961 Winterberry Drive, Marco
For a small city like Marco Island, we should be proud that we have so many exceptionally talented musicians. One musician, Dan Vass, particularly stands out because he is multi-talented on the piano, violin and pan flute. He entertains at Sasso’s International Cuisine & Seafood Restaurant every Thursday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
His music ranges from smooth jazz to classical, when requested. His voice is soft and in spite of speaking with an accent, this one can’t be detected when he sings.
The piano is situated slightly outside the bar area into a lounge where dinner can also be served. Therein lays the problem as I see it. When people’s voices get a little too loud in their conversations while dining in the lounge, they overpower the music. The older people want it softer, the younger want it louder. But don’t let that deter you from going to listen to Vass. He is more than worth it.
Ideally, dinner should be served in the dining rooms, and after dinner, retreat to the lounge for more cocktails and dancing. And if you truly enjoy all sorts of music, Vass can play it for you. If Vass played from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. his talent would be much more appreciated. It’s difficult to compete with a noisy crowd.
Last year, the piano was situated in the opposite corner on a stage so that when you walked in, he recognized people who tend to follow him and welcomed newcomers. It didn’t take up much room, but the acoustics were much better. However, even though the piano is relocated, when the audience did pay attention, even people in the bar clapped.
One diner actually used her cell phone to have someone on the other end listen to Vass. It was quite amusing. He even received several well-deserved tips.
I’d love to see him back in the corner with a mirror behind him so that people could see his fingers fly over the keyboard. That would really get their attention.
He was asked to play a Willie Nelson song. He chose “From All the Girls I’ve Known Before” which was humorous because he held his nose at one time and sounded like Willie Nelson. People laughed and applauded.
Then he played “Music in the Night” from Phantom of the Opera on the pan flute.
According to Vass, he bought the pan flute in 1999. He saw some fellows from Peru playing in the street and bought it. It’s the one he still uses, although he stated it’s getting rather worn.
Using a digital piano that has many sounds, he also records his tracks in his own studio. He uses an iPod and transfers his tracks to it.
“I believe I was the first person in the United States to do this, and now other musicians are doing the same thing. It’s a lot easier, and we have to keep up with technology. I’ve been using the iPod for six years now,” Vass stated. “Actually I have all the standards from light music to more professional stuff. The actual orchestras are in the background and I play with them from the tracks. It’s like I’m there with them. That’s the beauty of the system I use. It works very well. Nowadays, they don’t use trios like they used to. Of course, it’s hard for a musician to work alone.”
Vass came to this country in 1996. As a child, his parents put him in a special musical school for gifted children when he was five years old to learn the piano and violin at the same time. He continued studying through middle school, high school, five years of college and the music conservatory in the Ukraine. Part of his musical education was learning to conduct choirs and direct symphonies, orchestra playing and composition. Most of it was classical music, but he did get into jazz when he was 14 years old. He said it was quite an experience.
He was discovered on a cruise ship and a couple brought him to Marco Island with his family. His first gig was at Moran’s Barge. He then moved around to the now defunct Italian Garden, Andre’s which is now Tara’s Steak and Seafood, the Blu Fusion, and the Marco Polo among other gigs including yacht clubs, conventions and private parties.
“I’ve done classical concerts, but not any more. I try to keep up with the classical music because I love it. To be a classical pianist, you have to be in it very deeply to squeeze some money from it. You have to be really, really good. I’m not good enough to make a living at it,” Vass humbly said. “Concert pianists need sponsors and you have to be very, very big,” he continued.
During the summer, Vass goes to Cape Canaveral for five weeks and as he put it, ‘works for Mickey Mouse.’
“I play on either the ‘Magic’ ship or the ‘Wonder’ ship and we go to the Bahamas and back. Mickey Mouse takes care of me very well,” Vass laughingly commented.
“Music life is getting harder and harder anywhere in the world. I’m just going to stay with it. I can still make a living. Most importantly, you have to just learn the technology and whatever is coming out next,” Vass stated. “Nowadays, the restaurants like all the compact stuff. It’s hard to for me to see people doing the laptop and karaoke stuff. In the old days, the good singers had a quartet with a nice orchestra or band, but not anymore. For me, I just want to play the piano, violin, pan flute and sing.”
He’s been doing it all his life and intends to continue it for the rest of his life.
“I enjoy what I do even though people say I’m too talented, but there’s no such thing as being too talented. Someday I’d like to play at the Hilton piano bar off season so that I don’t have to go to the cruise ship,” Vass concluded.
For great music, you will be amazed at the talent of Dan Vass. View his website at www.DanVass.com for his calendar and upcoming gigs.
Sasso’s International Cuisine & Seafood is located at 960 Winterberry Drive. Call 393-4960 for reservations.