Music had been Charles Carlini’s passion long before he became the CEO of his own multimedia company that has, as he puts it, “hands in many pies.” In fact, music has – no pun intended – played a vital role in his life since the childhood spent in Brazil.
“I was too young then to be serious about pursuing music,” says the New York-born Carlini, who moved from Brazil to Miami at the age of nine. “But it was a really big part of my cultural experience growing up.”
That love of music withstood the test of time and geography, remaining to this day at the epicenter of Carlini’s life and activities – which included guitar lessons from Vincent Bredice, who had also taught the great Joe Diorio; playing guitar with his brother Richard Puente (of disco group Foxy) in Top 40 bands on the South Florida Circuit; and a stint at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music.
For Carlini, Berklee proved to be an educational experience in more ways than one. “Being there made me realize that there were many great players who were struggling to get by,” he recalls. “So I decided to find some other way to be close to music without having to starve.”
He did. In 1989, Carlini moved to New York where he successfully combined his two interests – music and food – into an up-and-coming career as a concert promoter, record producer, manager, and a restaurateur.
“A lot of my dreams came true when I moved to New York and was able to meet and work with people I admired and idolized,” says Carlini, who started out in the Big Apple (after a stint studying philosophy at the City University Graduate Center) by promoting concerts honoring living jazz guitar idols and booking bands at prestigious jazz clubs, including appearances by the Cuban bassist Cachao and Brazilian guitarist Milton Nascimento at New York’s famous jazz club, Blue Note. At the same time, Carlini managed such renowned Manhattan eateries as Fiorello’s, Trattoria dell’Arte, the Redeye Grill, Rue 57, Scalini Fedeli, the Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s JoJo, and Placido Domingo’s self-named restaurant.
He also launched the Zinc Bar jazz club, which had become Manhattan’s “in” hangout for jazz aficionados because of the stellar lineup of musicians who were the venue’s regulars, among them guitarists Ron Affif, George Benson, Russell Malone, and Jimmy Bruno; drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, and bassist Essiet Essiet.
The bar “developed into quite a scene,” Carlini says. “Pat Metheny came down, as did Les Paul, Blossom Dearie, Diana Krall, McCoy Tyner, and a whole bunch of others.”
These relationships with the world-famous jazz icons formed the cornerstone of Carlini’s New York-based multimedia company, Carlini Group, which he founded in 1995. The company manages and books recording artists, produces concerts, CDs and films, working with jazz, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban artists including George Benson, Eumir Deodato, Ennio Morricone, Ann Hampton Callaway, Andy Summers, Pat Martino, Ray Barretto, Ron Carter, George Coleman, and many others.
That same year Carlini launched Clinic Crafters, a series of weekly jazz guitar workshops with the participation of Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis, Tal Farlow, and other jazz greats.
He also produced a series of albums for the Chesky Records label, as well as the annual Moogfest festivals, celebrating the work of Robert Moog, inventor of the modern synthesizer.
“The 1990s and early 2000s were very busy and productive for me, “ Carlini says. “But there were still many things that I wanted to accomplish.”
With that goal in mind, Carlini Group has branched out into a fast-growing, multi-faceted company, which today encompasses an eclectic mix of entertainment, licensing, hospitality, and education divisions.
And Carlini’s 2009 schedule remains as hectic as ever: he has produced a CD for Chesky Records titled "Hancock Park – The Music of Herbie Hancock," featuring Lenny White, Buster Williams, George Colligan, and Steve Wilson.
He is currently booking the legendary rock keyboardist Keith Emerson's 2009 summer tour, and preparing a special TV presentation of Les Paul's 90th birthday celebration he had organized at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles in 2006, which will premiere on HDNet and feature a wide array of artists including Slash, Alison Krauss, Joe Perry, Buddy Guy, Edgar Winter, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Neal Schon, Joe Satriani, Shayna Steele, and Switchfoot, among others.
Carlini has also assembled two groups for live concerts – Windows, The Music of Chick Corea, and Fields of Gold – The Music of A Sting. Both performances will be recorded in the summer. Also on the 2009 agenda: two tributes – to Jaco Pastorius (Jacofest) and to Django Reinhard (Djangofest).
While maintaining the abiding passion for music, Carlini also focuses on developing his company’s other divisions. “Each focuses on a different field," he says. "But all of them have a great potential for growth.”