In 1977, Jacques Fred Petrus, a Soul and R&B lover from Guadeloupe, came to Italy. He worked in a fashion store in order to make a modest living. At some point, he opened his own record store through which he imported Disco, Funk and Soul albums from the United States.
During that time, the Disco era was exploding all over the U.S. and Europe. Disco did not necessarily equal Disco. There was “bad Disco”, performed by Boney M. and comparable bands, and there was excellent Dance Funk, often called Disco as well.
Sounds by Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang, The Dazz Band and many other acts made people shake their asses. They danced many nights away. If they had not consumed all of that champagne while doing so, they would have burned more calories.
So, in Milan, Jacques Fred Petrus had imported Disco and Dance Funk albums, which he sold to Discotheques in all of Italy. Business was good. Petrus had a good ear for any kind of Black music. He definitely knew what he was talking about and what he was selling.
In 1978, Petrus, a guy who was not easy to be with, according to those who knew him, hooked up with the Italian keyboarder Mauro Malavasi, who was 19 years old at the time. They started producing dance music via their labels Goody Music Production and Little Macho Music, and they did so successfully.
At some point, it was time to take the next step. Malavasi and Petrus set up a nameless studio band, which they called Change after a while. In this group, they gathered some brilliant musicians. Davide Romani became Change’s bassist, Paolo Gianolo the guitarist. Along with Rudy Trevisi and others, this bunch of Funk enthusiasts, some of whom were trained in classical music, created fascinating Funk tunes.
There was a problem though. Hardly anyone in the project spoke English. Soon they realized they would need help with the lyrics. Also the singing part was something they would have to think about.
Jacques Fred Petrus had a small office in New York, even while living in Italy. And he had contacts. Finding lyrics writers was not a problem at all. Little did he know that he would soon have two of the most brilliant singers on Earth as well.
At a club concert, Petrus heard a young vocalist by the name of Luther Vandross, who absolutely killed it on stage, and would become of the most famous Soul singers on the planet a few years later. He also got Joycelyn Brown, whose stunning voice put her in one line with Aretha Franklin or Chaka Khan.
In 1980, Change’s first album “The Glow of Love” was released. Damn! That title track with Luther Vandross really killed it. This tune was so good, it made lovers of funky and soulful rare grooves forget that most other tunes on the album were actually hard to digest. “The Glow of Love” would be interpreted much later, by none other than Randy Crawford.
A year after the first recording, the greatest Change album of all time was released. The first track, “Paradise”, sucked big-time, but “Hold Tight” was a great one. “Heaven of My Life”, another tune on the second Change album, contained one of the greatest bass lines in the history of Funk. Let’s not forget “Mircales” either, a very funky tune with a breathtaking rhythm guitar.
Change recorded four more albums until 1985. Most tunes included very commericial songs.
In 1987, Jacques Fred Petrus was shot and killed in Guadeloupe. That crime was never solved. Petrus’ Italian friends had to digest a huge loss. They waited until 2010, for their first comeback album.
It gets better: This summer, yes, in 2018, some Change guys got back together. They teamed up with the gifted vocalist Tanya Michelle Smith and produced a brilliant and uplifting Funk tune entitled “Hit or Miss”. Mauro Malavasi and Davide Romani did it again, decades later. Maurizio Sanginento contributed a killer rhythm guitar. The whole thing was produced by Stefano Colombo. Marco Evans is the background vocalist in the video and on the original recording.
Change is an excellent example for Funk made in italy. The Italians have good taste, that’s for sure. In the early 1970-s, it was actually Adriano Celentano who recorded one of the first Italian Funk tunes. It was entitled “L’unica Chance”. The group Calibro 35 recorded some Funk tunes in the 1970-s. So did Edda Dell’Orso and others. But this was the old-fashioned stuff.
Quality-wise, there is another awesome and modern example for Funk made in Italy. It’s a project called Soultrend. When they perform live, the call themselves The Soultrend Orchestra. A few years ago, they published songs which are too good to be real. “Real Information” is one of their greatest tunes.
Whoever arranges their tunes, including their horns, is a genius and should be given a Grammy or some other prize. Soultrend is actually the best example for Italian Jazz-Funk of the highest quality. Grazie.