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Maurizio Pugno & Sugar Ray Norcia - Look What I Found Out!
Pacific Blues

Run Time: 69:51

Bear with me for a moment. I had to do some research on this guy after I heard this CD. Relatively unknown outside of his homeland in Italy and blues fans across Europe, Maurizio Pugno (pronounced POON-yo) has been one of the most well-travelled and well-respected blues and jazz guitarists for over 25 years. Touring with the likes of Sugar Ray, Tad Robinson, and Dave Specter to name a few when they’ve chanced to be on European soil has been Pugno’s calling card as a celebrated accompanist. After a chance meeting backstage at a blues festival in 2004, Pugno and one of the most celebrated vocalists in blues today Sugar Ray Norcia met up and struck up a friendship. After four years, the two decided to get together in a medieval church in Italy and record the fifteen tunes we’ve received here. Ranging from bop jazz, to swing, to soul-blues and Chicago blues, this album really spans the spectrum of great traditional American music. Normally, I’m very hesitant and dare I say a bit prejudice when it comes to foreign folks trying to replicate the earthy and rich tones of great American jazz or even blues for that matter, because Italy is a long way from the grit of Maxwell Street or the Delta.

However, after Pugno’s rich hollow-bodied guitar took off into the first notes of the jazzy-blues of the first track “Opening Act,” conjuring thoughts of T-Bone Walker at times, I was hooked. Then, Sugar Ray Norcia steps in on the horn-driven Roomful of Blues sounding “That Crazy Girl of Mine” and you know everything is going to be alright. Pugno’s Italian cast of musicians won’t be household names to folks but I’ll mention them here because they are quite brilliant, especially the highly-touted organ and piano playing of Alberto Marsico. Follow that up with the Leg Horns, Gio Rossi on drums, Lucio Villani on upright bass, and some guest appearances by Pugno’s old band the Rico Blues Combo and you have quite a combination on some well-seasoned musicians.

From Jimmy Reed’s lumpty lump on “It Must Be You” and “I Love You Baby” accompanied by the great harmonica work of Norcia to the funky soul-blues of “A Mind to Give It Up,” the band and Pugno’s playing offer surprise after surprise. Also, check out the updated big band version of the Muddy Waters’ classic “I Love the Life I Live.” Also, if you aren’t quite convinced of organ man Marsico, you need to check out the aptly-titled gospel-jazz of “The Preacher” and you won’t have to look further.
Like I said earlier, if you are a little hesitant about seeing an unknown foreign guy, here’s where you put those aside and go with it. Norcia is well worth it and Pugno will convince you, too that sometimes, even if being far removed from the source of the music, one can still manage to pour good tasteful and heartfelt style and emotion into it.

Check Maurizio Pugno out on Myspace at or at Pacific Blues. The album is only available for purchase at Pacific Blues or from his page.

Reviewer Ben Cox is a Blues Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Journalist.

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