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Culture Reviews
Sam Paglia
By Alice Babington Hill
Bugsy Malone with Extra Pepperoni -
Sam Paglia Storms

Sam Paglia looks like a cross between an extra from a 1930's gangster movie and an Italian pizza chef. This larger than life character played a set of his distinctive Hammond Organ jazz/funk/lounge music late last Friday night in Settebello. Being a restaurant gig it was utterly exclusive and so the Beautiful People emerged from wherever it is that they hide during the day to create an uber-cool setting for an uber-cool musician.

Long-legged girls were draped in a distracting manner on the quasi-Venetian chairs, prodding their tuna carpaccio with their forks. Photographers and journalists mingled
among the men with high, Italian style collars who had sacrificed their outside tables to come inside and enjoy the show. Music that can cause people to lose their inhibitions is always fun to experience. And so it was exciting to see the Beautiful People smiling, relaxing and, during the really funky numbers, actually jigging. In fact at one stage a whole table stopped eating and jumped to their feet to dance which made a fantastic sight in front of the huge illuminated Leonardo’s Last Supper which dominates one wall of the restaurant.
Paglia didn’t really make any fuss when he started playing. He just gathered his musicians and began; saving the song and dance for his audience. He maintained a wonderfully still expression on his face which meant everything seemed effortless. It was a shame not to be able to see the keyboard in action, to see just how nifty his fingers were. Drums, congo, sax and shakers completed the band together with a synthesizer which may have made it hard for the untrained ear to differentiate particular instruments at times, but gives Paglia’s music that famous film-score edge.

I think the most touching moment of the evening when Settebello’s chef was lured out of the kitchen to watch the self announced ‘King Master of Lounge Music’ play. Paglia was the star of the show and whilst he is a showman, he is modest. There was no great scene at the end of the set, it was just the end of a great set.

My post show chat with Paglia mostly concentrated on two things: fashion and family. He was wearing white shoes, a grey suit and a raspberry coloured shirt with tie. Interested in his outfit, I asked him about his thoughts on fashion and its relationship to the stage and learnt he strongly believes that a musical performance demands respectful dress, hence the gangster get up. And I discovered that essentially he was a family man and hugely fond of home. “I miss the air and the sea and the smells of Italy when I tour”. This was Paglia’s second visit to Russia. He first was two years ago and when asked what has changed since then his initial reaction was that the traffic has got worse. He reckons the people here are angry, but that he likes the place because he finds it exciting.

He is a straightforward straight-talking kind of guy who simply loves music. To what extent does music dominate his life? “Absolutely and completely”. But with music as funky as his, that is surely no bad thing.

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