Fabio Treves the craftsman and godfather of blues in Italy

Fabio Treves the craftsman and godfather of blues in Italy

The word “blues” in Italy is inextricably linked to Fabio TrevesMilanese harmonica player, founder of Treves Blues Band which in 50 years of activity has spread the “devil’s music” in our country, becoming its “popularizer” and an institution in its field.
Passionate, enthusiastic, tireless (but also in excellent shape), the 75-year-old bluesman was able to bring the blues to a popular level without diminishing its contents, maintaining an unshakable coherence and artistic correctness over the many years of his activity.
A long career in the company of excellent musicians who took turns in the band, often following solo careers. TBB has had a stable form for a few decades now. Obviously they offer the best from the stage where they alternate blues standards with songs of their own composition, always guided by Fabio’s harmonica who shares the front row together with the guitar.
We met the band leader who spoke to us about his artistic history on the eve of the start of a celebratory tour which in the first dates will feature special guests Lou Marinithe saxophonist (of Italian origins) of Blues Brothers Band who also appears in Landis’ legendary 1980 film.

How do you experience the 50th anniversary of the Treves Blues Band?

First of all with a great sense of fulfillment, of great satisfaction because we have gone through changes in music, styles, political changes, historical events, cultural changes. I lived them all intensely with passion, starting from the first little concerts, and then arriving at the most important concerts and reviews and many meetings. What I like to underline most is the sense of happiness, because 50 years of a career is not a normal milestone either for the blues or for other music. I think I have always approached my business seriously, but I feel independent, free, let’s say coherent. I was satisfied with the many beautiful things I did, the collaborations, the fact that I managed to make my dreams come true, even just that of going on stage twice with Zappa.

How and why was TBB born? What do you remember about the beginning?

It was born because I was captivated by the blues listening to the little groups that came from England, listening to the blues music of which my father was a fan. At a certain point I said to myself: “well, I’ll try”. It was a time when there was a lot of excitement in music. I gathered a group of musicians who liked the blues and off we went. I remember the first dates, with impossible facilities, they told us: “but where do you want to go… you won’t last more than a few months.” We have still been here for 50 years. Then I had the great fortune of going to Radio Popolare to do all-night blues shows; it was unthinkable but it brought great visibility to the blues itself which was not very widespread at the time.

But was it difficult at first?

Yes, a lot. One thing that helped spread the blues was “The Blues Brothers” who brought this music to the general public.

Yet in the second half of the ’70s the blues experienced a good moment. He was very tied to a certain political and cultural area…

In those years, a part of the public came to understand what I had already known for some time, that is, that the blues had values ​​that were closer to a certain political reservoir. The blues is social redemption, respect, respect for others, for the environment, it tells of the difficult man-woman relationships sung by the great female legends.

Besides TBB, who were the “champions” of Italian blues in the golden period?

All my dearest friends who are no longer here, Guido Toffoletti, Roberto Ciotti, Rudy Rotta. At the limit even the first Bennato who played blues and then the great one Pino Daniele. It was a very active “scene”, without rivalry or envy, with a great taste for collaboration, with the desire only to make good blues music.

Is there anyone you are indebted to in some way?

There are two people to whom I am grateful: Renzo Arbore And Claudio Trotta. Arbore took me to great TV programs such as “L’altra Domenica” (1976/79), “Back all” (1987/88) and “Doc” (1987/88). Arbore rightly defined me as “a stubborn propagator of the blues”. Then there is Claudio Trotta, promoter, with whom I also produced a record and who introduced me to many artists for whom I opened concerts. The only thing that divides us is football “faith”. He is Nerazzurri… And then there is the press, which supported my work.

What was your role in the spread of the blues in Italy?

This it’s something that gives me a lot of satisfaction: people recognize me as the father of blues made in Italy. This is because my passion led me to push harder and harder, through concerts but also through diffusion through the radio and also the two books I wrote on the blues. And even now it gives me satisfaction to see that the public continues to come to the concerts. Evidently we managed to make people understand what the blues is and make people passionate about it.

