Arthur Migliazza moved to Seattle last year, and already he's developed a reputation as one of the region's best boogie-woogie blues piano players.
In July, he won in the solo category of South Sound Blues Association's Back to Beale Street competition at Freedom Fair, earning him the chance to compete at the prestigious International Blues Challenge in Memphis next January. And on Sunday, Sept. 29, he and group winner, the Randy Oxford Band, will play an SSBA show aimed to raise funds for the trip.
The bill will also include local favorites Mark Riley Band, Blenis-Ehly Band, Rafael Tranquilino Band and Blues County Sheriff, with music starting at 4 p.m. Recently, we caught up with Migliazza to find out more.
Tacoma Weekly: Have you competed in the IBC before?
Arthur Migliazza: I actually competed in 2010, and I was one of the finalists in Memphis. So this is like “Rocky 2,” the rematch.
TW: What does an opportunity like this mean to artists?
Migliazza: First of all, it's a chance to be out in front of people that are involved in booking festivals and booking cruise ships and record industry people. A lot of them are the judges, so that's a big thing. And then, if I win, I believe I get to make a record.
TW: You're relatively new to the Northwest. How did you wind up out here?
Migliazza: I'm originally from Maryland. Then my family moved to Arizona when I was 11, and I lived there, basically, until I was 29, and then moved to New York City. I lived there for two years, met my fiance and moved here, because she's from Kirkland.
TW: So you chased a lady out here.
Migliazza: (Laughs) Right. I'm really happy with being out here because the music scene is so much more rewarding than it ever was in New York City. There's a way bigger scene in the Northwest than there is in New York or on the East Coast.
TW: What first drew you to the boogie-woogie style of blues, and when did you start playing?
Migliazza: I've been playing boogie-woogie since I was 10, and I started playing piano when I was 9.
I really took to it, and my teacher was also really into blues and stuff, and she gave me a little blues piece to learn, out of a little kid's music book, and I really liked it.
I remember, also, watching “Great Balls of Fire” with Dennis Quaid. Those parts where he plays not necessarily the rock n' roll stuff that he became famous for, but at the beginning where he's playing the blues stuff. I was like, “I want to play like that.”
TW: Do you have a CD you're working on now?
Migliazza: Yeah, I got a lot of help from Kickstarter. I was able to reach out to a lot of supporters and got some generous support, which has made it possible for me to make an awesome record … We've had two days in the studio so far with the band. I had a huge all-star cast, the who's who of Seattle.
TW: Who are you working with?
Migliazza: I'm working with Keith Lowe on the bass. On drums I had Eric Eagle, Andy Ross and Kelly Van Camp. So I had three different drummers. On guitar I had Jeff Fielder, Bill Molloy and then my fiance (Laura Martin). I had Sean Divine play harmonica on one song, and then I had Grant Dermody.
I'm gonna have Suzy Thompson – who is a fiddle player in Portland, one of the world's best. She's gonna put a fiddle part on one of the songs. And then a friend of mine who plays Zydeco accordion in New Orleans, Sunpie Barnes, he's putting an accordion track on one of the songs.
TW: So you got to do it up this time?
Migliazza: Exactly, it's like a dream come true. I'm so happy with this and it was really meaningful because a lot of people are supporting it and counting on me, and they're excited about it. It's kind of like a turning point for me. It's gonna be, by far, the best thing I've ever put out.
Back to Beale Street 2014 fundraiser
4 p.m. Sept. 29
The Swiss Tavern, 1904 S. Jefferson Ave., Tacoma
$10 SSBA members, $12 non-members, $8 active military
Open to all ages