Of the musicians trying to create jazz with an Italian identity the two leading figures were Giorgio Gaslini in Milan and Mario Schiano in Rome. These two were the first to create big bands which broke away from the mould of the American tradition. In 1968 Gaslini formed a big band to perform his composition Il Fiume Furore (a piece with a strong element of improvisation). Then in 1973 both Gaslini and Schiano simultaneously worked on big band projects which led to the recordings Message and Sud. Several of the musicians were the same on both these projects.
The Rome-based music critic Luigi Onori has written "Gaslini's big band projects have been unique in Italy and perhaps in Europe for their use of a bold and extremely modern language. He was the first to build a new repertoire which, although it owed a lot creatively to the American model, was able to assert its independence". (1) (2)
The CD Sud (3) takes its title from Schiano's composition arranged by Tommaso Vittorini on the CD. It is significant that the Instabile has chosen to include this piece in its repertoire, albeit it in a longer version reworked and rearranged by one of the musicians who played on the original recording Eugenio Colombo (it was in fact his recording debut). The Instabile's interpretation confirms the originality and vitality of the piece as well as displaying Colombo's ability as an arranger. In this new version the individual sections are more refined and distinctive and the Instabile's larger instrumental palette offers a richer interpretation with more internal movement and more intense moments of improvisation, demonstrating that the Instabile is more at home with Mario Schiano's style of music than with Giorgio Gaslini's terse, brilliant writing.
As can be seen from its name, the Milan based Precarious Orchestra run by the trumpeter Guido Mazzon was much closer in style and intent to today's Instabile. The Precarious Orchestra played at the Moers Festival in 1978 and 14 years were to pass before another Italian group was invited to play in this important German Festival's main tent (4) . Mazzon's Orchestra included musicians from various parts of Europe (Marc Charig and Radu Malfatti) as well as some of his Italian musical partners of that period (Geremia, the poly-instrumentalist from Venice, Periotto, Rusconi and Marini). At the same time Gaetano Liguori was busy with his Collective Orchestra with which he made an LP in 1976. Unfortunately no recordings were ever issued of Mazzon's important adventure.
Other sporadic groups which must be mentioned include: the Quercia del Tasso (1977); the Democratic Orchestra Milano (a much misunderstood group); Tommaso Vittorini's Grande Elenco Musicisti; the outrageous NEEM from Florence which subsequently evolved into the better organised CAM. In recent years there has been a proliferation of local big bands. Some of these merit attention, though most follow the traditional formats of standard jazz and do not in any way reflect the more creative trends on the Italian jazz scene. Amongst those which are worth investigating are: the Tankio Band (noteworthy for the personal vision of its leader Riccardo Fassi); the Jazz Chromatic Ensemble (run by Cavallanti, Tononi and Tarocchi); and Mario Raja's Big Bang. For more detailed comments on these and other aspects of the development of large ensembles on the Italian jazz scene, the reader is referred to the article mentioned above in footnote (1).
It is Pino Minafra (a trumpeter from Apulia in the "heel" of Italy) who has done most to try to develop a dialogue with the latest developments on the European scene. His music shows a strong affinity with many of these, and his love of theatre and of the grotesque (aided and abetted by Carlo Actis Dato) shares much in common with similar aspects of the Dutch school. In 1984 he invited the explosive Dutch drummer Han Bennink and the Italian trombonist Michele Lomuto to take part in a performance of a piece by Misha Mengelberg given by a symphony orchestra in South Italy. That the Instabile shares his passion for such antics is demonstrated by pieces like Minafra's Fantozzi or by Actis Dato's contributions to Free as a Bird. Fantozzi is a more elaborate version of one of the first pieces written for the orchestra: Noci ... strani frutti. In these pieces Minafra further develops certain elements already present in Riffs (written in 1990): building up tension through the repetition of riffs and the use of brief thematic cells with a strong rhythmic component. Fantozzi is full of sudden shifts of mood and direction and in his conducting of the piece he provokes the orchestra by singing, jumping and dancing. The orchestra follows him with astounding precision and great agility through rhythmically thorny territory, firing off snappy riffs with gay abandon and ending up with an explosion of volcanic improvisation. This piece very often concludes concerts and so Minafra takes advantage of his theatricalities to present the members of the orchestra to the public. However, with a typically chaotic logic, the orchestra has chosen Martin Mayes, the only non-Italian musician in the group, as the main presenter of the orchestra's programme.