Did you ever think you’d reach this goal?

Absolutely not! However, there are some things that I want to remember about these years of my career, about this goal. The first is to have brought the blues to places where there is truly a lot of suffering and sadness. I never publicized it but I went to the spinal unit in Niguarda (Milan hospital), among the kids paralyzed from the waist down. I brought my music to Piccolo Cottolengo, to the Cancer Institute and to the three prisons in Milan, San Vittore, Bollate and Opera. Every now and then I meet people who tell me they have seen me on these occasions, and this makes me happy. I wonder if it’s better to be recognized for this or because you were on TV doing X Factor or by Maria De Filippi. The other thing I have always cultivated is the artisanal passion for my work, going beyond the classic patterns of discography or the relationship with the public. I take care of the latter directly, communicating in person with the “fan base”. Well, perhaps these elements also allowed me to get here.

These are the beautiful moments. But were there difficult moments?

(He thinks about it for a while) No, I don’t remember. Yes, maybe some problems at the concerts or with the organizers but normal disagreements and professional dynamics.

So would you do it all again?

100%, and without regrets.

It is always said that the blues, due to its origins, is a music linked to sadness, because it comes from suffering, but at the same time it is a music that offers strong moments of aggregation and sharing. Is that so?

I fully agree with what you say, because if you think about it, you often find the blues associated in films with different moments, which can be a car chase after a robbery or a love scene. If it was born as the music of those who have to break stones or collect cotton, it was then transformed into a soundtrack of social redemption, of telling the story of beauty, of falling in love and of the magic of relationships. The blues is everyday music, it is the music of music, of the musical background, there is my life, yours, of those over there or of these here, because who among us has not had a moment of sadness, or Who hasn’t cried out of happiness? The blues can accompany you in all these aspects of life, the blues tells them. And then the blues gave life by evolving and mixing with many other genres, it is the basis of rock.

How’s the blues right now?

Well very well. There are several interesting things both in Italy and abroad. Here with us I suggest i Lovesick Duo, I consider them my godchildren, they have the right approach and the correct vision of the blues that we share.

Without being a tax agent: can you live there, with the blues?

No! For forty years I was a photographer and a photography and support teacher. But there are few blues musicians in the world who can say they have lived only on music: BB King, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, John Lee Hooker, Joe Bonamassa and a few others, all stars. The others, no matter how great they are, have always had to do something else to live with dignity.

You’re about to go on a 50th anniversary tour. The first dates will be in the company of Lou Marini, the saxophonist of, among other things, the Blues Brohers Band. How does this meeting come about?

First of all, from the respect towards him. We knew, through mutual friends, that he had to come to Italy. Through Alex “Kid” Gariazzo, the TBB guitarist, we got in touch to propose it to him, and when he saw the photos of me with Springsteen, Zappa and the many others with whom I have collaborated he understood what and who I am. There was no need to send songs, she said OK. Now let’s do these three dates that open the tour, and which in my opinion are good because just think of how many thousands of people will have seen him play the sax when Aretha Franklin sings in “Blues Brothers”. The one with him is also another collaboration of which I am very proud. The partecipation which gives me the most pleasure however is the one with Frank Zappa, but also with the Deep Purple who gave us so many compliments.

Will you have other guests?

Frankly, I hope this tour will feature many great guests. For the 40th we had filled the Milan Auditorium with a party full of friends. We will see.

How do we close?

With the same phrase that I always say: “blues to the masses”

This is the calendar of the first dates with special guests Lou Marini

Sunday 18 February 2024 Ponte Dell’Olio (Pc) – Athena Music Club
Thursday 22 February 2024 Ranica (Bg) – Druso
Friday 23 February 2024 Erba (Co) – Excelsior Theatre