Mario Biondi’s unmistakable deep voice is warm and sensual, yet clear and confident. Born Mario Ranno, he cultivated his passion for music from a young age, listening alongside his father, the singer Stefano Biondi, later making his stage name a tribute to him.
A vast range of experience has made Mario the great artist he is today. He has sung in church choirs, been a session singer for niche labels, without neglecting his studies and speaking perfect English although he is a born and bred Sicilian from Catania. A lover of soul music, in 1988 he began supporting artists of international standing, including some of the calibre of the legendary Ray Charles. But the turning point came with the Japanese release of his single This Is What You Are, heard by top BBC1 DJ Norman Jay, who fell in love with the song and launched it across Europe from his console.
In 2006, Schema Records issued Mario’s first album, Handful of Soul: 12 tracks with new songs alongside interpretations of classic repertoire, a well-crafted selection neatly sidestepping any diehard standard pieces. Mario’s debut was an immediate hit with the public and fellow musicians, earning four platinum records in a few months. That same year he took part in Alex – Tribute to Alex Baroni, with the song L’amore Ha Sempre Fame.
In 2007 Biondi was super busy, involved in bigger projects like the Sanremo Festival, taking part as a duo with Amalia Grè to perform Amami Per Sempre. Shortly afterwards he released the single No Matter, partnered by DJ Fargetta. In the same year the double live album I Love You More was released, in which Mario was accompanied by the Duke Orkestra. This proved yet another success, taking home two platinum records and including the ghost track This Is What You Are, one of the Catania-born artist’s best-loved songs.
In 2008 the year opened with a fun new project, performing two songs for the soundtrack of the re-make of a great Disney cartoon classic, The Aristocats: Everybody Wants To Be A Cat (Tutti quanti voglion fare il jazz, in the Italian version) and Thomas O’Malley (Romeo il gatto del Colosseo in Italian). This was also the year Mario participated in two Italian prime-time TV shows. First, Mai dire Martedì with the Gialappa’s Band; secondly, invited by one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, Burt Bacharach, he was back at the Sanremo Festival, this time partnering Karima Ammar to perform Come in ogni Ora. Mario also duetted with Renato Zero on Non Smetterei Più, a track from Presente, the latest album of new work by the Roman singer-songwriter.
In 2009, If was the second album of new work released by Mario Biondi and heralded his teaming up with a new label, Tattica. The album was recorded in Rome and Rio de Janeiro, and promoted by the radio release of the single Be Lonely, aired for months by major national networks. The album was the result of an artistic project of international scale, with precious contributions from the London Telefilmonic Orchestra string section and some leading international musicians: Herman Jackson (piano), Michael Baker (drums), Jacqués Morelenbaum (cello) Ricardo Silveira (guitar), Sonny Thompson (bass and guitar), Lorenzo Tucci (drums), Fabrizio Bosso (trumpet) and Giovanni Baglioni (guitar). This album features Biondi performing warm, passionate soul-jazz, but with a light-hearted feel. The partnership with Burt Bacharach, which had begun with the Karima duet at the 2009 Sanremo Festival, became more profound and special, with the composer’s generous and precious gift to Mario of the song Something That Was Beautiful, also on the album If. This was the final step in Biondi’s rise to fame, with the album another commercial success, garnering three platinum records. The digital edition, distributed by Kiver/Tattica, set a new record for iTunes charts where it hung in for over two months as one of the ten bestselling albums on Italy’s most popular digital music channel. Biondi’s fame at international level was also confirmed when he became one of the very first Italian artists to have a Ping profile on the iTunes social network launched in September 2010. Soon to follow was a new prestigious partnership, with Bluey, leader of Incognito, who remixed No’ Mo’ Trouble, a track taken from If, which stayed at the top of the Italian airplay charts for the whole summer. Bluey was delighted with this first joint venture and asked Mario to contribute to the album the iconic band was recording to celebrate 30 years in business. The result was two tracks, including a duet with Chaka Kahn and the solo piece Can’t Get Enough, a runaway success with London radio stations.
In autumn 2010 Mario went back to his job dubbing and singing for animation films, taking part in the Disney film Tangled, in which he was the voice of the soft-hearted Hook Hand Thug. In April 2011, he was back as the Italian voice of Miguel, the super-evil parrot in the film Rio. On 26 November 2010 the double live album Yes, You was released under the Tattica label, recorded live during Biondi’s summer tour of Italy’s top venues, all sell-out concerts. On 21 May 2011, for his 40th birthday, Biondi opened his new tour at the Gran Teatro di Roma, with his 40-piece Big Orchestra.
