Yes, Gino Vannelli is back. Of course, he’s no longer a 1970s hit machine, but that’s OK with him.
Mr. Vannelli, known for such songs as “Love of My Life,” “I Just Wanna Stop” and “Living Inside Myself,” comes to the Byham Theater tonight. And those who attend the show who remember him from those days can expect a lot of change.
The 61-year-old Montreal native’s career always has been a family affair. He, his older brother Joe and younger brother Ross grew up in “a house of music.” In the early 1970s Gino and Joe moved to Los Angeles to grab the attention of Herb Alpert, who ran A&M Records and signed Gino to a deal. His first album, “Crazy Life,” was released in 1973; the next year brought the album “Powerful People” and the breakout single “People Gotta Move.”
Mr. Vannelli quickly became known for introspective lyrics over an amalgam of blue-eyed soul, Latin and jazz played largely on synthesizers, fairly novel for that day, and for much of his career Joe provided keyboards, arrangements and production.
Although electronica wasn’t entirely new, he “took it to a new level,” Mr. Vannelli says. “[But] what I was partial to was creating something different.”
That eventually meant delving into opera and recording a couple of jazz-oriented albums.
“It’s all equally challenging to me — take a beautiful woman; You just dress her up differently and she’s still beautiful,” Mr. Vannelli said.
It also meant finding non-musical inspiration.
“People have to understand there’s a time for putting out and a time for taking in,” Mr. Vannelli said.
He began studying literature, philosophy and theology. At one point he didn’t go on the road for 12 years. About 10 years ago he moved from Los Angeles to the Columbia Gorge, near the Cascade Mountains in Oregon.
Now that he’s performing again, he said his job is “to go as far back as I can go, and to listen to the material that still resonates with me.”
To that end he recorded “The Best and Beyond,” released in 2009, which includes updated versions of many of his hits.
“When we do the new version of ‘Nightwalker,’ it gives me chills on stage,” he says. “They adhere to the spirit of the record but take it to a new level.”
Mr. Vannelli has changed his sound as well, with personnel to reflect that shift. His band comprises pianist Greg Goebel, guitarist Jay Koder, who recorded with Jeff Lorber when he was still based in Portland, Ore., bassist Damian Erskine, nephew of renowned drummer Peter, drummer Reinhardt Melz and saxophonist Patrick Lamb, an up-and-coming smooth-jazz artist who also lives in Portland.
His brother Joe remained in L.A. and works with different musicians. However, his brother Ross does production and management for him on site. His brother also produced his latest DVD “Live in L.A.,” recorded in Beverly Hills around Christmastime and released just last week.
Mr. Vannelli believes that his fans keep him moving.
“They are a great impetus for me to keep pushing the envelope all the time, and they let me know [what works and doesn’t work] all the time at meet-and-greets.”
Rick Nowlin: email@example.com or 412-263-3871.