partner Malcolm (Blasford)’s idea to pitch a Motown special to CBC Radio. And the CBC thought it would be a good fit with their new series, Canada Raves. The format is like most CBC radio shows in that we’ll do a live taping at the Glenn Gould Theatre, two 45 minute sets which will be edited for broadcast later. I got a nine piece backing band and four featured singers to perform the golden era of Motown, 1965-1975.
Just last October, Michael Bublé released a new cd which debuted at the top of the Billboard chart. What was your role in this?
Crazy Love debuted at the top of the American 200 Billboard album chart and stayed there for two weeks. I contributed six horn and string arrangements, 4 of which made it to the North American release, 5 made it to the European release and the 6th track will be on a subsequent release in early 2010. I did this recording with Bublé last December through my connection with the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. When we inducted Joni Mitchell and needed someone to sing How About You, we got Michael Bublé, and I provided the big band string arrangement on it. Bublé fell in love with the arrangement and asked, “Why aren’t you doing arrangements for me?” I was like, “uh, call me.” Well, a year went by, and when the CBC lost the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada anthem, there was a contest to find a new one. I was head of the so-called expert panel and put in charge of overseeing the 15,000 entries that were submitted. Bob Rock (famed rock producer of Metallica records), is a big hockey nut and called the CBC to say he wanted to be involved. Rock, who was working with Michael Bublé at the time called Bublé and said, “Michael, I almost never work in Toronto. Who can I get to help me do arrangements and orchestrations?” Bublé said, “call Lou Pomanti.” Bob Rock and I really hit it off and it wasn’t long before I was invited to work on the new Bublé record.
Were you excited about this?
I’m a big fan of Michael Bublé, so I was thrilled. Bryan Adams and Bublé share the same manager, Bruce Allen, so we did the recording at The Warehouse in Vancouver. I said to the engineer, “This studio is gorgeous. We don’t have anything like this in Toronto.” The engineer said, “If it wasn’t for our benefactor, we wouldn’t have a place like this either.” I guess you need a Bryan Adams-type guy to keep the doors open on a place like that. I even had a 34-piece string section from the Vancouver Symphony to work with. At the end of the sessions, Bob shook my hand and said, “Great job! Now cross your fingers that at least one of these songs makes it to the record”.
Considering there’s been a rapid decline in cd sales, this is an enormous success.
Debuting at the top of the Billboard charts is a very big deal.
Do you think cds will be available in five years time?
No. Personally, I buy most of my music from iTunes.
Do you like the idea of purchasing single songs like 45s of old, rather than full length records?
You know, on my drive over here I listened to the Stevie Wonder record, Hotter than July.
Oh, I love that song Master Blaster!
I hadn’t heard the record in so long and while I listened, I realized I knew every note. I’m an album guy! My favourite songs were never the singles. I typically liked the third song on the second side of an album. If you look at Billboard, there’s a singles chart and there’s a cd chart. Michael Bublé was number one on the cd chart. The singles chart, to tell you the truth, has a bunch of artists on it I’ve never heard of.
Well it could be just cyclical and it will all come back round to vinyl.
But when you think about it, our generations were railroaded into buying the whole record. It wasn’t always a good deal. A lot of times the albums sucked and weren’t as good as Hotter than July.
Tell me about your early years and working with Blood Sweat and Tears.
I’d been gigging professionally in the Toronto area since I was eighteen. I was in blues bands and lousy show bands, but my first really good gig was with disco diva Patsy Gallant in 1978. However, after the Gallant gig I took this really horrible job as a rehearsal pianist at the Charlottetown Theatre Festival in Prince Edward Island.
Why so horrible?
It may have been okay if I was in the pit orchestra or something, but musical theatre has never been my bag. I’ve been asked in the past to conduct musical theatre in Toronto, but conducting the same show every night for a year is not what I aspire to. And rehearsal piano in a dark Charlottetown theatre was a long, gruelling and thankless job with lousy pay. But while I was out there, I got a call from my dad saying David Clayton Thomas was looking for me!
