July 6, 2009

Andy Mazilli

From the Songs you won't hear on the radio files:

Five or six years ago, when I was living in Honolulu, I went to the SF Bay area on business. I dragged Pierre, a co-worker from Montreal, to JJ's Blues in Santa Clara to hear the moving guitar work of Laura Chavez, who was playing with the Lara Price band. [Note to self: Do a Songs You Won't Hear On The Radio episode on Laura.]

Short discursive paasge: I first heard Laura by chance. I bought a Baby Taylor at the Guitar Center across the street from JJ's Blues and noticed a Texas band was playing that night. I came back. The warm-up band was Lara Price and Laura Chavez blew me away. Her work on Little Wing brought tears to my eyes. At that time she was 18, still in high school, and her parents were at the gig. I chatted with them and learned more about her background, teaching herself blues from SRV and other records when her guitar teacher wouldn't teach her to play blues.

So I dragged Pierre to hear this guitar goddess. We got there in time for the open mike and a guy got up and played some of the most raw Hendrix-influenced guitar I've ever heard. I talked to him between sets and learned his name was Andy Mazilli. Later on he approached our table with a turqouise Mexican Stratocaster and tried to sell it to me for $200, saying he hadn't eaten in a day or two.

I didn't, and still don't, have any use for an electric guitar, and I told him flat out I wasn't interested. Pierre made interested noises. I repremanded him, saying, "Look at this guy. He's serious. He's hungry. Don't play with him. You're not going to buy this guitar." "I might." "What, you going to put it in the overhead back to Canada, with no case?"

At this point Mazilli cut in and said, "OK, how about a CD?" I said sure. He left and returned with an Office Depot CD he had burned himself on his computer. He asked my name and signed the CD itself with the phrase, "Thanks for your support."

I listened to it in the rental while driving around town that week. According to the liner notes [a little photocopied square of paper tucked into the Magic Maz poster he folded into a CD holder] it was recorded in one day in a studio with a pickup band for $100. It sounds like it. On the song Too Much Pollution, a string breaks in the guitar solo at 4:22. Maz tries another lick, but it's thrown out of tune. He switches to creating a rhythm with deadened strings and wah-wah pedal for the rest of the song, scat singing after the lyrics to the end.

It also sounds like a guy who had mainlined SRV and Hendrix for decades. But it had a raw, free quality that resonated with me. Jail Farm is my favorite. Raw and sloppy, but personal and fluid. For me it really comes down to passion and authenticity and not to technique and polish. Passion trumps precision in my book.

I later learned he had played with such greats as John Popper, Joan Osborne, Greg Allman, and Kim Wilson. Check this quote from John Popper. "I think Andy Mazzilli might be the best guitarist I know in New York City."

I was working on the Songs You Won't Hear On The Radio series and thought of Mazilli for the first time in years. I did some searching on YouTube and found some live recordings for your dining and dancing pleasure. I also discovered that Mazilli evidently died in 2007 at age 40. RIP Maz. You are not forgotten.

Here's a cut called Guitar Payne that gives you the flavor of his playing. Finding My Way Back To You Thorn Bird Jam.

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