Tony Romano - Industry Award
BMHOF Class of 2016
Tony Romano was a natural.
Known as the sound man for Maynard Ferguson, Bobby Militello, a host of others, and later – and especially – Diana Krall. As Krall’s sound engineer and tour manager, he helped shape her sound as she reached Grammy Award-winning heights with “Live in Paris.”
And he did it all with no official training.
“Tony was self taught. He just had amazing ears,” said his brother, Mike Romano. “Bobby Militello has said ‘Tony had the best ears in the business.’
“He could take a cassette recorder with two microphones and set it up in a room,” said Mike Romano, “and his ears just adjusted it correctly.”
As proof, Mike Romano said, he has cassette tapes of Maynard Ferguson shows that his brother recorded while doing sound for the Canadian jazz legend.
It all started on the East Side of Buffalo, where Tony Romano attended Kensington High School (class of ’70) and played in bands with his brother and others. He was a good guitarist, said Mike Romano, but didn’t handle playing in front of a crowd well.
He started doing sound with a jazz group called New Wave around 1974, then started doing sound at Mulligan’s and the original Tralf, where he worked with the incredible list of visiting jazz artists who played the venerable joint.
“I don’t remember him ever taking classes,” said Mike Romano. “If he learned, it was on the job from other, better engineers, when he was with Maynard Ferguson and he was recording.”
His first major artist was Ferguson, where he became the trumpeter’s sound engineer in 1975. He stayed with Ferguson through 1979.
Romano went on to engineer Militello’s Motown album, “Rick James Presents … Bobby M … Blow.” He also engineered Alyn Syms’ “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down” record at Trackmaster in Buffalo.
Romano also worked at Audio Magic, where he engineered a couple of albums for jazz guitarist Rick Strauss.
He went on the road with Steps Ahead and worked with the Brecker Brothers as well.
Tony was back in town working a gig downtown when Diana Krall came into another venue. As the story goes, she needed somebody to do sound that night and the call went out to Romano. She ended up hiring him.
Within about a year, he was Krall’s tour manager as well.
“He was making arrangements, and taking care of all the phone calls that needed to be made,” said Mike Romano. “They really hit it off. It was like a family. He would chauffer the girls – they traveled separately from the men in the band.
“He would carry some chocolate for the girls, and if things started getting a little crazy, it was like, ‘here, have a little chocolate.”
But he also made Krall and her musicians sound fantastic. That part of Krall’s career hit its peak with “Live in Paris.” Romano is listed as tour manager in the DVD credits, but was intimately involved in the live sound engineering for the recording.
Romano was at the peak of his career. He was travelling the world, recognized as one of the best in his field, doing what he loved.
Shure, the microphone company, tried to recruit him as an engineer to help develop microphones for their corporation at one point, but he turned them down.
In 2003, Romano was nominated for best Front of House Engineer and best monitor engineer for Krall’s “Look of Love” tour in the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), the industry group for the technical side of the music industry. Although he didn’t win the awards (Peter Gabriel’s “Growing Up Tour” did), he was put on a level with the crews doing sound for Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones that year. And he was the only one doing both jobs.
Romano’s commitment to excellence never wavered, but his ability to meet his own high expectations was abruptly diminished by a stroke in 2002. He died due to complications from his health issues on June 15, 2008.