In November 2011 he released Due (With the Unexpected Glimpses), a hit album worldwide. Due, the Italian for “two”, signified the two artists performing each song, so this is an album of duets. The “Unexpected Glimpses” refers to what we always have right in front of us and always take for granted. In this work, they are Mario’s music team and the musicians duetting with him in covers and their own original songs, and to whom Biondi decided to dedicate the disc.
Biondi spent all of 2011 and 2012 touring both in Italy and abroad, taking part in numerous and prestigious jazz festivals all over Europe.
After two years of work in Milan, Los Angeles, New York, and London, the new album Sun was in record stores on 29 January 2013. The outstanding music had an international mood and was produced by Biondi himself, with Jean Paul Maunick, aka Bluey, leader of the legendary British jazz band Incognito. The promo single for the album was Shine On, followed by What Have You Done To Me and Deep Space.
On 10 May 2013, Mario Biondi was back in the UK capital and, with Incognito, played his first Royal Albert Hall, in a big event concert.
Sun also won over international markets, released on 13 May across Europe, on 22 May in Japan, and on 4 June in the United States.
From 14 June Mario Biondi began a series of tour dates at prestigious venues, part of the most important Italian and European jazz festivals. The artist was backed on stage by the legendary Italian Jazz Players band, with background vocals provided by the Neri per Caso.
Sun took a gold disc in Italy.
After a hit tour, Mario Biondi was back on 25 November 2013 with the album MARIO CHRISTMAS, embracing the full magic of Christmas in 11 songs, including eight lovely seasonal classics, two exciting new songs – My Christmas Baby (The Sweetest Gift) and Dreaming Land – and the brilliant After The Love Has Gone duet with Earth, Wind and Fire. The same day a double CD box set of MARIO CHRISTMAS + SUN went on sale, going straight to the top of the iTunes best-selling albums charts, holding a top three slot for weeks, taking home a platinum disc.
On 24 November Mario opened his new tour from Rome’s Auditorium Parco della Musica, going on to perform in Italy’s top venues. The tour ended on 27 December with a second sold-out concert in the capital. The tour was a runaway success across the country and double dates had to be arranged for concerts in Rome, Milan and Bologna.
For 2014 the focus was abroad. The Sun album had been a hit release in Italy, then in other European countries in 2013, so was also distributed in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Portugal and South America.
On 22 May 2014, Mario Biondi was the only Italian artist to take part – as a guest star, no less – in the 2013 Echo Jazz Awards, Germany’s official music industry awards conferred by the Deutsche Phono-Akademie to top German and international artists.
Through the summer of 2014 Mario Biondi featured in important concerts at some leading jazz festivals in Italy and Europe, in the lead-up to his intense autumn tour, which saw the singer touching base with top European capitals for sell-out concerts and enthusiastic critical response.
The release of A Very Special Mario Christmas happened in November 2014, including a CD + DVD box set compilation conjuring up all the magic of the previous Mario Christmas album plus three new tracks and a DVD of live recordings from the Sun tour.
On 10 April 2014 “Love is a temple”, the new single taken from his brand new studio album “Beyond” (out on 5 of may 2014) was released. On the same day Mario Biondi started the first leg of his Italian tour with over 50 shows across the country and several concerts across European capitals.
On 20 November 2014, “Beyond special edition”, a reissue of his last album, was released with an additional tribute EP to The Commodores, the legendary American funk/soul band.
The first single taken from the ES is “Nightshift, the Grammy winner song, written in 1985 as a tribute to soul/R&B singers Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, who both died in 1984.
The EP includes five of their most iconic hits like “Three times a lady”, “Easy”, “Brick house” and “Lady (you bring me up”.
March 2018 has been appointed as release date for Mario’s new Album “Brasil”: a powerful record with elements of soul, jazz, pop and Brazilian famous hits, that features collaborations from renown Brazilian musicians and International artists.
Some tracks of the record have been composed thanks to the collaboration with these local artists. About the Album’s producers, two of the main Brazilian producers:
Mario C.: Brazilian/American record producer and studio engineer best known for his work with Beastie Boys and Jack Johnson in the US, and with Marcelo D2 and Seu Jorge in Brazil.
Alexandre Kassin: Brazilian producer, artist, composer, and musician. He is a member of Orquestra Imperial. (updated September 2017)