Now how did this come to be?
A couple guys I knew were in Clayton’s band and the call came from a gig they were doing in Caracas, Venezula. The voice over the phone said (in a gruff David Clayton-Thomas voice), “You come highly recommended. Can you meet us in Portland within a week?” I didn’t have a current passport but I immediately said yes. I went to the director of the Charlottetown Theatre Festival and his response was, “Go. It’s a great opportunity.” So I joined Blood, Sweat & Tears in June of 1980, which is 29 years ago already!
For two years I travelled around the world three times with Blood, Sweat and Tears. And for a twenty two year old kid, it was awesome.
I love bands like Blood Sweat and Tears, and Chicago. I love all the horns!
Did you know Blood Sweat and Tears pre-dated Chicago by a year?
Did they? I just assumed Chicago was around longer.
Their first record was late ’67, early ’68, so Blood Sweat and Tears were really the creators of the jazz rock, pop, horn bands.
You say you toured with Blood Sweat and Tears for two years. Did the band stop performing after that?
We split up when the band returned to Toronto. David put together another band and went on to tour with them. David’s around 66 now, and still sounds great. And he’s back living in Toronto, so I do the odd date with him. But after the Blood Sweat and Tears tour, I joined Ian Thomas’ band as well as the house band at the Club Bluenote with George Olliver. I don’t know if you were part of the scene at that time, but Club Bluenote was a smash!
I was never there, but I remember hearing it advertised on the radio all the time.
Six nights a week, there’d be a line-up from the club all the way down Avenue Rd. A lot of industry people and advertising people made the Bluenote their hangout. From that gig, I started getting session calls. Doug Reilly called me, Jimmy Dale called me, Moe Kauffman and all these people in the session scene would call. I found myself so immersed in session work that I stopped playing live. And after playing live for six or seven years straight, I was quite happy to settle down in the studio. For the next nine years or so, I spent all my time in the studio. And I gotta tell ya, the money is ten times better in the studio than playing live ever was. And I got these other groovy things too... like, a pension. A pension seemed like an abstract concept at 25, but now that I’m 51, it’s not so abstract! Moving into session work was a whole other level. People treated me differently. I was treated like gold. At twenty five years old, it was fantastic. Going in, you never knew who you’d be playing with, but you knew it would be good. It was an honour to play with all the best guys. And I made the money to buy my first house.
Whatever happened to Club Bluenote?
It closed and was torn down for a condo. But you know, playing there in 1982 I made $225 for six nights a week. God, what does that work out to, $40 a gig? No wonder I was happier in the studio!
Your work in television has you writing scores for movies, dramatic series, documentaries, and reality shows. How do you find the time to do all this and wear the hat of Musical Director for the Junos, the Genies, the Geminis and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame?
When I direct a 15-piece band for the Gemini Awards on a live-to-air situation on nationwide television, it does get pretty hairy. I got headsets, multiple monitors, cues, bumpers to commercials, bumpers back from commercials, themes, intros/outros and walk ons. It’s hairy!
How did you get there? What was the experience that led to getting a gig like that?
Do you remember the Junos when Tina Turner came up to play with Bryan Adams?
It was the Junos back when they were still a cute local thing, 1983ish. Now it’s a concert that moves around, but back then the Junos consisted of industry people having dinner on white table cloths at the Harbour Castle. Jimmy Dale was the musical director and I was in his orchestra. It was a good introduction for me to watch Jimmy do it.
Do you enjoy the live-to-air experience of such a large event?
It’s a buzz! When you go on air, you focus, then there’s this big adrenaline rush and then it’s over. And when it’s over, it’s over. You don’t have to mix it or auto-tune the vocals or edit it, or anything. You do it, and then it’s over.
And no one will ever watch it again.
That’s right. Award shows never air again because of music clearances. It’s too expensive.
In 2007 you were awarded your own Gemini for the arrangement of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now as sung by opera star Measha Breuggergosman on the Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame broadcast. Can you tell us something about Measha?
