Marco Fiume (22.03.1972 – 21.03.2002)
….. to remember Marco, a young man, a passionate blues player from Italy, who devoted his life to the
His youth and his formation
Marco was born in Cosenza, 1972, March 22nd, and spent all his childhood in Rossano, the town of his
mother, on the ionic coast in Calabria. When he was 10 years old, he moved with his family to Bologna,
where he achieved his studies. Here, still an adolescent, he began to play guitar and the love for the music
was soon obvious. He first discovered jazz and then blues, through the recordings of the great masters.
Although at first it seemed a simple entertainment, in a short time it became a true passion that pushed him
to be involved more seriously. He began to play occasionally with local groups, like the Blues Bark, and
subsequently with the Soul Spoilers. Dissatisfied with his musical evolution and the local perspectives, Marco
decided to enlarge his musical culture, and with courage stated to leave to America and find the sources of
blues. He visited St. Louis, New Orleans, Chicago and other emblematic cities of blues music, and finally
decided to stay in Los Angeles, California, in order to learn directly from his models, the great players of the
mythical West Coast. With great determination he learned and assimilated a culture unrelated to him, but
that he greatly loved and admired. Thus later he was able to play at the same level as the best American
guitar players. Since then, it all began to run in a hurry.
The blues and jazz American players of years '40 and '50 like T-Bone Walker, Johnny “guitar” Watson, BB
King, Tiny Grimes, Charlie Christian and Barney Kessel were Marco's models and primary references. His
passion for this musical genre increased, so that as a tribute to Barney Kessel he wrote an instrumental piece
entitled "Kesseland". Moreover, Marco highly admired a lot of contemporary Californian players such as Kid
Ramos, Charlie Baty, Rick Holmstrom, Alex Schultz and above all his idol, Junior Watson who themselves
were inspired by the black players of years '50. Attracted by Watson and his music, Marco decided to live in
The life in Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, the city-symbol of West Coast Blues, are all the most important blues clubs, like "Cafe
Boogaloo" at Hermosa Beach and "Cozy's" at Sherman Oaks. In this area live a phenomenal concentration of
great musicians who play blues, jazz, r'n'b, r'n'r and swing, and this attracts Marco. Therefore, living in Los
Angeles and being besides Junior Watson is almost a dream for a young European musician, and thanks to
his determination, from 1998 this dream becomes reality. Then the progression is fast, his musical goal is
realized indeed even beyond his own expectations. In fact, Marco not only gains high esteem and respect
from all the musicians he meets, but he establishes with them deep and important friendship.
In fact, after a few months staying in Santa Monica, Marco already becomes one of the most requested
musicians in Los Angeles area : he plays with Lynwood Slim, Sweet Betty Journey, James Harman, Rod
Piazza, Junior Watson (who has dedicated his last CD : If I had a Genie, to Marco), Rick Holmstrom, Janiva
Magness, Jeff Turmes, Candye Kane, Alex Schultz, Jimmy Morello, Johnny Dyer, Jeff Ross (who has dedicated
his last CD, “My Pleasure” to Marco too), Carl Sonny Leyland, Ronnie James Weber, Robert Lucas, James
Intveld, Randy Beckett and many others. However, to stay in Los Angeles is not a dream, as it may have
seemed from Italy since the competition is hard. In the USA, and above all in Los Angeles it is difficult to live
with the blues only, even playing with the greatest local stars. Even, in the United States, the native land of
the blues and jazz, the choice to play music so far away from the commercial circuit of both the majors and
MTV is a difficult choice and revealing a great passion. Besides the reputation of the places and the excellent
musicians, with the blues no one became rich in no part of the world. Thus Marco must play continuously
with a lot of groups. He goes also to Hollywood, where he poses for photos chosen for the publicity of a car
firm, the KIA. These photos were also used by "Entertainment Studies", the newspaper of the UCLA
(University of California, Los Angeles) and several lnternet magazines, like "Mars Music". Moreover, Marco
increases his ability to build, repair and modify guitars, an activity he already begun in Bologna. His ability
was soon recognized and appreciated by all his musician friends so that still today Rick Holmstrom and many
others play guitars built by Marco. In order to square the budget, he gives guitar lessons – one of his latest
students was actor Gary Oldman – and acts also as musical correspondent of an Italian web-magazine
dedicated to blues music, "Blues Time".
