Marino Marini ed il suo Quartetto by Vincent

Marino Marini was born in Seggiano, Provincia di Grosseto, on 11 May 1924 in a family dedicated to music. His father conducted a village band, his brother played trumpet in a symphony orchestra, another brother played drums, and his sister became a singer in Napoli. Marino initially did not share the family's musical traits: he studied electrotechnic in the Industrial Institute in Bologna. Later, however, he decided to toe the line, and diligently studied piano and violin at Conservatorio Rossini di Bologna.

In 1948 Marino travelled to New York, earning his passage by playing piano onboard a Polish ship Sobieski. He spent six months in the Big Apple, and made friends with many musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton and Charley Ventura.

Throughout the years Marino was honing his electro-acoustic skills and constructed the multiplicator of sound. By all accounts, Marino Marini was the first musician with a good background in manipulation of sound and he used this skill masterfully to boost the standing of his group on stage.

The first quartet consisted of Marino Marini - piano and vocal, Tony (Toto) Savio (guitar) - Sergio (later replaced by Angelo) drums and Ruggero Cori - bass and vocal. These musicians played together for around six years, 1955 – 1960, the most prolific and successful years of the group. The toured the Western Europe extensively: their arrivals in Paris were unprecedented musical feasts, gathering all: from the general public, through luminaries of French culture to Monsieur le Président.

In 1961, Marino engaged a new set of musicians. The new MMQ suit consisted of Bruno Guarnera - guitar, Pepito di Pace - drums, Vittorio Benvenuti - bass, vocal, dance. It is with this group that Marino toured the World extensively: for example he played to packed audiences on some 200 concerts during four turnees in Poland.

In the end of 1963 Marino decided to rejuvenate his Quartet once again. His new musicians were Francesco Ventura - guitar, Sergio - drums, and Franco Cesarico - bass guitar and vocal. This group played until 1966, when Marino Marini, still highly regarded and popular, decided to change his life interests again.

The musical style of all three groups had a lot in common, but also varied considerably. Comparisons are always risky, and always fun: so to give you any idea of a comparative style of the three Marino Marini groups, we could say, that MMQ1 was Beatles-like, MMQ2 Rolling Stones-like and MMQ3 – Abba-like. This, of course, relates only to relative importance of these notable groups, not to their musical genre.

What is the overall significance of the Marino Marini group?

After the WW2, popular music in Europe was pretty frail, being a mixture of reminiscences of pre-war years, sung by an older generation, and post-war influence of victorious armies: swing, boogie-woogie, this sort of things, which also belonged to a bygone era. New music was long in the making. The Shadows made a guitar ground work for the Beatles explosion in 1962, but in the lead-up to this, Marino Marini was the best known and accomplished artist in Europe. His records were popular from Iceland to Turkey and from Portugal to Russia, not to mention other parts of the World - the US, Brazil, Japan, New Zealand, to name just a few. His influence as a protagonist of new music was quite significant throughout the World.

When one realises that Paul McCartney used to like to listen to Marino's The Honeymoon Song, its influence can be easily recognised in the mood of the biggest hit of all times, Yesterday. And several other Paul's songs which tread the Yesterday path.

The Marino Marini ed il suo Quartetto was the first group in Europe to use sophisticated sound mixing and effects on stage. Their live recordings are not worse than studio ones: and some of them are even better, more relaxed, and more easygoing.

Marino Marini repertoire was based in 80 percent on Italian songs: to many of them he wrote music, and sometimes also text. La piu bella del mondo, dedicated to his mother, is widely considered to be his best song. The remainder of the repertoire consisted of current hits: the Quartet sung and recorded Let's twist again, Que sera sera, Mr Sandman, Rock around the clock, Apache, Letkis, and many others.

Some of these recording were actually better than the originals: anyone who listens to Vito's 24 mila baci may find it preferable to Celentano's rendition of his own standard. Les enfants du Pirée is by far the best recording of this song, sung by many. And Premier bal is possibly the only Sidney Bechet recording by a different artist, which can compete with the master, in terms of charm, clarity and brevity.

The particular achievement of Marino Marini is that the Italian song was made international. Volare, Piove, Marina and a score of others were sung all over Europe, and the World.

It would be interesting to figure out which group toured the World most extensively. Certainly, Marino Marini would be positioned somewhere at the very top of this list. The Quartet gave several thousand concerts worldwide, and had an irresistible appeal to many multicultural and multinational audiences.

Marino Marini excelled also in several other fields. The Quartet recorded a first 16 RPM LP in the World. Nowadays, in times of compact disks, a 16 RPM vinyl seems pretty ordinary, but at the time it allowed to put 20 songs on a LP, instead of the usual 12. Out of other groundbreaking events, Guaglione was the first song in Europe which sold over five million copies.

How many songs did Marino Marini actually record? Here, our archeo-musical research, does not yield definitive numbers, yet. At present, we found 305 confirmed studio recordings and 9 maybes (the title of the song pops out somewhere, but its origin is uncertain). We know that there are many bootleg records, and live recordings of concerts are bound to exist too. On stage, the Quartet sung many songs which were actually never recorded in studio: Speedy Gonzales, Rome by night, Bella bella donna or Apache serving as examples here. So, the numbers are growing, and we expect to surpass the Beatles (324 on last count), but certainly not Elvis (1000+).

So, what were the most important attributes of Marino Marini music? They played modern, joyful, and non-pretentious music. And they were the best European group until the Beatles arrived.

That's a plenty.


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