Measha Breuggergosman is currently Canada’s most celebrated opera diva; a young black girl who hasn’t even hit 30 yet. Measha has big hair, big costumes, big presence and a big voice. And she likes popular music too, so we got her to sing Both Sides Now. The first half of the song has Measha singing along with the orchestra in her normal pop voice, but as the arrangement builds she goes up the octave into her full operatic voice. Measha gave everyone chills. She sang directly to Joni Mitchell who was sitting with Herbie Hancock in the front row. You could tell they were mesmerized by her. The performance can be watched at my website.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen the film Agnes of God, but I remember being quite moved by it. What was your role in the making of this film?
Agnes of God is a great movie. That was back in the mid-80s when the dollar was low and Hollywood started going outside of California to record scores. Hollywood came to Toronto’s Manta studio at Sherbourne and Adelaide. But I didn’t write the score, I was the piano player on that.
Did you get to meet any of the actors in the film?
You’ll never find an actor at a scoring session.
(laughs) When it comes to live performance, you’ve shared the stage with a number of greats one of which was Leonard Cohen.
The same year we inducted Joni Mitchell into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, we inducted Leonard Cohen. After the show, Cohen contacted me to see if I’d be interested in going on tour with him. So yes, I went! We did some Canadian dates and even played outside at the corner of Bay and Bloor in front of Indigo Books.
Yes, in 2006. We were invited to play an outside summer concert and it was jam packed!
I guess it would be. Do you have a Leonard Cohen story?
Leonard Cohen is a funny guy. He’s one of these guys where, if it’s a noisy room he won’t say a word. But if there’s a lull and it grows quiet, all of a sudden he’ll speak. For example, we were out for dinner in a restaurant after playing the Montreal Jazz Festival and there were about 13 of us yacking and yacking. Leonard was sitting at the end of the table and hadn’t said a word in over an hour. But when the appetizers arrived, everyone got quiet. I wish I could remember the details, but Leonard began a story that took literally 30 minutes to tell and we all hung off his every word. He’s got a certain gravitas about him. When we were in Oslo, we were on what they told us was the biggest talk show in Oslo; the Oprah of Oslo. Besides us, the other guests were, the Prime Minister of Sweden, Al Gore, and the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner. We’re all in the green room, and I’m sitting between Al Gore and the Prime Minister of Sweden, who’s a woman, and we’re all talking to the moderator at the same time. But when Leonard started to speak, everyone shut up. Al Gore was rapt. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was rapt. Whenever Leonard speaks, people hang off his every word.
And what about the Prime Minister, being a woman, was she really taken with Leonard?
Yes. Everyone was rapt. There was another night after a gig where Leonard said, “Let’s go back to my house.” Cohen had bought three row houses in the early 70s when they were giving Montreal real estate away. He rents one out, lives in one, and donated the other to a group of Buddhist monks. When we got to his place, ya know, it’s nothing special; just a townhouse in an ethnic area somewhere around St Laurent or Portugal Square, I think. Me, Leonard and our bass player Scott end up sitting around Leonard’s kitchen table, which is a 60s Formica-like table directly beside a forty year old stove. We’re sitting there drinking red wine when Leonard starts telling a story from his childhood. Growing up in Montreal, his father worked in the ship yards and Leonard would go down to the yard and watch his father. Suddenly Leonard says, (laughs), “Let’s get some smoked meat sandwiches”. Now you have to understand, Leonard’s a Buddhist monk. He’s drinking red wine and now he wants a smoked meat sandwich! I said, “You tell me where to go Leonard, and I’ll get them.” He tells me, “go to this place, ask for Peter and tell him Leonard Cohen sent you”. On the way over I’m thinking, I’m gonna get myself a whole brisket!
I think I know the deli you’re speaking of, but the name escapes me.
It’s not Moisha’s, it’s the other one. So I go in the deli and say, “Hi Peter, my name’s Lou. I need a brisket and 10 sandwiches. And uh, Leonard Cohen sent me.”
