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Brian Auger: Why I Love Italy!

Solo in Italia, dice Brian Auger, si vedono e sentono certi fantastici errori. Per esempio gli Oblivion Express, la sua band, nel Belpaese sono diventati i Pony Express! Ma ascoltate il divertente racconto...

Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

Veteran Hammond organist Brian Auger and his group Oblivion Express recently played at Milan’s Blue Note Jazz Club. We met with him before the show:

Brian Auger (Standard British accent)

Let me tell you some of the funny things that happen in Italy because they could only happen here, you know: posters with the name spelled wrong several times, but the funny... one of the funniest ones was... we... we were in Genoa, I think it was, doing a festival and they printed up these posters... huge, in two huge pieces, white with red, you know, printing on it, that said... but the thing is that they’d posted them all the wrong way round, everywhere, so it said “Auger Brian n, on its own, Express Oblivio,” which I always thought sounded like a papal blessing, you know: “In Express Oblivio!” Anyway, and I had a mental picture of these guys arguing about it: “No, no, It’s Auger Brian!” “No, no, it’s Brian Auger!” “But this n there, what about the n?” He said: “Who cares about the n!

And he had another story:

Brian Auger

One of the first times I came to Italy I wasn’t prepared for the kind of hospitality that the Italians would, you know, give to artists, and respect, you know. We played in a place called San Benedetto del Tronto, which is on the Adriatic Coast, and when we got to the hotel – the hotel was beautiful – it was like an old Victorian hotel right on the beach. There was a road that went all the way up the beach and down, you know, the main highway. Then, you know, and there was the gardens of the actual hotel itself, then the road and then the beach. So we were looking out. We’d get to the... we’re... we’re checking in and the manager arrives: very, very... you know, striped trousers and the whole number. He says, “Maestro...” And I thought, “Cor, that’s a bit much, isn’t it?” I mean, nobody... nobody had ever called me “Maestro” before! He says, “Maestro, we have heard that you are a connoisseur of tea.” I said, “Yeah, well I am, I drink several gallons of it every day.” You know, so this guy says, “We have sent to Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly, we have brought English tea and biscuits!” I said, “I can’t believe this, this is wonderful!”  He says: “We... we have given you a room overlooking the sea, and there is a terrace. You go up there now. We will make the tea and we will... we will bring the tea and biscuits for your band, and you can, you know...” And we went: “Unbelievable! This is just unbelievable, man!” So we go up there, we’re... we’re sitting on the terrace, you know, and we’re looking down the road, and in the distance we see this little tiny, you know, it’s way up the road, it’s like an old Fiat, what they called a “Topolino,” a van, an old one with two great trumpets, you know, on the top of it, very Felliniesque, you know. This thing is coming nearer and nearer, and we’re talking and I think Jim Mullen or somebody says, “Hey, Brian what the hell is that?” And as it comes nearer, as it gets right in front of us, it’s... it’s plastered completely with... with posters of Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. And there’s a guy in there, I... I won’t do it in Italian, but it’s funnier in Italian, and he’s shouting, “Tonight! The... the biggest concert of the season: Brian Auger and his Pony Express!”

(Brian Auger was taking to Mark Worden)

Jeff Golub with Brian Auger
Train Keeps A Rolling

Hammond organist Brian Auger has been part of the musical scene since the 1960s when he formed The Steampacket with, among others, Rod Stewart. Like Colin Firth, Auger speaks fluent Italian and he recently played at Milan’s Blue Note Jazz Club with his group, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. He told us some great stories about his experiences of playing in Italy but he also mentioned a recent album, Train Keeps A Rolling (on the Membran label) with jazz guitarist Jeff Golub. Golub lost his eyesight in 2011 and Auger says, “I was more than happy to help out an old friend.”