In Conversation with Chris DeAngelis: The Miami Music Maverick Celebrates “Small Songs”



He’s always been a bit of a maverick. A music-crazed kid of the ‘70s, he resided in front of the curve — discovering all the cool new bands, long before his high school contemporaries caught on. Even as a prominent player on Florida’s rock scene during the ‘80s, Chris DeAngelis remained focused on the future, while privately developing a passion for music of the past — from old school jazz to vintage swing to authentic R&B to traditional country and western.

A University of Miami music grad, based currently in South Florida, DeAngelis is a full-time bassist, an in-demand audio engineer, and a frequent radio show content contributor. Recently, he took time to discuss with v13 his latest venture — the newly-launched, “Small Song of the Day” YouTube series.

“I’ve played a lot of different styles of music over the years. But these are the songs I want to be playing NOW,” DeAngelis began with undeniable gusto. “I had been kind of just wasting my days during the first few months of the current COVID-19 lockdown. I thought about these songs I had been working on, and it dawned on me that the short song format would be perfect for the social media and YouTube format. I call them ‘small songs’ not just because they are short in duration, but because they have been reduced to their essentials.”

“The songs are extremely short,” DeAngelis continues. “Most are between one and two minutes in length. I’ve been posting one video song per day — Monday through Friday. The songs are recorded live to the camera — just my vocal and the upright bass, played in front of a cheesy red curtain.”

Oddly, by drawing from the music of the past, DeAngelis succeeds in serving up satisfying “small slices” — tasty “tiny tunes” that feel fresh and fun and — especially in today’s airbrushed, digital iUniverse. However, the infectious covers and unique originals he showcases could require some qualification.

“The covers are obscure tunes from the 1930s and 1940s in a style some used to call, ‘Jive.’ It’s not jazz music. It’s pop music from the jazz era. A lot of the historic music I’m playing laid the foundation for what would later become rock and roll, R&B and hip hop.”

A longtime avid record collector and thrift store aficionado, DeAngelis further spelled out his contagious enthusiasm for vintage music.

“I’ve been listening to this music since I was a teenager. I bought my first Louis Jordan record as a special order in 1978, after hearing one of his songs on a compilation LP I had checked out of my local library. While the predominant pop music of the ‘30s and ‘40s was big band music, this particular stuff that I’m doing was performed mostly by small combos. Two of the biggest jive artists would be Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway. I’d even consider Fats Waller a jive guy, although he also was an amazing stride pianist and composer of show tunes.”

Also a self-described “history buff,” DeAngelis has noticed distinct changes in cultural attitudes through discovering this “historic music.” What once was considered obscene, now is often perceived as merely “cute,” and vice versa. In that regard, he points to one of his more notable remakes.

“‘Give it to Mary with Love’ was written and recorded by Cliff Edwards and released as a 78rpm record back in 1936. It was banned for obscenity and wasn’t played on the radio. I suspect it was kept ‘behind the counter’ at record stores, and had to be asked for specifically. Cliff was the voice of Disney’s Jiminy Cricket and was the guy who sang, ‘When You Wish Upon a Star.’ He called himself ‘Ukulele Ike’ back in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s and he had quite a bit of success. Edwards also was a drug addict, alcoholic, and died destitute.”

As for his “Small Songs” series, DeAngelis concludes simply, “I hope people will take a minute or two to watch one of the songs and it will put a smile on their face.”

Chris DeAngelis currently can be seen and heard playing in a number of popular Miami-based bands, including The 18 Wheelers, Matthew Sabatella & the Rambling String Band and The Night Bombers.


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