You must’ve felt silly saying that!
Peter says, “Leonard Cohen? Leonard Cohen? (long pause) Is that the tailor that’s just down there?” I’m like, “no no no, Leonard Cohen the songwriter!” And Peter said, “oh, I’m sorry but there are many Leonard Cohen’s in this neighbourhood.” Peter didn’t even know him! (much laughter)
Oh my god, that’s funny!
I got the sandwiches and a whole brisket for myself, right. And when I get back to the house, I say to Leonard, “Put this brisket in your fridge and when I leave in an hour, don’t let me forget it.” But when I left, I forgot it.
Realizing this, I call Leonard from the back of the cab. Leonard answers and says, “You forgot your brisket.” I said, “I have to leave at 8 in the morning to catch a train”. He tells me, “Come by before you leave. I get up early, so it’ll be fine.” At eight the next morning, I leave my hotel telling the cab driver we have to make a stop on the way to the station. The cab pulls up Leonard’s street, and there... at eight in the morning is Leonard Cohen. Leonard Cohen standing in the street, outside his house... dressed in a suit with a fedora on his head! He was standing there waiting, dressed like that at 8 in the morning... holding my brisket! (much laughter!)
What a great story!
You’ll never see Leonard Cohen in anything but a suit.
Tell me about working with James Taylor?
I got to know James when he flew me out to Los Angeles in ’86 to audition for him. The audition didn’t work out, but through the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, James came up to honour Joni Mitchell (who’s his old girlfriend). We got James to sing Woodstock on the show and I did the arrangement. James Taylor, like Leonard Cohen, is also a soft spoken guy with a great sense of humour.
Did you hear James Taylor is about to embark on a tour with Carole King?
Is he? Is he really? Cool.
|James Taylor and Joni Mitchell|
So how often do you honour someone for the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame?
We try to do it once a year. And for the next one, we’ll be honouring Rush.
Really? I love Rush! They were my first concert.
I bet you saw them at your high school.
No, it was Maple Leaf Gardens actually, Dec 30, 1977.
Did Max Webster play too?
No, but I wish they had. I love Max Webster! Where is the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame held and is it open to the general public?
It will be held on March 28, 2010 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts and yes, anyone can go. Tickets are available at www.cansong.ca
Speaking of Rush, Alex Lifeson has recently been cast in a new television series starring the actors who play the Trailer Park Boys.
Alex Lifeson is also co-owner of the Orbit Room.
Yes. The Orbit Room; one of the best live music venues in the city, and you played there in one of the house bands right?
The Dexters played the Orbit Room every Saturday night for ten years. We’re an R&B band who modeled ourselves after Booker T and the MGs. The Dexters played the Orbit on their opening night and ended their run on the tenth anniversary. But we’ll be returning to the Orbit to play for their 15th anniversary.
Are there recordings of the Dexters?
We did one live recording at the Orbit Room. It’s available on iTunes. One of my big regrets was not doing a recording of original material. The Dexters tried many times, but it never got off the ground. I guess we could still do it. But you know, my big challenge is making a cd of my own material. Both my wife and business manager keep prompting me, “When are you going to make your own record?” I do need to do it, but it’s a big challenge when you’ve had the kind of career I’ve had. For twenty five years all I’ve heard is... “Lou we need this and we need it by Tuesday”. I got used to working with a deadline. It’s like a journalist who works with a deadline for years and then says, “I’m moving to Cape Cod now to write the next great American novel!“ Well, you’re likely to get there and discover you can’t write a single word. It’s like this for me. When someone hands me a job with the parameters clearly drawn, I get excited. But I can’t seem to excite myself enough to work on my own stuff.
Well, you can always hire someone to get you to do it.
That’s why I got married! (laughter) Once I make up my mind of what the cd is going to be, I will write it. It used to be I couldn’t wait to get my fingers on the keyboard, but now I don’t want to go near it until I conceptualize in my head first. I spend more time conceptualizing a project, and a lot less time actualizing it. Like a book, you can’t write it until you know what it’s about.
