No-one forgets the Blues Brothers. It’s one of those musical films that stays with you, and for Blue Lou Marini (he’s the one in the pic, holding the sax) it’s stayed with him for six decades.
The original Blues Brother, Marini has been there since the beginning, and it’s something that continues to surprise him.
‘If you had told me in 1987 that I’d be getting ready to tour Australia with the Blues Brothers Band I’d say you’d be out of your mind!’
But the passion for the music of the Blues Brothers has remained as fervent as ever, with the band remaining true to the spirit of the original inception.
‘It’s nice in this day and age to see a totally natural band. There is no pitch correction and no giant production; it’s pure energy. It’s been a continual source of amazement. We may not play for three years, but then we are bac. Sure we have lost members along the way but all the band members there now have been there for minimum of 10 years.’
Marini has made a name for himself as a sideman in various high-profile groups, and any top New York jazz musician will tell you, ‘He’s one of the absolutely best jazz musicians’.
This seasoned and adept multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer, educator and producer, and inspiration for a fan following cult across multiple genres of music.
‘It’s a real harmonious band,’ says Marini, ‘and it’s been together so long we know where to lead each other along. We have the luxury now of having three of our former lead singers together all at once, and we decided what the hell – let’s try it with all three guys, and everyone loved it so much it’s been such a gas…’
Getting the band back together for something as simple as a rehearsal is a challenge, but has always added to the band’s immense onstage energy.
‘We are spread all over the US. Most of the band is in New York, but we have players in Dallas and Nashville, and our technician is in San Francisco. If we decide to do some different tunes we email each other, then at the first rehearsal it comes together and we play that night. In August we started the European tour at Ronnie Scotts in London but we got an offer to play Spain the day before and the only way we could make it work was to fly direct to Lacurunia. The band flew to London, had a three-hour layover; Madrid with a two-hour layover, and then Lacurunia, and then we went onstage and played one of the best gigs of our life. I looked around the band that night and I thought wow – it’s passion, we really are brothers – we have been so much together, from the sublime to the ridiculous!
‘That was a sublime moment, to get onstage when everyone was so tired, and play so well… and then there are moments when you are travelling when you go to somewhere like Albania and they lose everyone’s luggage and not a single guy has a thing – but not just our plane but the plane before it and it takes two hours to put in a report and no-one speaks English and we think we will never see our bags again. For five days our drummer had to wear shorts, and he was holding up his pants with a rope; a week later we played our last night at Ronnie Scotts and at 2pm our luggage arrived in the foyer of our hotel – just when we are ready to go back to New York!’
What has it meant to Marini to be one of the Blues Brothers?
‘It’s been the world’s greatest part-time job. Everyone has a career going on their own; when we get together we have to reserve times – this summer we have a whole bunch of offers for June and July and I am on the road with James Taylor until 3 August so I said I ouldn’t take time off so we had to bail on the bulk of those gigs. We do three busy weeks, we have to work around it, the end result, is that now I am in Japan and when I get back in play with Lynda Carter (aka Wonder Woman) and work with her band in Nashville from now until 1 September. I am moving!’
So what should we expect to hear in a Blues Brothers Band set?
‘We have to play Soulman – and people flip over that. Everyone Needs Someone to Love, personal favourites of band like Music Box Car Blues; there is something about that tune that we all love. And then we are looking forward to April, and to getting a new CD out, and we are going to add a new repertoire to the band… the original Blues Brothers Band still has the fire and energy of a bunch of teenagers. It’s like a freight train: there ain’t no stopping it!’
The Original Blues Brothers Band plays Bluesfest, 24–28 March.
For tickets and programming information go to: bluesfest.com.au.