Where to begin?
The beginning would be a good place to start!
When I was 5 years old, my mother brought me to Mr. Yeager, my first music teacher, to study piano. He was a very strict teacher and would actually whack my fingers if he suspected that I was playing by ear and not actually reading the notes. This lasted for a couple of years, but I was more interested in the guitar, my father’s instrument. His Fender Stratocaster was just too irresistible. He soon gave me my first electric guitar, the coolest thing in the world at that time. He taught me to play and we would “jam” together. I also took lessons up at Nunzio’s Music in Union City, N.J. from a very good teacher. My friends and I would form garage bands and play the music of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Rolling Stones, Santana, and other popular music of the time. I wish I had recordings of these “garage” performances! We even played local parties and dances. My friend, Rick Nanni, (Rick’s Call) who had much better taste in music than I, turned me onto Beethoven, Bach, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. We listened to everything from Pink Floyd to Bartok. We didn’t really distinguish or try to classify music, we were only concerned with whether it expanded our minds and made us feel something.
One day, at a rehearsal in the basement at Drummer, Steve Lange’s house, I put down my guitar and picked up an instrument case that was lying in the corner. It appeared to be a violin case. I opened it up and inside was a beautiful stringed instrument and a bow. Despite that it only had three strings, I began to tune it, somehow instinctively in Perfect 5ths, tightened the bow and played “Willie the Pimp”, a Frank Zappa tune, as played by blues violinist “Sugarcane” Harris. My bandmates seemed to be pleased (who knows what they really thought!) and Steve offered to let me keep it if I would take good care of it. This instrument turned out to be a very nice Viola (Larger and deeper than a violin) but at the time I had never seen one up close, much less played one. So, my first bowed string instrument is actually the viola, and to this day, I still play the viola and continue to be more attracted to its deeper tone.
Well, my life changed forever that day. Funny, how just being in a certain place at a certain time can do that. Much to my father’s chagrin, the guitar took second place and now he had to hear me practice the violin for hours on end. Although I was having more fun than I had ever had in my life, it must have been difficult to bear, living in such a small apartment. Eventually, I got good enough to jam with him and he even began to like the instrument and my playing. I soon decided that even though I seemed to be progressing rapidly on my own, that it would be wise to take some lessons. I went back up to Nunzio’s Music and began studying with Mrs. Marino, an older Italian woman, generously built, with sweet, sincere eyes and a big heart, she would hug me and give me approving smiles from the piano bench when my tone would please her. I was very sad when some years later, I returned to Nunzio to ask how Mrs. Marino was and if she was still teaching. He sadly informed of her passing away. I’ll never forget her!
I began working as a landscaper during the day, and taking lessons over in Manhattan, with Julie Lieberman. I would arrive at lessons, after riding the subway up to W. 88th st. , literally looking like I had just mowed the Lawn! She really expanded my musical world by having me sing and learn Lester Young solos by heart, learn Gershwin tunes, play in all keys. This was not even what I wanted or expected at the time. I had just seen groups like “Steeleye Span” and “The Cheiftains” and began to believe that the only music I wanted to play was Irish Traditional Folk. Well, although I did get heavily involved in that music in time, (more of that later), I did my best to followed her instruction, and began to develop a taste and a love for Jazz. I always liked it, but never considered actually playing it. I was basically a folk musician, or so I thought , mainly influenced by the acoustic side of groups such as Led Zepplin and Jethro Tull, as odd as it may seem. I began to collect Jazz recordings and listen intently to Lester Young, Charlie Christian, Stephane Grappelli and Stuff Smith. When I saw and heard Stephane Grappelli perform for the first time, well what can I say. I have never been the same since.
So, there I was, in my early 20’s with this instrument that can go so many ways. I didn’t try to pick one style over another, I just went with the flow of whatever situation I found myself in. I moved to California and on my first night in town, (Chico) sat in with a traditional Bluegrass Band called “Colby Mountain Clearlight Country Band. I was hired on the spot and continued to live in California for the next 4 years. We played many festivals and worked quite a lot because we were not trying to be modern and play Jazz or Newgrass. (Ironically, as time would tell!) Although that whole new movement in acoustic music, specifically, David Grisman, Darrol Anger, Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks (with whom, many years later I would have the chance to play with on a short tour) began to have an incredible appeal and positive effect on me. During my “California” days, I studied guitar with jazz guitarist Charlie Robinson, and took jazz music lessons with guitarist/trumpeter George Souza.
To be continued…
What about my name?
When I was born, I was given the name, Edward Albert Parente. I was named after my father Edward Parente sr. I’m not sure where Albert came from, but I
think my mom was thinking of Prince Albert. Or, it could also be that I had an uncle in New Brunswick Canada by that name, but of course, his name would be pronounced: al BEAR, since my mothers family is all French Canadian. My father’s side is Italian. It was an interesting coincidence that my best friend, Manuel, in Hudson Catholic High School in Jersey City was from Cuba, and his last name was Parente. It was my mother who began to call me “Skip” at a very early age. It was a nickname that has stuck with me for a long time. Most of my friends know me as “Skip”, however those who know that my name is Edward, sometimes call me “Eddie” . In school, the nuns would affectionately call me “Eddie boy” or “Eduardo” in my 9 years of Italian class, and my schoolmates called me Eddie. When I played in the Mexican Mariachi band in Boston, they also called me “Eduardo”. So, “Eddie did not just come out of the blue, I didn’t make it up. I have been traveling abroad quite frequently in recent years and I have preferred to introduce myself as “Edward, since “Skip” makes no sense whatsoever outside of the U.S.A. and in other cultures. Also, I have had the good fortune of playing some fine Concert Halls in western Russia. “Edward” sure looks better on a marquis or concert program. And now that I am finally directing my career to playing Jazz, after many years of dedication to that art, unbeknownst to many of the other groups and musicians of other genres that I have had great pleasure to play with, I am back to being called “Eddie”. As I have said before, although I would prefer to be called “Eddie” from here on in, I am just happy to be called!