by Maria SCRIVANI
When youve lived your childhood dreams, what do you do for an encore? Musician
Bobby Militello knows all about encore performances. The world-renowned saxophonist (and
much more: his bio lists among his musical talents alto, tenor and soprano saxophones,
flute, alto flute, piccolo, clarinet and vocals) is a legend in jazz circles. Hes
also legendary in his hometown of Buffalo, where he dreamed of one day performing solos a
la Maynard Ferguson and Dave Brubeck while listening to his idols recordings on the
Sears Silvertone Stereo in his West Side home.
The young Militellos:
Baby Bobby and neighbor.
Today hes on the road 180 days a year. Not only is he performing those solos but
hes appeared and recorded with Ferguson, and is currently touring with Brubeck. They
played with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
in late October, a show that was taped for ABC-TV broadcast on December 27th. He performed
with the Moscow Symphony in Moscow Cathedral over Thanksgiving, and was back home in
Western New York for a brief hiatus before resuming a show schedule that includes
California, Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii, with a European tour slated for spring. He
also tours with Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band whenever I can.
Christmas cowboy Bobby Militello 6 years old.
Heady stuff for a guy who once thought he might make his career in electrical
engineering. In fact, Bobby is still a tinkerer and analyst at heart. Pop into the
Tralfamadore Cafe, long known as the areas premier music venue and reopened last
September under his stewardship...between shows youre likelier to catch Bobby
changing a lightbulb or fine-tuning a computer program. Certainly not restingrepose
is not in this mans vocabulary.
Im a workaholic, always have been, he says. In addition to being a
performer he is a producer of records, videos, sound design and more, through his
production company, RPM Entertainment Productions, Inc. When Im home I work 10
to 16 hours a day, every day of the week. Sometimes me and my uncle Ang go around fixing
thingstheres always a list of things that need to be done around the Tralf,
from changing bulbs to washing floors. Everything has to be comfortable here. My bars and
my kitchen are clean. I like all things working...I try to anticipate needs and address
Some say its all in the timing, but for Bobby Militello it is clearly all in the
details. That predilection suits him well for our technological age. What I can do
with computers fascinates me, he says. Theyre great tools. Ive run
my business on computers for 15 years. He also writes music and designs ads on-line.
Soon he expects to purchase a laptop computer so he can use his on-the-road downtime to
Running the Tralf, a more than full-time job for mere mortals, is another gig for
Bobby, albeit a consuming one. So whyd he buy the place when hes clearly got
enough to keep him busy elsewhere? My whole life Ive always had the hassles of
business, with my family in the restaurant business, he says, noting that he, his
sister Bea and brother Mike are currently partners in downtowns other popular
restaurant/jazz club, The Bijou Grille.
I like this. Im good at what I do, with my analytical and people skills. I
care about the customers satisfaction, their comfort and the quality of product
around here. Everyone around here feels that way, or they dont last.
Ive been playing this room since it opened (founded 1974, the Tralfs
original location was on Main Street near Fillmore) and Ive always had ideas about
how it could be better. I heard through the grapevine that bids were being sought to take
over the Tralf. It was a one-day decision for me. I knew what to do with it. Last
January Bobby Militello was awarded a long-term lease on the cabaret, which has been
located in Theater Place downtown since 1982.
The Velvetomes in 1968. Ray Masterangelo, Bobby Militello and Dennis Mahoney.
Careful not to criticize his predecessors, Bobby says hes turned the cafe into
my image of what this place should be. As a musician my first thought, of course,
was the acoustics. I wanted this room to sound like a concert hallwithin this
structures capabilities. Most of the money hes sunk into the Tralf has
gone into the sound system, to enhance the listening experience as well as suit any
performers style. Time-delayed speakers around the room increase or decrease the
depth of sound, making it seem like a big hall or a down and dirty blues club.
The result is a place where musicians enjoy performingand that, as Bobby the
performer and promoter knows so well keeps music fans coming in. No less than
300 people shook my hand after the Leon Redbone show in October, he recalls. I
heard more comments about what a wonderful show it was and how great this is for Buffalo.
Theres an ego trip there thats great. Its like a standing ovation after
He can take another bow for rejuvenating the local jazz scene and joining the downtown
renaissance, but Bobby Militello isnt through yet. As a Baby Boomer, not by a long
shot. Hes passionate on any number of topical issues, including restoring arts
programs to schools. We have to fight for it because it is important, he says,
recalling the music mentoring he received at School 77 and Lafayette High School.
Bobbys eighth grade graduation picture P.S. 77, 1964.
Every teacher I had saw something extra in me and nurtured it. We have to nurture
the souls and spirits of our children. Kids who have the opportunity to express themselves
will grow. We need the kind of vision that comes from the soul and the arts feed the
A fervent advocate of strong family life, he talks about his plans to make the Tralf
more than a music venue. It is already in use as a business conference center and Bobby
wants to expand its offerings to include family events. This winter hes planning an
art show with performance art on stage and a graffiti wall for kids. I think
theyll love it, he says, looking around the great room on a recent weekday
morning when the speakers were silent and the lights dark. I want children in this
The grown Militellos:
He says hes never made a personal goal he hasnt met, so look for the Tralf
to become a popular family attraction. And in about eight years, you can look for Bobby
Militello somewhere along the Lake Erie shoreline.
Thats where he is planning to semi-retire one day, to play on his
computer, blow his horn and look out at the lake. Id be very, very
happy, he says.
The question is what will he do for an encore?
Maria Scrivani is a freelance writer.
Photos Courtesy of Bobby Militello.
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