Born: July 10, 1952 Primary Instrument: Harmonica
CHRIS DEPINO BIOGRAPHY Music has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. Growing up in an Italian family in New Haven, Connecticut, I was constantly surrounded by the velvet sounds of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and, of course, every New Year by the legendary Guy Lombardo.
Needless to say, the first instrument I got my hands on was what every Italian kid from an Italian neighborhood was supposed to play - the accordion. Not from a lack of trying, the accordion decided it was not for me.
My musical home eventually became the harmonica - perfect for playing as I was riding the rails as a train conductor for Metro North in 1971, at the ripe old age of 19.
For the next seven years, I played in various blues bands throughout Connecticut refining my instrument and trade. In 1978, I decided to take up the white whale of all harmonicas - the chromatic harmonica.
For those of you who don't know the difference, regular blues harmonicas are designed for a single key, while the chromatic harmonica uses a sliding key scale, requiring constant adjustment of not only breath, but hand and finger movements, to ensure a pure musical note.
The instrument has the same range as the flute and can be applied to many different forms - from classical to contemporary and jazz.
It really is Bach to blues to bossa nova for me. I studied with the world-renowned classical harmonica virtuoso Robert Bonfiglio at the Turtle Bay Music School in New York City.
Around this time, my musical interests began to branch out of blues and I discovered the incredible sound of the jazz harmonica, listening to the jazz harmonica master Toots Thielemans.
Like most blues harmonica players, I taught myself by listening to thousands of hours of music from the masters such as Big Walter Horton, Sonny Terry, Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, James Montgomery, Jerry Murad of the Harmonicats fame, Larry Adler and, of course, Stevie Wonder.
In 1980, I was awarded a scholarship to Turtle Bay Music School following my performance of the Bach Sonata No. III in E flat for flute and piano. In 1984, I began jazz harmonica studies with guitar jazz great, Tony Lombardozzi.
I have continued to develop my skills over the years by playing with fantastic musicians like Dave Dana (guitar), Barry Marshall (saxophone), and presently with international trumpet sensation Laco Deczi of Czechoslovakia.
I recently returned from New Jersey where I studied with Hendrik Meurkens, one of the world's premiere jazz harmonica players, and attended Robert Bonfiglio's music seminar at his upstate New York residence.
I am doing advanced theory study with legendary guitarist Joe Tinari. We are also working on recording several of the Bach inventions adapted for guitar and chromatic harmonica.
Since 1992, I have been a regular session player at Cafe Nine in New Haven and I have made many guest appearances with several New Haven musicians, including the George Baker Experience and the fabulous Langley Brothers. I also play jazz harmonica with the Michael Paone Trio, every other weekend, at a local club in New Haven.
In 2000, I was a featured soloist for two Concerts in the Park with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. I am currently working on an original jazz only album with Laco Deczi and Joe Tinari.
Today, I am comfortable with all ranges of music from classical to jazz to blues. I am an avid sight reader and session player. I am a member of the Greater New Haven Federation of Musicians, Local 234. Recently, I have begun teaching music for blues and chromatic harmonica.