Born and raised in Boston, MA, Sonny Barbato began taking weekly lessons with accordion master Louis Bregoli at nine years old. At thirteen he switched over to piano, studying with Mike Marra and later attending both the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory. Now accomplished on both instruments he can be found playing in many styles and setting. Whatever he’s playing, he keeps very good company, including that of some musicians who have been on staff at Django in June in the past. Here’s Sonny at work with two of the best of them—the late John McGann (mandolin) and Matt Glaser (violin)—along with some other master musicians. Sonny’s tasteful chorus starts around the 1:18 mark.
Though Sonny has never been on staff at Django in June before, the environs will be familiar to him. As this video attests, he was in western MA a few years back to perform at Watermelon Wednesdays with Matt Munisteri and, again, Matt Glaser. The whole concert is available on youtube, but here’s an excerpt: the trio performing, “There Is No Greater Love.” I’m going to go out on a (short, sturdy) limb and predict that accordionists working on jazz improvisation with Sonny Barbato are are going to come away having heard a thing or two about melodic and motivic development. If that last fancy term is unfamiliar you can look it up—or better, just listen. Sonny’s solo starts around the 1:50 mark.
Working in tandem with Alicia Baker, who will focus more on la musette and songs that could include vocals, Sonny’s role at Django Camp will be to work with accordionists on jazz improvisation. Those interested working with him should start shedding now on the tunes Jack Soref has included in our 24 Gypsy Jazz Standards booklet. Sonny will be ready to meet you wherever you are on the path.