The Jazz Man

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Frank Balistreri, age 56, didn’t quite fit the agenda his mother had created for her young son. His mother was a concert pianist, and wanted Frank to play a classical instrument. Not being allowed to play the saxophone, since it was a vulgar instrument, Frank says, “I didn’t play anything to piss off my mom.” But for his 14th Christmas he got a “piece of crap from Sears,” his first guitar.


With guitar heroes ranging from: black blues artist Lead Belly, jazz virtuoso Wes Montgomery, and gypsy jazz guitarist Jean "Django" Reinhardt, and concerts such as The Pretenders, Richard Thompson - who he has seen six or seven times -- and the Foo Fighters, whom he describes as an “unbelievable group,” it’s apparent Frank is a man of many musical facets.

In 1971 Frank and his band played Summerfest. The best song of the set was Born In Chicago by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. During the set an inebriated man stumbled up to the stage and gave Frank a beer, which he proceeded to chug for the audience. “I felt like a real rock star,” he says.

One of his worst gig experiences was when Frank played bass in a band called Sardonicus, which played all over Milwaukee. At one gig some tension between two members lead to the guitarist punching the keyboardist in the face.

Sardonicus was offered the chance to tour around the Midwest but he passed on the offer and continued going to college. Although Sardonicus played a lot of Santana Frank says he’s, “not really a rocker.”

In the late 90’s and early 00’s Frank played with a band called Mary and the Jazz Guys.
The band played in Milwaukee, often at the Velvet Lounge.

Frank was self taught until he was older and started taking lessons in jazz, the genre being his metaphorical cup of tea. He started off by learning some chords and backing his son’s grade school teacher. Besides playing jazz and bluegrass Frank also writes vocalese, or vocal parts for things such as sax solos.


After he retires Frank is thinking of playing on a cruise ship. He says that even though he chose to play guitar when he was younger he wishes now that he had learned some kind of concert instrument since he is often asked to play with the AHS choir and in the schools theatre performances with others including the choir.





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