The musical groups
The most personal projects, those where Marco was able to play his favorite style, were the three blues/jazz
bands he started: the "LO-Fi'S", the "Marco Fiume Trio" and the "Trio Loco".
– The LO-Fi’S. Instrumental quartet with Marco on guitar, Ron Dziubla on saxophone, Stevie Utstein on
piano and Donny Gruendler on drums. The LO-Fi' S played nearly every Sunday in a Los Angeles club, the
From these exhibitions a self-produced CD – rigorously alive at L. Kitty, February, 24, 2002 -, containing 9
tracks he arranged.
It is in this very band where “The Bluesy Side of Jazz” and “The Jazzy Side of Blues” meet, that Marco shows
is great musical personality and is able to show all these different styles in a very clear way.
– With close similar style, Marco formed another band, the MARCO FIUME TRIO, again with Donny
Gruendler on drums but Jeff Turmes on bass. The participation of the last one is very important since Jeff
Turmes is among the most required blues musicians in all of West Coast. Highly talented multi-instrumentalist
(he plays bass, sax, guitar, piano, and sings…!). He was a former member of the James Harman Band for
years, and accompanied artists such as Pinetop Perkins, James Cotton and Jody Williams. Currently he
collaborates with singer Janiva Magness.
The Marco Fiume Trio recorded a demo on September 24 th , 2001 in which we find tracks written and
arranged by Marco: "Kesseland", a tribute to Barney Kessel (one of the musicians who Marco most admired
and whom he had the complete record collection of), "Uno Mas" a Latin track (at first entitled "Marco' s
Mambo") that had been recorded by Rick Holmstrom in 2000 for the Tone-Cool Records label, “Marco’s
Shuffle", a lively winning piece and eventually, "Get-O", written with Jeff Turmes and Donny Gruendler.
– Marco takes part to another instrumental trio, the TRIO LOCO, a group including Ronnie James Weber on
double bass and the great pianist Carl Sonny Leyland, an extraordinary boogie-woogie soloist who used to
appear in the largest European jazz and blues festivals. The collaboration between Marco and Carl Sonny
Leyland was remarkable, leading to a 5 tracks demo.
– Recently Marco played with several other bands, like HOLLYWOOD COMBO, a group which proposes a mix
of swing, rock & roll, rhythm & blues according the style of years '40 and '50, and BLUE SHADOWS, another
blues band which usually performed in the famous King King Club in Hollywood. With this group, a live
session was recorded right there at the King King, on March 18th, 2002.
– However the group Marco played more regularly with (from August 26 th , 1999 until December 31 st , 2001)
was the CANDYE KANE Band, the Californian singer whose voice was defined by the Washington Post "a
natural wonder like the Grand Canyon". The "Chicago Tribunes" included his CD "The Toughest Girl Alive"
among the first Ten Best CDs of the year.
Discography – Chronology of the Marco records
Sweet Betty Journey – "They Call Me Sweet Betty" – JSP Records 1997 – JSPCD2101.
Harmonica Shorty and the Taildraggers – Northside Records 1998 – recorded at The House,
Candye Kane – "The Toughest Girl Alive" – Buliseye Blues & Jazz – Rounder Records 2000. Marco plays
on “Let’s commit adultery”, a piece without piano, unusual in Candye's discography, allowing more
space for Marco’s guitar playing.
Rick Holmstrom – "Gonna Get Wild" – Tone Cool Records 2000. Rick Holmstrom is one of the most
representative personalities of the west coast blues. He is an extraordinary talent, who played and
recorded since the ‘90s with harp player Johnny Dyer, then for many years with Rod Piazza's group the
Mighty Flyers. Marco played guitar on “Wiggle Stick” with the group: obviously Rick Holmstrom, guitar
and vocals, Rod Piazza harmonica, Honey Piazza piano, Bill Stuve bass and Steve Mugalian drums – that
is, the complete Mighty Flyers! – In this CD Holmstrom plays also his instrumental composition as
tribute to the creative vein of Marco, recording his blues-mambo "Uno mas" with a super-group with
Rick Holmstrom on guitar, Junior Watson on bass (yes, Junior himself!) and Steve Mugalian on drums.
