Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ships Passing in the Night...

I, and some of my Seattle musician pals, had a brief  but interesting interaction with the excellent keyboard player Alberto Gianquinto in the very early '80s.

I am going to guess that this happened (someone correct me if I'm wrong here) in the winter of 1980.  My excellent girlfriend at the time, Monica, had gone on vacation to Mexico with her friend Patsy. When they returned Monica told me that they had met this great blues piano player by the name of Alberto Gianquinto who was playing for tips on the beach where they were hanging out.  And, Patsy was going to fly Alberto up to Seattle to hang out - would I like to meet him?

The name Alberto Gianquinto rang a bell with me right away, because I knew that someone by that name had played on the first two James Cotton Blues Band albums.  I didn't know it at the time, but Alberto had also recorded with Elvin Bishop, Son Seals, and Santana.  So yeah, I would like to meet him!  But why in earth did they discover him playing on the beach for tips?

I was playing in a band with Seattle bassist John Lee at the time.  The meeting happened at a long-gone joint on the main drag in Anacortes, Washington.  This place had a ridiculous stage located about ten feet in the air where every piece of equipment had to be lugged up a staircase, one at a time.  I recall that it was snowing that day and the windshield wipers on John's truck were only working intermittently.  Occasionally, one of us had to roll down the passenger window to have a look forward and help John stay on the road. 

We made it to the gig somehow, set up, and played the first set.  And sure enough, Monica and Patsy showed up with Alberto in tow.  The club had an upright piano located on the floor below the stage, so we put a mic on it and our new piano player wailed away with us.  It was like suddenly having Lafayette Leake join the band!

Alberto was a great keyboardist and even greater storyteller (he told Monica an Patsy that he had to leave Mexico because of some problems associated with federal piracy charges), but he was on a total losing streak at the time.  He didn't have transportation, a job, money, or a keyboard that he could use to gig with.  He did the sofa circuit thing for a while (Patsy, Seattle guitarist Jack Cook, and John Lee put him up) in Seattle but finally wore out his welcome and headed back to a warmer place, his hometown, the San Francisco Bay area. 

We heard that he died there on the street, homeless, in 1986.

6 comments:

Les Hutchinson said...

It must have been around the same time he sat in at the Owl Cafe's Blue Monday Jam.I was fortunate enough to play a couple of songs with him (an amazing piano player who also co-wrote "Incident At Neshabur" from Santana's 'Abraxas' album.), and when I complimented him on his left hand playing, he replied, "I got that from signing my real name with my right hand and passing bad paper with my left."

Shortly after, I heard he went to Nicaruagua to fight with the Sandinistas. Sorry to hear of his passing under such sad circumstances.

Michael Lynch said...

Thanks Les! I am hoping that more folks will respond here with some insights about this sort of mysterious musician.

Michael Lynch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack Bradbury said...

Well that was interesting! I certainly remember the name, but registered nothing more than a unique sidemans name. Fought with the Sandinistas? Fascinating! Thanks.

Michael Lynch said...

My research into Alberto's life led me to a book titled "Voices of Latin Rock" by Jim McCarthy. Alberto is mentioned several times in this book. It is claimed there that he died in Kansas City, not the Bay Area.

Shannon Rossiter said...

Alberto Gianquinto passed in 1986 in Columbia Mo.