Arthur Lisi is a first generation Italian, as both parents were from Arezzo, Italy. Born in Wisconsin, The family moved to Washington DC when Art was in second grade, as his mother obtained a job at the Pentagon. The youngest of five children, he and his brother David would listen to the Beatles and other popular music at night with their transistor radio. It was David embracing music on the violin, and later wind instruments, that first inspired young Arthur to ask his mother for piano lessons. He was a paperboy, and played piano for the chorus department as a student in Edison High School.
A Graduate of Catholic University with post grad studies at American University in Music Education, Arthur toured the world as Van McCoy’s (“The Hustle”) musical director at the dawn of the disco age in the early 70’s, Highlights of his time with Van McCoy was playing president Carter‘s inaugural ball, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, and experiencing the sights of Japan, The Italian Riviera, and Mexico.
Arthur assisted Van McCoy in the studio, working with studio musicians in New York City such as Gordon Edwards and Richard Tee to record disco artists such as Peaches & Herb, David Ruffin and Natalie Cole.
Lean [but fascinating] years
Upon Van’s sudden and untimely death in 1979, Arthur took the band that was originally put together to tour with Van, and played local gigs around town at popular disco dance halls in the District of Columbia area, such as the now-iconic past venues, the Harambee House, and The Clubhouse.
During this time he’d arrange, copyright and record music for many colorful local amateur performers, among them, a notable Alexandria local singer songwriter, dancer and beloved comedian, Sam Lipton. Arthur once arranged an entire musical religious service for a “Gypsy Blessing”, after which his horse won two races! ~ Anything he could do to pay the bills for his growing family. Cleaning stalls at the nearby racetrack wasn’t above him. Arthur’s post-Van McCoy tour band played for a former [self claimed] Drifters singer, Sammy Warren, on a 45 recording, “Dreamin’” below is the flip side, the only online source. Sammy-Little Joun – Dreaming Of You / Hay Lover
After several years of this freelance work and gigging, By virtue of his Yellow Pages ad, Arthur was contacted and engaged by Stu Gardner to do some projects. They became fast friends, and subsequently were asked by Cosby to co-direct multiple BMI award winning top Television shows, including Little Bill, The Cosby Show, and A Different World. In that capacity, Arthur worked with the top studio musicians in New York once again as he had with Van… this time with such luminaries as Aretha Franklin, Phoebe Snow and Bobby McFerrin, as well as of course, Cosby himself.
A House Full Of Love
Stu Gardner and Arthur also worked with Cosby and the musicians involved in the show for sax legend Grover Washington Jr’s Columbia records 1986 album release, A House Full Of Love. Arthur’s roles were Co writing, arrangements, and orchestrations on the album.
Through this album, Grover and Stu were able to feature the hard working studio musician’s’ abilities who played on Cosby’s television shows.
- Grover Washington, Jr. – alto saxophone, tenor saxophone
- Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone
- Randy Brecker – trumpet
- Jon Faddis – trumpet, trumpet solo (5)
- Allen Reuben – trumpet
- Richard Tee – grand piano (1, 9), Fender Rhodes
- Paul Griffin – synthesizers (1, 2, 4-10), grand piano (4), orchestra contractor
- Stu Gardner – arrangements, grand piano (2, 8), Hammond B3 organ(3), backing vocals (3)
- Philip Woo – synthesizers (3)
- Jeff Mironov – guitars, guitar solo (2)
- Melvin “Wah Wah” Watson – guitars
- Sid McGinnis – slide guitar (3)
- Cameron Brown – double bass
- Gary King – electric bass
- Tom Barney – electric bass (3), acoustic bass (8)
- Marcus Miller – bass (10)
- Scott Schreer – drums, percussion
- Steve Gadd – additional drums (5)
- Gloria Agostini – harp (8)
- Arthur Lisi – arrangements, orchestrations
- Obie Hemsey – orchestra contractor
- Bill Cosby – lead vocals (3, 9)
- Patti Austin – backing vocals (3)
- Michael Bolton – backing vocals (3)
- Jocelyn Brown – backing vocals (3)
- Lori Fulton – backing vocals (3), lead vocals (10)
- Lani Groves – backing vocals (3)
- James Ingram – backing vocals (3)
- Ullanda McCullough – backing vocals (3)
- The Fabulous Waller Family – backing vocals (10)
2013: Four Little Golden Girls, Melba Moore
In 2013, Stu and Art worked on the music for a production starring Melba Moore, “Four Little Golden Girls”, that looked back at the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama. Article “Melba Moore adds her Tony-winning talent to Miles College’s ‘Four Little Golden Girls”
Arthur Lisi 2021 radio interview:
Arthur “tells all” about how he got involved in music in this recent interview with DJ Wayne Kahn of WOWD Takoma Park Radio. Aired live on his DC Roots Of Music show on May 26th, 4-6pm. Now up on Mixcloud. Listen to it here on the web, or in the app!