A work day in 1998.
I once had a gig doing walla. Not to be confused with ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording), walla involves bringing in a group of actors to add background sound to certain scenes of a film or television program in post production.
A restaurant scene for example. While the main actors on-screen are having a discussion at the table over their penne all’arrabbiata, the walla actors, standing around a microphone in the studio, add to the rest of the restaurant’s ambience with murmur and the occasional call-out such as, “waiter!”, “I’ll have a Manhattan”, “You want fries with that?” or maybe just a hearty chuckle.
Recording walla was always enjoyable, because it allowed us to improvise and, when the production called for a bit of ADR, gave us the challenge of trying to match “the flaps” of the mouth of a particular on-screen performer while dubbing a specific line that needed to be re-recorded for performance or technical reasons.
The Wilhelm Scream Not walla but a most legendary voice sound effect.
And while it was interesting and enjoyable work, like all jobs, once in a while a day could be long and arduous. This was one of those days. We had been working on a feature film throughout the week and this particular day had been a long one with lots of takes, do-overs and delays. We had wrapped up the session, I left the studio and made my way to the bus stop. The person who was in charge of the walla session, Al, called out to me, “Lou, you want a ride home?” Yes. Yes I do.
I got into the passenger side of Al’s car, buckled up and we were on our way. We talked a little about the day that had passed and what was on the slate for tomorrow. As we were both pretty tired, we soon fell into a relaxed silence and just cruised along.
With one hand on the wheel, Al reached down, picked up a cd and put it in the stereo player. What came out of the speakers caught my attention.
It was like a rhythmic chuckle. A chuckle that sort of playfully poked me in the ribs, put its arm around me and said, “You tired? Poor baby! Forget it. Relax.”
Then the music started. It was a sound reminiscent of a different time. The sound conjured up images of tumblers and ice, of polyester fashion, of moustaches and big sideburns. A cool, saxophone and organ-infused lounge sound. Lounge music for the 21st century.
I looked at Al, “What is this?” Al picked up the cd jewel box and handed it to me:
Montefiori Cocktail are twin brothers Francesco (Kekko) and Federico (Kikko) Montefiori, who hail from Forlì in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Kekko plays keyboards and Kikko plays saxophone, flute and vocals. Their father, Germano Montefiori, was a successful saxophonist in Italy’s orchestras and combos of the 1960s and 70s. Germano not only graces the covers of his sons’ first three albums, (They currently have eleven releases) but he too released an album in 2006 – Germano Montefiori & the Swinging Daddies.
I’ve had the pleasure of staying in touch with Kikko and Kekko as well as with their married partners, artistic director of Lazagne magazine, Anna Bertozzi and artist Laura Gamberoni respectively via Facebook. The brothers Montefiori continue to tour Italy and Europe, carrying the musical torch their father passed onto them.
Enjoy this playlist of a few of Rocco’s favorite Montefiori Cocktail tunes.
By the time the cd reached the fourth track, I was fully hooked. “Hey, Al, do you go by Virgin Records?” Al gave me a look. “Yeah. Why?” “I gotta get this.” Al said nothing. He just smiled. I think there’s always a bit of personal satisfaction when one introduces to another something new with positive results.
Al passed the street where the record shop was located and pulled over. “Thanks, Al! See you tomorrow.” “Later, Lou!” Al took off, and I made my way down the street to the record store. I was possessed. As the cd was an import, it stood a good chance of not being in stock, but I told myself I would order it anyway.
I eventually arrived at Virgin Records (I miss record stores. Even the mega-stores) and made a b-line for the international section. I searched the section in a way much akin to Terminator Vision.
AFRICA, ARGENTINA, BELGIUM…FRANCE, GERMANY, ITALY.
And there it was. Waiting for me. One of the first cds in the rack. Montefiori Cocktail Raccolta No.1 (Collection No.1) I picked it up, went to check out and bought it. I then took it home. And played it. Often.
Francesco (L) and Federico (R) Montefiori. Montefiori Cocktail.
It was the music of fratelli Montefiori that introduced me to a particular modern Italian sound. A lounge sound, that has its pulse on American jazz and R&B. On Latin jazz, on Brazilian bossa nova, cinema soundtracks, African rhythm, East Indian vibes and more. I was hooked. I wanted more.
And in those pre-iTunes days, there was only one place I was going to find more.
In December of 1999, on a promise I had made to my agent (“I want you to go to Italy”, she said. Who am I to refuse?), I took a portion of the money I had made on my first tv commercial (Swiffer!) and booked a flight for my wife and I to Italy.
I looked forward to getting in touch with my roots in the old country. But I also had it in the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, Montefiori Cocktail had a new release. A “Raccolta No.2” as it were.
We visited Firenze for a few days seeing the sights. We were walking around town, when by chance or by fate we came upon a small record shop. I wish I could remember the name of it.
Just as quickly as I had found Raccolta no.1, there it was. Raccolta no.2. Waiting for me. Another colorful album cover, again with Germano on the cover.
I picked up two copies (one for Al!) and made my way to the cashier. The salesperson looked at my purchase and asked if he could recommend something else for me. As my Italian was bruttissimo at the time, I wasn’t sure what he was saying, but my wife, who didn’t speak a word of the language, was able to tell me what he wanted. (To this day, I still can’t figure how she did that. Most impressive)
He inserted a cd into a player, handed me a pair of headphones and pressed play. I then heard the opening strains of another captivating sound.
After listening to snippets of about half a dozen of tracks, I took off the headphones, looked at the salesperson who patiently awaited my verdict, held up two fingers and said, “Due, per favore.”
The salesperson smiled. Again it was a smile of satisfaction, of pride.
I had just been introduced to musician and producer Nicola Conte. Nicola hails from Bari in the region of Puglia. He is a prolific musician, songwriter, dj and producer who has collaborated and recorded on many different projects. Nicola has a certain magic touch adding it to numerous successful recordings and remixes for artists such as Rosalia de Souza, Sabrina Malheiros and even Montefiori Cocktail.
Kind of Sunshine. Nicola Conte on guitar.
Having been presented with the genius of the Montefiori brothers and Nicola Conte, I became obsessed with this sound. I soon discovered the Irma Records label of Bologna located also in Emilia-Romagna. Irma carries the motherlode of not only this modern lounge music, but of acid jazz, electronica, nu-jazz and many other genres. (Much of this music can be found on iTunes; however, for those into compact discs, they can be found at MusicShopOnline aka MSOL)
Artists such as Montefiori Cocktail, Nicola Conte, Italian Secret Service, Marcheselli Produzioni, BellaDonna, LTJ X-Perience, Bengi Jumping, The Shiffers, Robert Passera and others opened up a new world of music for me. And my passion for this music eventually led to the creation of Rocco’s Música!Musica! in 2005.