New CD Features the Sounds of the Bronx
Lou Volpe: Making Sweet Music from the Bronx
By Jon Minners
Volpe is a longtime musician, having played for such entertainers as Judy Collins, Harry Chapin, Richard Harris, Peggy Lee, Bo Diddley, Liza Minelli, Bette Midler, Herbie Hancock and Roberta Flack. He even released his own CD, Morning Madness, which received a lot of airtime on European radio stations. Born in The Bronx and a product of St. Benedict and St. Raymond schools, Volpe always wanted to be a musician, learning the keyboard and the guitar at a young age.
"As I kid, I wanted to play the banjo," said Volpe. "The instrument fascinated me. I went to Vinny Roberts on Castle Hill and Westchester Avenues, the main place to go to play music in The Bronx at that time. They did not have a banjo so the teacher told me to just learn guitar and work my way up to banjo. The guitar was a perfect instrument because it was a lead instrument and was very versatile, so in retrospect, it may have been beneficial to me to have not been able to take banjo lessons. Who knows, I could have been the premiere banjo player and started a whole new thing."
Volpe stuck with the guitar, playing performances at high school dances and onto college where he studied at Julliard School of the Performing Arts. He then began traveling with performer Peggy Lee in the ‘70s and has been professionally involved with music ever since. "I did a lot of session work in the ‘70s and ‘80s for various musicians," he said. "Most of my work came from word of mouth. Word got around that I was the person who could handle any situation and different musical requirements. This work was a great learning experience. A musician should study and become well versed in different styles of music to help them find their own musical personality."
Volpe has settled on working jazz and soul performances with some rock, R&B and Latin influences thrown into the mix. He has incorporated all these styles of music into the latest concerts and club dates he has been performing. This influence is also evident on his 12-track CD from CAP Records entitled Can You Hear That? The instrumental CD predominantly features contemporary jazz music, which he also plays on the new Bronx Music Volume One CD produced by BRONXNET.
While a well-known star in his own right, Volpe wants to give back and the Country Club performer even has a studio where he can perform his songs, built in the basement of his apartment where he recorded his latest CD. Volpe hopes to use this studio more and more to create future recordings and to train other musicians from the borough. "I want to open an institute for advanced guitar studies in the studio at my house," he said. "I want to give back to other musicians and The Bronx has some great talent. There are a couple of great people from Schuylerville Music Center right in our own backyard. I find that it is a learning process for me as well to show them what I do. It is like giving myself a class. Music is a constant learning experience that you can share with others."
Volpe tours and showcases his music throughout the United States and beyond, but in the end, it all comes back to The Bronx.
"I do a lot of work in other places, but I am always very inspired by playing in The Bronx," he said. "The Bronx is my home, where I feel really comfortable. I hope to become successful enough to have a hacienda in Hawaii, but I will always have a home in the Bronx."