By Lisa Morgan –
I truly relish the chance to tell my readers (especially the women) how difficult my job is. One such opportunity was when I received a PRIVATE CONCERT from the boys of Penny Unniversity. It was just me, the band, a pizza and the amazing listening adventure that is the Penny U experience. Hearing them live for the first time, I was impressed by how connected I felt to the music even though it was entirely instrumental without any lyrics to guide my thoughts or feelings. There was, however, Michael’s beautiful portrayal of where each song grew from its own unique story. That inspiration heartened me to write the following in my first article on the band:
Penny Unniversity ~ A Slice of Musical Life: “There are no words, but there is a definitely a story to every song. For example: Lead guitarist and front man Michael Anthony Gagliardi explains the story behind the song Periwinkle. ‘It’s a song about being overlooked. The periwinkle isn’t a very popular flower. It’s much undervalued, yet it’s known to cure some forms of diabetes and it’s free.’ The music starts, and your own pictures, memories or stories begin to form as it relates to the story and the music provided. Each song represents its own story, and many times, its own destination. The listener is given little golden nuggets of uncommon and cool knowledge that allows the music to carry them away as they interpret the journey for themselves.”
“The boys of Penny Unniversity: Michael Anthony Gagliardi, left handed lead guitarist; Ted Alan Walker on bass; Craig Brown on drums and percussionist Rene Almodovar have only been together for the last two years. But combined, there is over 100 years of music between them. As accomplished as they are and good at what they do, they don’t rest on their laurels. They work hard, rehearsing for hours twice a week and constantly writing and producing new music. They are already recording their second album. These artists bleed music and in a period of 90 minutes, they pour out over 40,000 notes.”
“I closed my eyes and listened. The words, the story, the pictures all just formed and they were all my own. This music has no rules or formula, just music that you can drink in. There is no language barrier, making them a completely global band speaking the one true universal language. They are a band set apart having created their own fusion of style and sound they like to call ‘transfusion’.”
“If you are one of the fortunate many who have the opportunity to hear Penny Unniversity perform, do so before that big globe of ours discovers what we locals here in the Coachella Valley are so fortunate to have all to ourselves… for now.”
It’s been almost a year since that initial interview and while the character and quality of the music and the musicians has not swayed, there have been new evolutions that validate my statement that we would not have them to ourselves for long. Penny Unniversity’s original song, Escape to Capri, has become the number one most requested song on Radio Monaco, a station that broadcasts all through Europe. There are management deals and European tour talks in the works as I write. A second album is set for digital release and the boys are working feverishly to get all their legal ducks in a row because they are truly getting ready to launch.
Penny Unniversity was born to create musical experiences and they do so brilliantly with their break out originals and with a new addition – lyrics. Being the ever growing creative force that they are and hearing requests from many, including those in the music industry, they have recorded their first lyrical song, Nod to the Cabby: “One for the money, two for the road, three for the pain that won’t let go. I nod to the cabby, he takes me home. I never thought life could hold feelings of hatred and love so cold. I’ve got a lot to learn about the human heart. Oh bartender, another round. I’m counting on you to right side this frown. I need some help to get my feet back on the ground.” These lines in the song tell a story as soulfully as the melody that carries it.
Other notable lyrics sing, “I saw her in a Cohiba, and a red satin dress of fire; would she go for a guy like me – a jazz guitar player for hire?” This is from another new tune Over a Glass of Wine a song front man Michael says is “the story of a jazz musician trying to gain the affections of an affluent woman who is out of his league by the use of the most societal beverage of which humans communicate over: wine.” Still keeping in mind the universal and global nature of their gift, they are working on more lyrical creations in English as well as Italian and even French. These songs will be sprinkled in with the already beautiful instrumental songs introduced by their individual, inspired stories.
So if you care to see and hear what the rest of the world is talking about without having to use a passport, make sure to see them live at the La Quinta Resort at the Hilltop every Sunday night in March for the resort’s fabulous new jazz event. They will also be infusing the Date Shed in Indio with their “groove laden world fusion” on March 22nd. More immediately, clear your calendar for Saturday, February 23rd for the Rhythm, Wine and Brews Festival. Penny Unniversity launched the first annual festival as the headliner, but the boys are more than happy to be sharing the stage with the King of Blues himself, the infamous BB King this Saturday, February 23rd at the Empire Polo Club. The gate opens at 2pm. For festival tickets and information, go to rhythmwineandbrewsfest.com. Keep your eyes on the incredible future unfolding for this band on Facebook and at Pennyunniversity.com