International Superstar Returns to World Cafe Live on Valentine’s Day
by Mark Casasanto
Somewhere, back around eleven or twelve years ago, I was enjoying a rare night off with nothing on my agenda except a little peace and quiet. No wife, no kids, no work… just a single luxury… the remote control. Back then, that was as unheard of as a Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl Parade. As fate would have it, however, and to quote Bruce Springsteen, “there was 57 channels and nothing on.”
Being a creature of my own habits, I’d be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that I was mere minutes away from needing to be resuscitated, slumped over mezzo morto right there in my corner kingdom. You know the old saying about a body at rest? Umm yeah… that would be me.
But, just when I thought all hope was lost and I was ready to throw in the TV towel for a certain TKO, the much needed counter punch happened. My sparring session with the airwaves connected with an unexpected shot that soon transported me to another place and time of musical majesty. I had landed on one of the local PBS stations and that auditory shot to the the head transformed my eyes from coin slot skinny to wide eyed amazement.
I knew the music. Recognizable from a time gone by. Then it clicked. It was an Engelbert Humperdinck song, but it was being performed and presented in Italian. It was pure, simple and tantalizingly beautiful. Behind the microphone of that rendition of “Il Mondo” was a then twenty-something year old Neapolitan singer by the name of Patrizio Buanne. I needed no further introduction, for by the time he moved into his next song, I had already called my mom and my then in-laws commanding them to change the channel… il ragazzo e’ bravo!
So, in advance of his Valentine’s night return to the City of Brotherly Love, I caught up with the charismatic entertainer earlier this week. Having spent some time chatting away, it’s easy and clear to understand the lure that has him adored the world over. For he’s as charming as he is intelligent and as honest as he is talented. Ahh yes, The Italian.
His parents were restauranteurs and that experience was not lost on him. Because of their gastronomical calling, he spent parts of his youth growing up in both Naples and Vienna. “My parents were not in business just to give people something to eat and cash-in, but to share and educate people what it means to cook certain things in certain ways.”
In recanting my first exposure to his music on PBS, he took the time to enlighten me on the origin of what has basically made him a success. Referring to himself as an ambassador of the Italian songbook, he explained that many popular songs, such as the above mentioned “Il Mondo”, were indeed Italian originals that were later recorded in English. He names “A Man Without Love”, “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” and “It’s Now Or Never” as just a few more examples.
Jokingly he says, “I’m not as poppy as Timberlake and not as classical as Bocelli, but I try to stay authentic.” It saddens him that contemporaries like Harry Connick, Jr. and Michael Buble aren’t promoted or receive more musically commercial airtime in the United States for the American songbook. He adds, “the United States is just at a different place musically right now…it’s why they call it show business, music is a business.”
Still, there’s a genuine, yet confident humbleness to him. He’ll tell you, “it doesn’t really matter if I’m playing for 5,000 people, 500 people or 5 people… here in the US, we play smaller venues, but it’s still very beautiful to perform and make people happy.”
Don’t ask him how many records he has sold worldwide, “they tell me 2 million, 4 million, 6 million, I don’t know.” The truth is, he doesn’t care.
On tour, these are his people who fill the seats. Initially, they may come to hear the songs he brings to life within the genre but soon leave fans of Patrizio Buanne. Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Latin America, Mexico… venues packed with tens of thousands of admirers swooning in the swarm of all things Patrizio! Cautiously and at the risk of sounding arrogant, he says, “it allows me to do whatever I want to do on stage… they didn’t tell Michelangelo how to paint the Sistine Chapel, right?” With such a blank canvas and a colorful palette from which to choose, it affords him the opportunity to keep the show upbeat, bouncy and interactive. In the end he says, “having the ability to make the people leave with smiles on their faces is what it’s all about.”
Crafting his stage persona through the years, he points out that one of his idols was Julio Iglesias. While the late singer’s smooth charisma was a trademark of his persona, in the studio, Iglesias always went beyond his comfort zone. To Buanne, that speaks volumes to the character of a genuine artist. “I’ve always admired that about Julio.”
Diving deeper into Buanne’s body of work, there’s an album recorded entirely in Spanish and songs in Chinese and German, the correlation is there to see. Buanne will tell you, to record in different languages is “a show of respect” to the loyal fans of those highly supportive demographics. “Trust me,” he laughs, “it is not easy to sing in Chinese.”
Not knowing Buanne before this interview, one of the things that struck me most was his business acumen. I did mention he was intelligent, e’ vero? Buanne’s understanding of the business as an artist, executive and self promoter is quite impressive. On recording at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, he knew what he wanted in terms of a certain sound, despite the exorbitant costs. Confidently he says, “you are on the clock when you record there, so you don’t think about anything else but doing a great job.” Imagine the young, nervous, Italian, standing at Hollywood and Vine, then entering the venerable, fabled, landmark building. His thoughts post sessions, “Dino Crocetti (Dean Martin) and Frank Sinatra recorded there, two of the greatest entertainers in the world, it has a magic and an aura that they left… and I was able to absorb it all.”
Ever the businessman, he has a jewelry line now, Viva La Dolce Vita, that he’s negotiating exclusivity deals with QVC as well as potentially striking agreements with the Home Shopping Network and the Hallmark Channel. Stay tuned for more on the evolution of the attractive collection or visit to view and purchase online at patriziobuanne.com. He promises the gentlemen that he won’t be selling the jewelry Wednesday night at World Cafe Live, “so it’s safe to bring your girlfriends!”
Speaking about the show Wednesday, he says with complete cheekiness, “nothing, don’t expect anything!” As he laughs, he reels it back in and declares, “I’m Neapolitan, we are famous for making people laugh… we’re gonna cry because we are happy, and cry because we are going to have a good time.” He promises a fun show with his hits, music from his upcoming release, Italianissimo and teases, that he “might surprise the ladies with the new CD, pictures and autographs..” After all, it is Valentine’s Day right?
Finishing up our conversation, we talked ever so briefly on what his music interests are when he wants to relax and kick back. Ever so diverse, he ran the gamut from good rock bands, to Nat King Cole’s Spanish recordings and as one would expect, various crooners. In fact, to expand upon that musical diversity, and quick to pay homage, he had been listening to the late Canadian musician, Jeff Healey (Jeff Healey Band) earlier in the day and was blown away by his voice and musicianship.
But before we said buona sera, I asked in closing, just what is it about Philadelphia that has him coming back every tour and on this particular run, kicking it all off at World Cafe Live? “I was always a Philly boy, I’m an Italian Stallion…” he says as he giggled. Once back on point, I guess I was shocked as much as impressed. Silly me, after time spent together, I probably should’ve known. “You are from Philadelphia my friend, the capital of doo-wop music…” he says pointedly. “I listen to Charlie Gracie, Bobby Rydell, Fabian and Frankie Avalon. These are the people I like, all boys from Philadelphia, all Italian singers!”
Silly me indeed.
Benvenuto a casa Patrizio!
Patrizio Buanne appears at World Cafe Live, 8pm, this Wednesday, February 14, 2018. Ticket info and the WCL’s special Valentine’s Day menu can be found here.