Pacemaker & The Blue Vanguards, drummer Bob Newham's group – “Tales from the basin "- of
2001, self-produced. Marco has participated to two tracks on this CD, in which Bob Newham takes
advantage of the collaboration of great musicians like Junior Watson, Rick Holmstrom, San Pedro Slim
and Johnny Dyer.
Concerts, tours and Festivals
Marco played in particular in Los Angeles area Clubs, steadily at the Liquid Kitty, Cafe Boogaloo, Cozy' s, Blue
Café, King King in Hollywood, The Derby, Down Beat, and with Candye Kane to the "Croce’s" in San Diego.
With Candye Kane's Band Marco has participated in more than 200 shows in several States of the USA,
including the “Waterfront Blues Festival” in Portland, shows in Savannah, Georgia, all of Florida, New York,
Key West, San Francisco, New Orleans, San Diego, Santa Fe, El Paso and in many other cities. He came back
to Europe during summer of 2000 with the "Candye Kane Band", to play the most prestigious and important
Festivals like the "Belgium Rhythm 'n' Blues Festival" in Peer (Belgium) and the Festival "Blues Passions" held
in Cognac. In addition, in Cognac, Mark took part to Jimmy Morello's memorable concert, alternating lead-
guitar with Alex Schultz. It is just during these tours and particularly at the Cognac Festival that he started
being appreciated in France. Here he participated to "The Donnie and Marie" television show with Candye's
The musical style
The musical style of guitar playing is fine and sophisticated but at same time incisive and dragging, strongly
marked by either the most genuine blues and more sophisticated jazz and R’n’B than in the years '40 and '50.
The two fundamental souls of the Marco’s style were by one side, an extraordinary love for the classic
Chicago Blues, in particular that of years '50 (Jimmy Rogers, Louis Myers, Robert Lockwood, etc.), together
with a tendency to a typical jazz approach, as players like Bill Jennings, Floyd Smith, Tiny Grimes, and above
all the best one, Charlie Christian. On the other hand, all this was effective thanks to a very strong sense of
swing that always accompanied his performances. The peculiarity that all the musicians appreciated and
found playing with Marco was the stylistic coherence, is own style. In fact, he always kept his artistic purity,
developing a way to play without compromises blues and jazz, light years away from the useless virtuosity
too frequent in a lot of contemporary musicians playing. In a few words, he played only and exclusively what
he wanted and the way he wanted. When he played live, he was not a “safe” player. He always “went for it”
with passion and gusto, and you could really feel the music he was making. This is especially evident in much
of the LO-Fi’S live material. This was his baby and where the “Bluesy side of Jazz” and “The Jazzy side of
Blues” met, he shone exceptionally bright.
Another fundamental step of the complex evolution of his style is represented by the search of the tone.
Marco was undoubtedly one of the Italian guitar players who most devoted great attention to the quality of
sound. Moreover, he was an exceptional experimenter, and the continuous search for new instruments
allowed him to obtain the tone he wished, that ‘old, round and soft sound ', he could hear in his favorite
records. In fact, he played practically every type of guitar, obviously preferring the 'vintage' models that
suited more to his style. His preferred guitar was perhaps an old acoustic Harmony dated from the '50s that
he bought from Junior Watson. Eventually, Marco was a record collector and deeply knew all forms of Afro-
About Marco as a singer a tape remains that was recorded during the “Radio Città 103” show, in Bologna, on
November 27 th , 1998, where he is interviewed and, together with his group, he plays and sings live "Kinky
Woman" (Jimmy Vaughan), "Motorhead Baby" (Johnny Watson) and "I'm a Fool" (Bihari re-arranged).
As Rick Holmstrom put it, “People were just beginning to realize how good Marco was”. Certainly he was
destined to join Rick and the rest of his heroes as one of the top guitarists on the West Coast….