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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 7, 2017 1 year ago

Play the funk

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Angelo Biasi runs an education company by day. At night, he tells a different story.
by: Ted Carter Contributing Writer

Executive: Angelo Biasi, founder and CEO, MassiveU, Naples. MassiveU is a mobile education platform and distance learning technology company that develops courses primarily with the mobile user in mind.

Diversion: Playing funky rhythm and blues with fellow Venture X tenants Jose Tribaldos and Raphael Santos, architectural associates at Hlevel Architects. Venture X is a shared office and co-work space in Naples.

Ask the question: You wear a lot of hats and endure high-intensity workdays as “chief psychologist and bottle washer” at MassiveU, says Biasi, describing his role at the educational tech company he founded in 2013. A clear need to turn it off at the end of the day led the longtime keyboard, piano and accordion player to go in search of like-minded musicians at Venture X in Naples last July. (MassiveU's offices are in Venture X.)

“Who here has the funk?” he asked fellow inhabitants of the co-op workspace.

People get ready: It was at a Venture X networker and jam night that he got his answer. It came from Jose Tribaldos and Raphael Santos, a pair of musically inclined architects for Hlevel Architects with desks no more than 10 feet from Biasi's workspace. They happened to be fans of the mix of soul, jazz and rhythm and blues perfected decades ago by the likes of Curtis Mayfield and Bill Withers — precisely the sound Biasi had in mind.

Biasi says the 20-somethings conceded they didn't really know who Mayfield or Withers were, but told him, “They like that kind of music.”

Move on up: Since you bring your own instrument on jam night, the trio came prepared. The 40-something Biasi handled keyboards, Tribaldos was on bass guitar and Santos manned the drums. “We practiced some songs. We enjoyed it so much we started rehearsing here a couple nights a week just for fun,” Biasi adds.

Relief valve: Biasi got the stress escape he sought. “For those two hours the mind is not focused on the woes of the day,” he says. “You're focused on the song you are engaged in.” And, “How am I going to solo when my turn comes?”

Today, he says, getting into a groove with Tribaldos and Santos is “kind of like spending time with family ... I am just blessed to have found a couple other guys who like this kind of music.”

Share the groove: “They feed off my energy and I feed off theirs,” Biasi says of Tribaldos and Santos. Tribaldos, Santos and Biasi have acquainted each other with the various styles of music that influence them. Tribaldos and Santos have made Biasi a fan of Paolo Nutini, a Scottish soul and folk singer, and Bishop Briggs, a Los Angeles singer whose music has strong soul influences.

“They've exposed me to music I wouldn't be listening to,” Biasi says.

“And I've exposed them to music they wouldn't be listening to.”

Tour time: The band is now a mix of contemporary, soul, funk and fusion music. Their name: The Jive — a moniker the trio adopted after deciding to play gigs around Naples.

Party on: You get to be the “house band” if you're a main provider of musical entertainment on party nights at Venture X. “I must give props to Venture X,” Biasi says, and adds the shared workplace “has not only brought a sense of community, they also support our creative aspirations as a band.”

So far, The Jive has played the Venture X Halloween party, Valentine's Day party and the “Spring-Into-Spring” party. “We are super proud to have them as a member of our community,” says Amanda Custodio, Venture X community manager

SET LIST: The Jive has brought the funk to a lot of contemporary songs, in particular with Elton John's “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word,” Metallica's “Nothing Else Matters” and Michael Jackson's “Billie Jean.”

“Our next step is writing our own songs,” says Biasi, a New York native, father of twins and a musician who played piano at gigs in Manhattan and accordion at a French restaurant there. He never went full pro musician, he quips, because he had to eat.

Biasi is devoted to making MassiveU a go-to mobile education platform for educators, students and marketers. But he says now that The Jive is playing outside gigs here and there, “I'm reliving my glory days.”

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