Take Five with Christian Ventimiglia of Wide-Eyed Lounge Cats
Meet Christian Ventimigliais the keyboardist, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for Wide-Eyed Lounge Cats. Once known as your friendly neighborhood jam band, the Cats are a celebrated jazz & jam band known for their unique arrangements, unorthodox compositions and dynamic live shows. The Cats' first two albums, Le Cirque (2020) and Cats in a Coal Mine (2021) received critical acclaim, including a feature in Relix January/February 2022 "On the Rise" issue and nomination for the 2021 London Music Video Awards for "Fantasy."
Ventimiglia wrote the music/lyrics for ten of the songs off the Cats' first two albums and composed all tracks for their upcoming third studio album, The Watermelon Sessions, including the first single "Love Lost on a Bar Napkin." Ventimiglia is fortunate enough to have shared the stage with jazz legends such as Bucky Pizzarelli and '90s rock heroes the Gin Blossoms.
Instruments:I play keyboards, acoustic guitar and sing for the Wide-Eyed Lounge Cats. I might be able to pick up the trumpet again if I tired, but I don't think it would be very good!
Teachers and/or influences?Music was a constant in my house growing up and my first teacher was certainly my mom, who was a classically trained singer. She was a major influence in me picking up trumpet at an early age (I was in middle school honor band), until I started listening to Led Zeppelin and wanted to be Jimmy Page as a teenager. I traded in my brass for a Gibson Les Paul guitar very quickly! I then moved through a number of early musical projects and found myself primarily as an acoustic guitarist and vocalist. I was always writing and trying my chops at home recording, but I eventually moved to keyboards during the 2020 pandemic, and remain primarily self-taught (with the help of YouTube). The influences are too great to name, but my constants right now are Bill Evans and Snarky Puppy. There's too much to learn from each of them, so I stay plenty busy with their respective volumes of work.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...My high school garage band trio got booked at a punk rock venue (we were not punk rock, but we'd take any gig). We were the only band to play original music and although all the other kids/musicians probably thought we were lame, all the parents gave us the most compliments. Regardless, it was the first taste of playing live music with the energy of an audience. I haven't stopped chasing that experience since.
Your sound and approach to music.I think it's certainly grounded in theory and I have a desire to be technical in nature, but at the end of the day I just want to feel something and be moved by the expressions. Exploration and adventure are a big part of what I try to bring into the Wide-Eyed Lounge Cats, and I want to promote as much natural improvisation, collaboration and conversation. I think of what we do as musicians as sacred, and the song comes before everything else. As long as it sounds good, I can dig it. Hopefully we can have some fun too.
Your teaching approachI try never to stifle creativity, but I also want to make sure the "rules" are known, acknowledged and appreciated. That makes breaking the rules all the better, which is what jazz is kind of about in my opinion. Embrace the unknown and say something while you have their attention. Active listening alsoit's important to any conversation (and not just in music).
Your dream bandIt would have been really cool to share a writing session with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. I don't think I'd want to be in a band with any of my heroes though, just let me have a whisky in the back so I can listen.
Favorite venueCat's Eye Pub. It's a local dive-bar/music venue in Fells Point (Baltimore, MD). It's our homefield, and where we always have a good time. The people show up and they listen and give more of themselves than any other venue I've played.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?I'm really proud of both "Potomac" and "Gunnhildr" which are about to be released on our next album. They represent the pinnacle of my current technical ability in songwriting and arrangement.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?Direction and discipline. Surprisingly, not a lot gets done when you put 6 really creative people in a room together and say "go!."
The first jazz album I bought was:Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. What a life changer. It's somehow both a great introduction to jazz, and remains one of the greatest pieces of music to this day.
How would you describe the state of jazz today?Exponentially evolving. It's the tree-branch effect.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?Go out and see more bands live! Jazz can't exist without the ability to grow in the wild.
What is in the near future?More jazz publication Q&A features???
What is your greatest fear when you perform?Everything and nothing, all at once. It's a very unsettling and incredible balance.
What song would you like played at your funeral?Whatever my family/friends think is appropriate. Maybe Steely Dan though.
By Day:I'm an investment manager. Believe it or not, but there are a staggering amount of similarities between my day job and night job. They each enable me to be better at the other thing, also.
If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?Elvis. I think he'd keep great company and conversation, and there'd likely be a lot of good food. Who wouldn't want to eat with royalty?
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About Christian Ventimiglia
Instrument: Guitar and vocalsArticle Coverage | Calendar | Albums | Photos | Similar Artists