Piano Man

By Hannah Wallace September 30, 2008

Joe Angeleri has been a successful custom builder and remodeler for over 30 years, but at heart he’s a whippersnapper—as in Joe Angeleri and The Whippersnappers, his three-piece band that played recently for the EDC Rocks party sponsored by the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County.

Angeleri started playing the piano at the age of five and was voted most talented in high school in New Jersey for his skill on the piano and trumpet. His brother, now a professional drummer, also taught him to play the drums “so I could take over for him while he danced with the girls at our high school dances. He was no dummy,” he says.

Originally set on pursuing a music career, the young Angeleri and his family would venture to New York City to hear famous musicians. On one occasion, he listened to a spectacular, “no-name” piano player jam in a dirty, dilapidated bar, invisible to the patrons surrounding him. “I could’ve practiced every day for the rest of my life and never have been as good as that man. It was a turning point in my life,” he says. Instead, he decided to pursue a career in building, earning a business degree from the University of Miami.

But he never gave up the beat. “I play wherever I go,” Angeleri says, including sitting in on the piano occasionally at The Colony, Marina Jack, Michael’s On East and Caragiulo’s, at Jazz Club of Sarasota concerts at the Van Wezel (Angeleri was an original Jazz Club member in the early 1980s and chairman of the Van Wezel Advisory Board in the mid-1990s), and even Bourbon Street in New Orleans. “They called me up during a break, and I got a standing ovation. It was phenomenal,” he remembers of that once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The Whippersnappers, including Ernie Williford on the bass and Tony Benade on the horn, don’t rehearse. “This is ad-liberation at best,” he says. “We sit down and play. That’s what jazz is all about.

“I have used music extensively throughout my career for fun, entertainment and self-fulfillment,” Angeleri says. “I play because I enjoy playing. If people enjoy it, then it’s that much more rewarding.”

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