Jazz Monthly: From the category of “What the Heck Took You So Long?” We here at Jazz Monthly.Com are so happy to announce that one of our favorite performers and friends Rob Paparozzi has released his very first feature album, Etruscan Soul. This dazzling energy machine has contributed his great harmonica sound to movies, commercials, and to countless of his colleagues’ recordings: Cindy Lauper, Whitney Houston, Culture Club, Roberta Flack, David Clayton Thomas, Judy Collins, and so many others. Rob has also recorded two albums with his versatile Blues-Rock R&B band, The Hudson River Rats. Under Rob’s name, this is a solo debut album, and it certainly was well worth waiting for. Etruscan Soul is an organic, eclectic collection of songs with a stellar cast of renowned sidemen that truly reflects Rob’s Italian roots back to Etruria, an Italian region of west central Italy. Rob is also kept busy these days as the singer, front man, and harmonica player for Blood Sweat and Tears. When he’s not on the road with BST, Rob makes a lot of people happy giging around and performing. Welcome to Jazz Monthly.Com Rob.
Rob Paparozzi (RP): Thank you Joe, and thanks for that great introduction. It’s great to be here.
Jazz Monthly: You’re welcome. As I said it in my intro, you’ve helped make other people’s albums successful over the years with your incredible session playing, and now finally here is your debut album. So Rob, what the heck took you so long?
RP: (Both laughing) We’ll I was busy making a living supporting my family Joe, that’s why it took a couple of extra years to really get it done.
Jazz Monthly: I think, too, a lot of it is that you really wanted to do it right, didn’t you?
RB: Yeah, yeah I had a lot of ideas kicking around in my head. As I was working on all of these other artist sessions and jingles, I was also hearing this record, but I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to do it. I met some great musicians in my travel and,… they all became part of the puzzle. Later in life I was able to piece this thing together and say, “Okay I’m ready; I’m ready to make this record.”
Jazz Monthly: You know one of the things that you said, I guess in the liner notes of this great CD, you said that while you’ve never written… well you have written some songs… you never really considered yourself a song writer. Your forte is a singer – a front man first – and a harmonica player second. When I read that I went, “Hey Rob you know I think you’re being a little too modest,” I mean you’re one of the greatest harmonica players in the country man!
RP: Thank you Joe, I appreciate that. I never really did think of myself as a songwriter. But what I felt I did have is a skill, not only for performing as a front man and entertainer… and you know a lot about that too because we worked in some bands together when we were younger… but I also felt that I had talent for arranging. Not so much like Big Band arranging and scoring, but arranging songs that were already written. You know, “cover songs” stylizing them in my own way and bringing them to another life. That’s where I felt I had strengths. That’s why Etruscan Soul has 15 cover songs… but not like you’ve ever really heard them.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, but part of this Rob, that I was referring to, is when you said that you consider yourself a singer and a front man first and a harmonica player second.
RP: Ah, I see.
Jazz Monthly: Now Rob, you’re really a first call harmonica player man. When you think of harmonica players, you’re one of the top two or three names that come up.
RP: Yeah, well thank you. I guess I do sell myself short a little bit, and I think a lot of that has been because in this business I’ve been hired for a lot of my important gigs – like performance gigs, not studio gigs. In the studio, I’m known as a harmonica player. It’s funny how everybody wants to pigeon hole you in any field you’re in: baseball, football, music… they want to say he’s a quarterback, he’s a Blues player, he’s a Jazz player, he’s a Punk musician. So I felt like I was getting stereotyped a little bit. I would get calls as an entertainer/male vocalist. Blood Sweat and Tears and The Blues Brothers hired me as a vocalist; they didn’t even know I played harmonica and didn’t really care that I played harmonica. When I was hired by the Blues Brothers, Steve Cropper said he needed somebody to come out and sing and front the band and maybe sing some duets with Eddie Floyd, our special guest. I went to play harmonica and they said, “no, no, no it’s not that important.” Then one night we were in Monaco, in some fancy yacht club getting ready to come out with the Blues Brothers, I was in the dressing room. I was a little nervous because it was only like my second gig with them. I pulled out a harmonica and I was just noodleing, and all of a sudden Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd walk in the dressing room and Steve Cropper says in this big southern drawl, “Hey Eddie, listen to Rob, Holy Smokes! He can really play that thing! We got to work that into the show.”
Jazz Monthly: Little did they know that you were a brilliant harmonica player for decades before that.
RP: Yeah, I said, “hey I was trying to tell you guys I play,” but you know they weren’t that interested. That’s why, I think I sell myself short sometimes because I’m so used to getting hired as a singer in this business and then the harmonica happens to just be there. But I feel naked without my harmonica. That’s what I do, I sing and I play harmonica.
Jazz Monthly: But you always were a great showman. but the thing I always loved about you… you know I can say this having known you for decades and decades… is that yeah there’s a lot-of-show to Rob Paparozzi and he’s a showman but, he knows how to connect with the crowd. He knows how to get people’s hands clapping and foot stamping. Rob, you also back it up with great music. You’re a great musician and singer.
RP: Thank you. I’ve always tried to. I wanted to be a singer that was really a musician, and you know, that’s where the harmonica really had helped me because that was my instrument. I would say, “I’m going to study music on this instrument and whatever I learn, bring it back to my singing and entertaining skills.” So I always felt like it was very important to know music and theory. The harmonica has really got me to where I wanted to be, musically, and then bring some of that into the singing.
Jazz Monthly: You know Rob, having known you for all these years, and knowing that you come from a very musical family, it really wasn’t the jazz harmonica players that first kind of pulled you in wanting to be a harmonica player. It was actually John Lennon right?
RP: It was actually John Lennon because growing up with in the sixties, we heard Motown, we heard the Beatles, we heard Bob Dylan. That’s what I heard out of my little AM radio, you know Love Me Do, and I Should Have Known Better, From Me To You. Then maybe around 1966 my mom had a candy store in Linden, you might remember this, it was called Connie’s Goody Shop.