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Tony Bari (1950-2024): Popular pianist and entertainer

Tony Bari (Photograph supplied)

Tony Bari, a celebrated pianist and entertainer who wowed crowds across the island, has been mourned by the Bermuda Government.

Mr Bari, 74, played in just about every hotel, restaurant and bar on the island over the past 40 years and served as a radio host on 1450 AM Gold.

Owen Darrell, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, expressed condolences to Mr Bari’s friends and family on behalf of the ministry.

“Mr Bari’s captivating jazz, big band, and rhythm and blues performances of musical selections from across the eras had a far-reaching impact on Bermuda’s cultural and tourism spaces,” he said.

“As a professional pianist and soloist for The Tony Bari Trio, Mr Bari was a musical mainstay at the Fourways Inn restaurant, entertaining our locals and tourists.

“Mr Bari humbly served as an organist at St Anthony’s Church and performed at the Bermuda Festival for Performing Arts. His diverse talent carried over the airwaves to the morning radio host position on the former 1450 AM Gold station.”

Mr Darrell added: “His love for people and entertainment knew no bounds, and many are certain to remember his dynamism as master of ceremonies and musical director.

“As an example of his passion for Bermuda and sharing his gifts, Mr Bari continued performing until his recent death.”

Mr Darrell noted that Mr Bari was recognised for his contributions to the Bermuda music scene last year at the Tribute to Duke Ellington event and received the Belco Visitor’s Industry Partnership “VIP” Entertainer of the Year Award in 2010.

Bermuda Entertainment Union: Tribute to Tony Bari

The BEU said it was “deeply saddened” at the loss of a longtime member.

The union highlighted Mr Bari’s “numerous accolades and awards during his illustrious career”, including the 2010 Belco award.

“He connected musically over many years with a number of local musicians. He was one of the few musical talents on the island who knew just about any standard or popular song ever written, and was able to play it in any key called.

“He was recently honoured at Danji Productions’ 2024 International Jazz Day Dinner and Show at the Hamilton Princess resort.

“It was such a delight to see Brother Tony receive this recognition on what would have been Duke Ellington’s 125th birthday. Tony’s playing style was so reminiscent of the Duke’s.

“Brother Tony was a mainstay in Bermuda’s entertainment community, playing at numerous hotels and other venues throughout his career. He also performed at one of Charles Bascome’s Jazz Concerts at City Hall, on the main stage of the Bermuda Music Festival at Dockyard and the Bermuda Festival For Performing Arts.

“On behalf of our entire membership and trustees, we will miss him dearly.”

Mr Bari told The Royal Gazette last year how he grew up in Saugus, Massachusetts, in an Italian family passionate about music.

“My mother, Anna, was a piano teacher, and also the CCD [catechism] teacher with the Catholic Church,” he said. “My father, Anthony, was a chemical engineer, but also a big band leader, playing in every mafia club in Boston. So where did I go every night, starting at age 12? I went with my father to hear the bands.”

He started taking music lessons with teachers at the Berklee College of Music in Boston while he was still in middle school and by the time he graduated from high school he had four years of lessons with them under his belt.

Mr Bari was drafted to serve in Vietnam and underwent training but America withdrew from the war before he was sent overseas.

However, his passion for music continued through his time in the armed services. He played piano for his battalion at a talent show.

Mr Bari first visited Bermuda while working as cruise director on the Holland America Line in 1978.

“Back then, the guys in the band went to three places in Bermuda, the tennis stadium, Little Venice and The Spot Restaurant,” he said.

One of his first gigs on the island was playing the piano at The Carvery on Reid Street in Hamilton, above the Red Carpet.

For many years, he has helped music promoter and musician Wendell “Shine” Hayward organise International Jazz Day in Bermuda.

He said last April that he had absolutely no thoughts of retirement. “I will be dead on the piano,” he added.

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Published June 14, 2024 at 8:01 am (Updated June 14, 2024 at 8:01 am)

Tony Bari (1950-2024): Popular pianist and entertainer

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