Q&A with Italian Hammond B-3 player Luca Chiellini - high energy is what describes the approach to his music

"The racial discrimination and socio-cultural differences go away with the music, and it’s the best part of it in my opinion. It equalizes everything and everyone, and it is extremely important in a world like the one with have today, where both in Europe and the USA old racial and social discrimination is coming back."

Luca Chiellini: The Caesar of Keys

Italian Luca Chiellini is a Hammond B-3, piano and keyboard player based in Chicago. He tours with Alligator Records artist Toronzo Cannon, appearing worldwide at the major Blues Festivals. Toronzo Cannon, the new face of the Chicago blues with his Album “The Chicago Way “, now calls Luca Chiellini to come to the United States to perform with him, with a 2017 full of national and international touring and the recording of the new cd. Luca Chiellini has been playing the Hammond Organ for over ten years and he’s proud to be a Hammond Organ USA artist. Alongside with Hammond, Luca is endorsed with the prestigious Mogami Cable by Marshall and Konig & Mayer Stands. His interest in the African-American and contemporary music brought Luca Chiellini to the United States from his country of birth, Italy. His music explores the Blues, Funk, Soul, Gospel and R&B music, focusing on the Hammond B3 and the vintage keyboards like Fender Rhodes and the Wurlitzer. High energy on stage is what best describes the approach to music by Luca Chiellini. In Europe, Luca Chiellini toured extensively in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Czech, Spain, Slovakia and won International competitions.    Photo by Gene Schilling

During his touring with Toronzo Cannon, Luca Chiellini had also the pleasure to play with Buddy Guy, Sinead O'Connor, Billy Branch, Guy King, The Kinsey Report, Matt Schofield, Dawn Tyler Watson, Deitra Farr, Lurrie Bell, Demetria Taylor, Nellie Tiger Travis, Lil' Ed, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Vance "Guitar" Kelly, Carl Weathersby, Ernie Vincent, Mike Wheeler, Joanna Connor, among others. He shared the stage with BB King, Booker T and the MG’s, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, Doyle Bramhall II, Bobby Rush, Blues Traveler, Bob Weir, Shemekia Copeland, Robert Randolph, Butch Trucks, John Hammond, Betty Wright, Latimore, Quinn Sullivan, C.J. Chenier, Popa Chubby, Matt Schofield, Bruce Katz, Curtis Salgado, Terrence Simien, Sonny Landreth, Joe Louis Walker, Foghat, Samantha Fish, Matthew Skoller, Millie Jackson, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Rick Estrin, Mac Arnold & The Plate Full. Luca’s first album that will be out soon.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

The Blues is an expression of life and an expression of true emotions of life through music. I learn every day from the Blues about myself regarding my emotions, my inner thoughts and playing live I learn about resources in my energy that I would not know anyway.

What were the reasons that you started the Blues n' Rock researches and organ experiments? How do you describe your sound?

I have been exposed to different kind of music since I was 9 years old and I’ve been researching different instruments and sounds over the years, but the Blues gave me a freedom (still in the format) I never experience before. Especially the Hammond Organ, with its sounds really made by the organist every single time, gives me the chance of being recognizable by my sound. I’m a Hammond Organ USA artist endorsed by the company and I’m very proud of it. My sound is characterized by high energy and intense soloing. The energy on stage is one of my most recognizable characteristics, always appreciated by the audience worldwide.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

The experience in the blues scene worldwide has been incredible. I have been touring internationally and recording with Toronzo Cannon for over two years now. Great experiences have been playing with Buddy Guy, touring all over the United States in major festivals, playing for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, playing for the Italian Prime Minister with the event reported in the news worldwide. I also recorded for XM Radio on a special with Toronzo Cannon.

The best advice even given me was by Mike Wheeler, incredible guitar player and entertainer from Chicago: “If you can think about something, you can achieve it. Never stop working for your goals”.

"The Blues is an expression of life and an expression of true emotions of life through music. I learn every day from the Blues about myself regarding my emotions, my inner thoughts and playing live I learn about resources in my energy that I would not know anyway." (Photo: Luca & Toronzo)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

As I mentioned before, I have been touring internationally and recording with Toronzo Cannon for over two years now. Touring all over the United States and Canada in the most important festivals, playing for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, playing for the Italian Prime Minister with the event reported in the news worldwide. I also recorded for XM Radio on a special with Toronzo Cannon. I played at the Namm show in 2017 for Hammond Organ with Matt Schofield sharing the stage with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, I had the pleasure to play with Buddy Guy, Sinead O’Connor, Kinsey Report, Billy Branch, and most at the acts out of Chicago blues.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Most of the blues legends are gone, so there is not anymore the vibe that it used to be around the Chicago clubs especially. At the same time, new stars are rising, the blues sound is more contemporary, but it is the natural evolution, when Muddy Waters came, people who loved Robert Johnson didn’t appreciate Muddy Waters, but it’s the natural evolution of time. I see great things happening for the blues, the gentleman I have the pleasure to work with, Toronzo Cannon, is considered the new face of the Chicago Blues after Buddy Guy, I’m excited to see what is going to happen in the future!

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would like to make people appreciate more live music, with more opportunities for every musician to play and make a living out of it.

What has made you laugh from the late great BB King? What touched (emotionally) you from Buddy Guy?

I had the pleasure to open the last Italian concert of BB King, he was a knowledgeable and kind hearted man, it was incredible being around him and feeling his charisma and energy.

I also had the pleasure of playing many times with Buddy Guy in Chicago and his storytelling is incredible, full of emotions and fun details.

"I would like to make people appreciate more live music, with more opportunities for every musician to play and make a living out of it." (Luca Chiellini / Photo by Ed Cormican)

Make an account of the case of blues in Italy. What are the difference between European and American scene?

The European blues scene is very active, with listeners that are really appreciating the music. There is a lack of possibilities for European artists to perform on a regular basis and a lack in the energy in the audience. The American scene is extremely vibrant and there are plenty of opportunities for musicians who want to make a living with the blues. The people want to have a good time and the energy felt at the shows is always high. The Italian blues scene could be improved so much. It is almost impossible to live of music in Italy and the only way for me for make it happen was to move to Chicago.

How has the Blues and Rock n' Roll culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The Blues opens the mind of people. For me it made me experience the places I traveled and getting to know the people in the best possible way: entertaining them! The blues at the same time makes you open to everybody, no matter what you are from, it creates a worldwide community, it doesn’t matter physical features or views, we are just blues people.

What is the Impact of Blues music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?

As I mentioned above, the racial discrimination and socio-cultural differences go away with the music, and it’s the best part of it in my opinion. It equalizes everything and everyone, and it is extremely important in a world like the one with have today, where both in Europe and the USA old racial and social discrimination is coming back.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would like to go to two different places: first, a morning back to New Orleans in the 1920’ or 1930’, to feel the jazz and blues being formed in a vibrant environment. Then, spending an afternoon with Otis Spann in Chicago during session for Chess Records, and why not with Jimmy Smith in New York learning from the two people who defined respectively the Blues Piano and the Hammond Organ.

Luca Chiellini - Home

Luca Chiellini / Photo by Ed Cormican

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