Will you have special guests on your cd?
Yes, most definitely! My friends are some of the most talented people in the country. I know a lot of famous people, but I’m talking about guys nobody’s ever heard of; guys who’ll blow your mind. I’m sure you know the type where you have to ask yourself, “why isn’t this guy famous?” There’s never been a correlation between talent and money. Never.
Do you write jingles too? I heard there’s a good living in that.
I have. And there used to be a great living in jingle work back when people like Doug Reilly or Eric Robertson were doing it. Back then it didn’t take a lot of time, and it did pay a lot of money. Now it’s changed. It doesn’t pay as much, and it takes way more time.
And why is that?
Computers killed it. It used to be you’d write a jingle and play it on the piano for the client, saying “and the French horn will come in here and the singer there....” The client would say okay and you’d go off to hire the musicians and record the track. Now with computers, you have to make an mp3 and email it to the client. The client will listen to it and they’ll hate it or love it, but they usually hate it. And endless revisions will follow. It’s been years since I’ve been in that business, but I’m told by friends it’s harder and harder and pays less and less.
Another example of how computers and technology have not made our lives easier.
It’s not easier at all. With computers, much more is expected of us.
No kidding! And as human beings, we’ve become anti-social with all this technology.
That’s why I don’t have a blackberry. When I see people at dinner answering emails under the table, that’s brutal!
If you had to pick a few highlights from your career so far, what would they be?
I’ve been lucky over the last 30 years, so it’s hard to select even a few. But one highlight would definitely be the 2007 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Another would be when I played with Kim Mitchell at the Kingswood Amphitheatre in 1992. That was awesome!
What set you off on your career? When did you just know?
My parents forced my two older sisters to take piano lessons and they hated every minute of it. They couldn’t play piano worth a bean. But when I discovered the piano in our basement, I started to teach myself. At one point, my dad came down to the basement and said, “Oh, you’re playing the piano! You want to take lessons?” I said no. After failing to force the piano on my sisters, my parents decided to leave me alone about it. But a month later my dad said, “Listen, I’ll make you a deal, take six lessons and if you don’t want to take lessons after that, I’ll never mention it again.” So I took the lessons and of course, that was the beginning of the whole thing. From the very minute I started playing piano, I knew. By the time I reached 13, I knew for sure I’d be playing piano for the rest of my life. I’m sure it’s not just musicians, but painters and writers too, where you’re playing your instrument and that thing is happening; the thing where you don’t think of anything else and you’re in a world unto itself. I’d play five or six times a day because I liked where it took me. I guess for people who hate practicing, they don’t ever get to that place. It’s the same place that gets guys picking up guitars to play along to Jimi Hendrix records and....
Guys who pick up guitars to play along with Hendrix do it to get the women!
Well yea, that’s true. But I never did. If I was going for chicks, I wouldn’t have taken up piano. (laughter)
(laughs) But really, a 13 year old who discovers exactly what he’ll be doing for the rest of his life is amazing.
Playing piano is all I wanted to do. I had no other life. I kept my grades up so no one would balk, but when I started Humber College and discovered I could play music all day with players who were as good as me, it was great. My son, who’s 14, wants to be a musician. He plays piano now too and I keep telling him, “wait till you finish high school and instead of trombone-playing football jocks, you’ll get to play with musicians who are as serious about playing as you. And then everything will take off.
You don’t miss those days?
In 1976, I was eighteen years old playing some Greek restaurant in Scarborough. I played all the holes in the ground. I was in a show band playing crappy bars where no one cared. There’s a reason why you go through all that when you’re young. I actually had the energy to deal with it then. I’m spoiled now, and thank god.
What about Chaka Khan and Herbie Hancock? Having worked with them on the 2007 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, do you have stories about these two?
