by Charmie Gholson
John Latini prefaces each song with a story who he wrote it with, where they were, etc. It's the same way American Indians introduce themselves, by identifying their clan. It keeps you connected, solidifies your bonds.
I saw Latini perform about five times before I was able to write about him I was having way too much fun. But my favorite performance, I think, was at TC's Speakeasy in Ypsilanti, where he played as part of the Embassy Hotel Records music collective. The whole night went like this: Band A played. Everyone danced, partied, laughed, and sang. As band B was introduced, people jumped onto and off the stage, as audience member became guitarist and drummer switched to keyboards. Those folks swapped places more than square dancers.
Music success on this scale is about connectivity, community knowing you belong. And Latini does: when he performs, the place fills quickly with friends, family, fans, and sleek, well-groomed music industry types who needle the band with cool taunts like "Too many notes!"
Latini does a mournful steel guitar, but he also plays electric and acoustic with knees bent and hips a-wagging. His music is full symphonic, even. It moves easily from old-school street-corner doo-wop to calypso-tinged blues to sweet waltzes with rich background harmonies.
And as his buddy Eric Kelly says, Latini has the dream team lined up behind him. Brother Jim Latini handles the drums with obvious control he's not one of those hyper drummers who hit too hard, and he manages the time stops and rhythm changes easily. And, as Eric says, Jim "sings like a bird. His harmonies make the show." Bassist John Sperendi doesn't simply create backbeat he also adds harmonies, carefully filling in more quiet moments. He giggles a lot too. Kurt Wolak's performance on keyboards and accordion is flawless. John says Wolak has played piano since he was about four years old, so that makes sense.
He's got real intense eyes, like a hawk strong and brooding.
Shining most brightly from the stage is Latini's love for music making, his family, and his friends. His ballad "Yesterday I Painted Your Room" written to his daughter who's gone away to college won him the grand prize in the 2004 Metro Detroit Songwriting contest and first place in the singer-songwriter category at the Dallas Songwriters Association contest. It is so sad.
Whenever I see or talk to John, he always demands, "How are the boys?" meaning my own children. He really wants to know. I think I'll start introducing myself as "Charmie, writer of people's stories, daughter of Carl, and mother to Peter, Sam, and Gabriel."
The Flying Latini Brothers are featured at the "Dance for Earth" benefit at Downtown Home & Garden on Friday, April 21 (see Events listing), and some of his bandmates usually join Latini for his regular Friday night gig at the Tap Room Annex.
[Review published April 2006]