At the tender age of 5 years old, already showing a little piano prowess, Philadelphia-based musician Joe Litzi fell in love with smooth jazz music in the most unconventional way: by hearing it played on the weather channel.
“We bought Joey a small piano for Christmas when he was three, and was amazed at how he would hear a melody and be able to play it,” Joe’s mother, Paula Litzi recollected. “He took songs he knew and played parts of them on his little piano.”
At around seven, Litzi asked his parents if he could start taking piano lessons. Seeing an early, genuine passion for music, they obliged, and lessons, which included classical training, lasted through the eighth grade.
“When he was seven, he asked if he could take piano lessons,” Paula Litzi said. “He loved playing, so, of course, we found a piano teacher who lived nearby and he began taking weekly lessons for quite a few years. He practiced without effort.”
Litzi said he was listening to and playing music beyond his young years, influenced by his parents’ musical taste.
“I picked up a lot of stuff kids weren’t listening to at the time because of my parents’ good taste in older pop music,” Litzi, 30, said. “I credit my parents for my early exposure to some of the best music of all time.”
Furthermore, Litzi discovered a Philadelphia jazz station, which fueled his desire for the genre even further.
“During the early to mid-nineties, Philly radio began a jazz station which Joey loved and began listening,” Paula Litzi recalled. “He took a real liking to many of the artists, which lead him into the jazz category of music.”
Wanting to take a break from the rigors of classical training, Litzi ceased lessons to allow more self-musical expression and experimentation.
“I kind of wanted to focus on being a kid and not have to practice all the time, playing classical,” Litzi explained, adding that classical music has a rigid, set structure. “I wanted to focus on pop and jazz.”
From there, Litzi started to teach himself smooth jazz. But in his freshman and sophomore years of high school, he took a respite to concentrate on his studies.
But Litzi joined the Archbishop Ryan High School Jazz Band in his junior year at the request of a friend. He spent his last two years of high school rehearsing for competitions in the fall and competing at many Cavalcade of Bands events from February to March.
Litzi said the competitions were judged by distinguished jazz professionals from the high school and college communities within the greater Philadelphia area who bestowed the team with favorable scorings, ranking them with “outstanding” approximately 90 percent of the time.
Plus, he said, it provided him with a wealth of music knowledge and several found reminiscences.
“We did well,” he recalled. “It was a really, really good experience for me, and provided a lot of great memories.”
As most promising musicians realize, however, the reality of making a living comes knocking hard, slicing into the love of producing music. But Litzi he’s manufactured a more time adjustable way of earning money through his Amazon delivery driver job and his eBay Motors store while he pursues music with a fervor.
“I always had other jobs that took up most of my time,” the self-professed gearhead said. “But now I’ve engineered a way to make more money in a more flexible way so I can put the necessary time into my music.”
Litzi conservatively estimates that he’s played over 500 shows in his lifetime, and averages one or more gigs a week. He often joins Jean Therapy–a six-piece jazz/rock fusion band fronted by Jean Lenke.
In addition, he’s played at some of Philly’s top hot spots, including the Hard Rock Café, Warmdaddy’s and Chris’ Jazz Café. Plus, Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania and the Atlantic City Sheraton.
In the process of cranking up his musical career, Litzi is hell-bent on turning his passion into a prolific musical experience.
“I want to make this a full-fledge career,” he said. “I am not going to settle for less.”