Brief History

Matteo Casserino
Click here for mp3s of Matteo's playing.

Matteo was a wonderful mandolin player who was born in Sicily in 1911 and came to the US in the late 1930's. He had a beautiful tone and wonderful technique, and performed numerous concerts throughout the US through the 1970's.

Matteo gave me several cassette recordings of his playing, and I digitized them and created a CD in the summer of 1999. You may download the mp3's of these tracks, as well as some others, by clicking on the link above. There are also charts of 15 of the songs if you'd like to play along (it's a lot of fun!).

Although I love playing jazz and blues, just about all of my performing from 1998-2004 was in Italian music groups, and it was all due to my association with Matteo. You know, when you get a chance to play with someone that good, you just have to go for it, it's not really a matter of conscious choice.

I started playing with Matteo Casserino at the Caffe Trieste around 1997. Matteo had been playing at the Trieste on Saturday mornings in a duo with my friend David Wise on piano.

David moved out of town for a while, and Matteo played by himself in the mornings for a month or so. I used to go in for coffee, and I would listen to Matteo play by himself on Saturday mornings, and then all the rest of the week the sound of his mandolin would continue to reverberate in my head.

Some people told me that Matteo looked a little lonely with no piano player, so I started to sit in with him on the piano. Since I didn't really know any of the tunes, I brought in a tape recorder and recorded his melodies and in this way I learned the songs. It also helped that I knew how to play the I-VI7-ii-V-I jazz progression in a lot of keys, since variations of it show up in a lot of the Italian repertoire as well. I also knew the i-ii7b5-V7 progression in a lot of keys as well, and that pretty much took care of the mazurkas. Matteo would start each tune by telling us the style and key ("waltz in g and c" or "polka in f") and to this day we're not really sure what the real names of some of these tunes are. In any event, Matteo and I started playing together every week after that.

Sheri Mignano, who had played with Matteo several years earlier, joined us a little later, and the three of us played together every week until Matteo's health deteriorated towards the end of 2000.

Matteo passed away in November of 2001.