I believe poker rooms and tournaments and their organizers should not place themselves in the problematic position of censoring players or silencing their political beliefs.
Shortly after writing and posting my list of the best non-fiction poker narratives ever written, I made a lengthy video that expounded upon the reasons why various books were selected.
Unfortunately, the video was cut short, leaving many viewers to wonder why I selected Anthony Holden’s “Big Deal” in the top position.
Poetry, I think, makes our search easier. Poetry is a signpost when we’re lost, and a lighthouse in the darkness.
Poetry can inspire. Poetry can provoke. Poetry can make us laugh. Poetry can even make us cry.
Poetry is both a beacon of hope and a band-aid to a wounded spirit.
To say this was one of the musical highlights of the year (for me) would be a monumental understatement. I own just about everything put out commercially by Zucchero since his career began in the mid-1980s, including his latest album release titled Bassa, which includes live sessions performed last year in Cuba with some of the best (and least-known) musicians in the world.
Zucchero, which means “sugar” in Italian (real name: Adelmo Fornaciari), brings it and then gives it. He loves what he does, which is obvious from his two-hour sets and plenty of unexpected and unrehearsed impromptu show-stopping moments. There’s no lip-syncing in this show. It’s entirely authentic from start to finish. He’s not the best singer, or guitar player, or pianist, of course. But combine his passion with the gift of melody and he’s the real deal. At last night’s House of Blues show, he essentially performed every song we wanted to hear, then stayed for three encores.
Virtually unknown inside the United States, Zucchero is enormously popular in Europe, especially his native Italy and throughout Eastern Europe. He’s performed duets with everyone from Luciano Pavarotti to John Lee Hooker.
Here’s a sample of the JLH collaboration:
Several years ago, Zucchero did another collaboration which can be seen here. Pretty impressive company, indeed:
One more, Zucchero with the great Miles Davis:
Here’s a short review of Zucchero’s performance at House of Blues.
Unlike many of his previous grand spectacles with full orchestras and a symphony of sound, this was a much smaller, more compact version of the normal grandiosity which accompanies his shows. In fact, Zucchero’s current American tour consists of just him and his four-person band traveling by RV.
This thrifty decision has nothing to do with money. Zucchero has sold 50 million records worldwide and owns a highly-profitable wine vineyard in Tuscany. He’s married and has three children. He’s not touring America by bus because he’s broke, nor does he need the money. He’s doing it for the love of his music.
Zucchero’s musical influences — largely blues and gospel sounds of the American South — comes across in the unique instrumentation used in his shows (at least the one I saw). Ever heard a “banjo bass” before? I hadn’t. There are flutes, trumpets, and a grab bag of different string instruments that produce unusual sounds and pitches which enhance the classic hits his fans have known by heart for years.
It would be difficult if not impossible to upstage Zucchero’s boundless energy or natural charm onstage. But if there’s such rival, it comes from a remarkable woman who backs the maestro on guitar and vocals. Imagine the voice of Patti LaBelle and the guitar prowess of Buddy Guy, and that’s Zucchero’s sidekick (I didn’t get her name, unfortunately). She’s amazing!
Zucchero doesn’t speak much English. In fact, he converses with his audience in Italian between songs but keeps the narrative to a minimum. That many people reading this likely don’t understand Italian or know his music doesn’t matter. At one point during the show, Zucchero told the story about when he was a boy and how he learned to play the guitar and sing along to mostly English-language pop-records, which led to an appreciation for the classic blues masters. He confessed that he doesn’t know what the song means or says sometimes, but interprets it in his own way. “That’s the magic of music,” he says. “It makes me happy. I hope my music can make other people happy, too.”
Zucchero said there’s a message in his story for Americans. He says we should listen more to the rest of the world’s music. It doesn’t matter what language it comes in. Music is music and beautiful music is beautiful in any language. After all, “most opera is in Italian,” Zucchero joked.
At House of Blues, most of his audience was Italian, who made the show into a give and take. It was nice to see so much interaction between a stage performer (especially someone of Zucchero’s stature) and an audience, giving the evening an intimate nightclub feel. Our seats were no more than perhaps 30 feet away. We could see the sweat pouring off his face as a drenched performer gave his audience the show they wanted to see.
You’d think this would be the recipe for a marvelous concert, and it was, except for the two women who sat next to me and then babbled through the entire performance. As I said, the downside to attending live concerts nowadays is that they attract all kinds of people. Including some with no manners nor any sense of musical appreciation.
Try and check out Zucchero if you can. His 2014 American Tour continues with dates in Dallas, Austin, Houston, New York, Chicago, and elsewhere (about 15 more cities). Click his website for tickets and show information.