Mario Biondi is not the typical Italian performing artist who goes to London and stocks up on his fellow countrymen residing here. His success is truly of an international caliber (''though I like to always note that I owe everything to Italy,'' he makes it a point to underscore). It is not simply by chance that he played to a full house at Ronnie Scott's. ''It is truly exciting to be here. Especially since I am surrounded by these photos of such stars as Betty Carter and Carmen McRae, who I have a live recording of done here at Ronnie Scott's. Around me I see the encyclopedia of my musical tastes,'' he said. For the London shows Mario proposes different line-ups every time. ''I choose a range, from my first album to a number of different cover songs.
I change because I am a suffering soul. If I have two sets I can't always play the same song. In any case, there is no lack of pieces to choose from.'' He does not feel confined by labels, either. ''I am supported by extraordinary jazz musicians, but I do not play jazz. I make music,'' he said. And in his 'suitcase' there is also the Sicilian tradition. ''I feel strongly about my Sicilians and Catania roots, and especially when I live far away I am affected by the local social reality, like after the Messina earthquake. Sicilian music has had a huge influence on me through my family. I love my land, with all of its pros and cons: it is a place which gives rise to extremes.'' Just off the success of his album 'Due' (a play on the English word and the Italian one, which means ''two''), the Italian crooner went back onto the legendary stage accompanied by his entire band (or almost, as the percussionist Luca Florian was stuck in Bologna due to bad weather conditions): Daniele Scannapieco on the sax, Beppe di Benedetto with his trombone, Claudio Filippini on the piano, Tommaso Scannapieco on the contrabass and Lorenzo Tucci on the drums. After his series of London concerts - on February 3-4 he will be performing in two shows a day - Biondi will be on the Italian stage from February 7.(ANSAmed).