I remember having to call Chaka to talk about the arrangement for Help Me. I was sitting at the piano with the phone crooked between my ear and shoulder telling her, “We need to figure out the key”. And Chaka responded by singing, “help me, I think I’m falling in love too fast... it’s that crazy feeling and I know I’m in trouble again...“ I put the phone down and ran over to my wife, all tingly, saying, “Chaka Khan just sang to me over the phone!” I was completely freaked out. And as for Herbie Hancock, he’s my favourite piano player. Hancock is legendary for crossing over from jazz to funk to pop and everything else. Hancock is very sweet, very personable and looks great at 66. We would talk while we waited in the wings during the show.
What did you talk about?
He’d ask me things like, “so what kind of gear do you use?” and “what kind of sequencer software do you use?” I couldn’t believe he wanted to talk about gear. But I thought sure, if Herbie Hancock wants to talk gear, I’ll talk gear. He’s so cool, maybe the coolest guy ever. Cool with a capitol C!
Who are some of your other influences?
I’ve got a weird set of influences.
I want to hear them.
Growing up in the 70s, when everybody else was into Led Zeppelin I was listening to Burt Bacharach. My dad had all his records. I was also listening to Gino Vannelli.
Gino Vannelli! I like him. He was just here doing a show.
I keep trying to get Vannelli on the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, but I keep running into a brick wall. Some people just can’t get past the chest hair, you know?
Some people can’t get past Vannelli’s super-wop image. I can say super-wop because I’m Italian too. You know, I was surprised to find out Bublé is Italian. I always thought he was French, with the accent and all. But when we were recording the Crazy Love album, Michael told me, “not only am I Italian, my whole family is bringing lunch to the studio today”. And sure enough at 12:00, Bublé’s mom, dad, uncle, and his grandfather descended on the studio with pots and all kinds of food and stuff. I ended up talking to Bublé’s grandfather the most. Mitch is from the same part of Italy as I am and this is what Italians do... they get together, eat, and talk about Italy. Lunch that day was pasta, veal cutlets, meatballs, homemade bread, and homemade wine. We ate for over two hours and not much work got done. Chick Corea and Earth, Wind and Fire were also big influences as well as The Beatles, of course. But Stevie Wonder could very well be my biggest influence overall. All of my influences are on the R&B, jazz and funk side.
In the spring of 2010, the City of Toronto will pay tribute to Lou Pomanti with a street named in your honour. How did this come about and what lucky neighbourhood will your name get to live?
The City will name a street after me right at the corner of Weston Rd & Sheppard. There’s going to be a new subdivision finished this summer and they wanted to honour someone who had grown up in that neighbourhood, which I did. I was told the naming would have to pass a number of levels that could take a long time, but two months ago the final level was passed. Obviously I have a fan!
What an honour. Do you still know many people in that neighbourhood?
Well, my parents moved out about five years ago, and I haven’t been there since. I would think most would be gone. But having a street named after me is wild, eh? I went through many stages. At first I was incredibly honoured and jazzed by the whole thing, and then I started feeling unworthy. But it’s not like I’m famous or anything, so who’s gonna know? And then I thought of Mike Meyers Blvd, which is the crappiest little street in Toronto. (laughs) I think it leads into to a Woolco or something! I would accept this from the City just for my parents’ sake, but I’m very honoured thank you very much.
Are you parents still with us, and are they musical?
They’re still with us, but they’re not musical. I’m the first musician of the family.
Really? I wonder where you got it.
I don’t know.
Is there anything else going on in your life you’d like to share with us?
It’s been such a busy time. For almost a year, I’ve been writing Christmas music. Since last March actually, and I’m Christmas’d out. The music is for a movie called Christmas Dreams starring Ed Asner. The movie will air on CBC television in mid-December. I also did the music for a one-hour special called Magic Man which will also air on the CBC in December. And tomorrow I’m doing all the music for the Santa Claus Parade on Global.
Are there any artists you haven’t played with that you would like to?
Diana Krall. I would love that. And there are others, but they will never happen.
But it could happen with Diana Krall?
Well, with the Bublé record going number one and all...
All kinds of doors are flying open as we speak.