Next Stage Arts Project presents jazz musical artist Greg Picollo, as part of the Shades of Blue series, on Friday, April 5, at 7:30 pm at Next Stage. Tickets are $22 in advance, $24 at the door, available online and at Turn It Up! in Brattleboro and Putney Coop three weeks in advance of the show. Next Stage is located at 15 Kimball Hill, Putney, VT. Next Stage offers a beer and wine cash bar.
For parts of the last five decades Greg Piccolo has been a major contributor to the blues and vintage music scene. He is a monster tenor sax man who has played with some of the biggest names in the business. He is also a harmonica player, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. He came into national prominence as one of the original members of Roomful of Blues. In recent years he was part of Jimmie Vaughan’s Tilt a Whirl Band. For years he has led his own New England based trio while remaining an in demand side man.
Perhaps best remembered for his 24-year stint with Rhode Island’s internationally renowned jump blues band Roomful of Blues, Greg Piccolo has followed his muse since his teenage years. He started his first band, The Rejects, at age 13, singing and playing a little alto sax. It was while with this band, playing a date at the Westerly, Rhode Island YMCA, that he met Duke Robillard. It was one of the defining moments in his life. He joined Duke in The Variations, and Duke introduced him to the work of such musicians as Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. Greg was already familiar with their songs from the covers recorded by the likes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Animals, but until Duke played Greg the originals, he was unaware of the wellspring of the blues. Greg started to drink from the source.
Greg left Roomful in 1994 to follow his own particular musical vision. Greg Piccolo and Heavy Juice toured incessantly for the next five or six years, and cut two albums for Fantasy Records, “Acid Blue” (1995) and “Red Lights” (1997). The sound was more contemporary than his previous work and showed his willingness to experiment and to blaze new trails. Nevertheless, it was still music with a feeling. Both albums contained those Greg Piccolo staples that one had come to expect over the years. Finely crafted songs, tasty guitar, some raucous tenor, even a bit of alto, all heavily spiced throughout with soul and passion.
Currently he is working on some big band arrangements of his tunes, and hopes to book some dates around that project. He plays New England dates with old band mates from Roomful occasionally, folks such as Carl Querfurth, Sugar Ray Norcia, Rich Lataille and Doug James.
Piccolo’s tone, sound, and outlook are unchanged, although these days he finds himself playing more ballads than before. It is still the sound and the feeling that drive him. And when he says, “Swing is closest to my heart” one has to stand back and look at what this man has done over the last forty years.