Last but not least in this brief review of the Italian scene, mention must be made of the Sicilian saxophonist Stefano Maltese. In 1987 in Rome he brought together a group of 10 musicians to perform and record his composition Hanging in the Sky. Note that several of these musicians were later to become members of the Instabile - Colombo, Actis Dato, Minafra and Tramontana (Tramontana being one of Maltese's longest standing collaborators).
The Instabile's attitude to jazz (in the American sense of this word) is one which contains an equal amount of respect and scorn: respect for the true masters and scorn for those who try to keep jazz locked up in a cage. La Leggenda del Lupu Azzurro and La Mesa Drive by Tononi and Cavallanti respectively are important examples of pieces that acknowledge (and exorcise themselves from) the fascination that American culture has exercised in Italy and for its role in helping Italian literature and music to become less provincial. Both Cavallanti and Tononi have worked in direct contact with the greatest musicians of American jazz and La Leggenda and La mesa Drive are large scale pieces which reflect the extensive experience they have had in their careers from duo through to large ensemble. These compositions offer the musicians solo spaces which are free of constraints, where the musician can truly "stretch himself out". Both are wonderful to listen to and indeed La Leggenda is one the most performed pieces in the whole of the Instabile's repertoire. The very title of Guido Mazzon's piece Fall in Jazz tells us how different is Mazzon's attitude. Fall in Jazz mixes elements of European music (the stately theme give to the trombones and the cello's suggestion of elements of Bach) with strongly distinctive blues elements (the growling trumpets and the syncopated rhythm of the second theme). A complex interplay of all these motives is built up, sounding almost like an internal debate on whether there is any such thing as European jazz.
From Geremia who lives almost in Austria in the north to Minafra whose home town is virtually a part of North Africa in the south, the Instabile brings together all the disparate hues and colours which make Italy the complex country it is. Bearing in mind the comments above on Minafra's Fantozzi, let's take a look at Geremia's Peter R e Ballata. This piece is built around the idea of sections of beautiful melodies enriched with counterpoint on the saxophones and trombones set off against sections of solo and duo free improvisations which owe much to the latest flowering of Italian instrumental music.
Giancarlo Schiaffini's two pieces La Czarda dell'Aborigeno and Tuba Libre take the listener to the tropics and to the antipodes. The European roots are playfully confessed through the improbable juxtaposition of fake Australian Aborigine drones with fishy Tibetan overtone singing with two lively old Hungarian-style dances in odd time signatures (one from the mediaeval Chorearum Collectanea and one from the last century). Full of abrupt time changes and difficult dynamics, the Czarda allows us to see just how flexible the Instabile can be rhythmically and timbrically, something which is not to be taken for granted given the size of the orchestra.
Detriti by Paolo Damiani (bass player and cellist from Rome) is programmed to be fragmentary; indeed it changes each time it is played: there are numbered parts whose sequence depends on signals from the conductor; a theme from Manfred Schoof's European Echoes (5) ; brief quotations from the world of Italian popular music as well from the fathers of Italian jazz such as Gaslini. All these appear within a tempest of collective improvisations and lively solos in which Geremia features extensively. This piece prophetically spotlights instrumental combinations which were later to become groups in their own right such as the string trio and the brass group. This is something which is almost without precedence in the whole history of jazz big bands. Damiani's latest composition Sequenze e Fughe is a dramatic piece which hinges on the conflict between words and music, a recurrent theme in his most recent work.
There are two pieces dedicated to Noci - the small town in Apulia whose festival spawned the Instabile. They are Minafra's Strani Frutti and Tommaso's I Virtuosi di Noci. Both pieces highlight the orchestra's internal dialect between those who are extrovert comedians, given to spicing up the music with pointed comments and theatrical wit, and those whose music explodes from within a position of guarded, almost secretive, intimacy; it is as if one of Kenny Wheeler's Large Projects were forced to live side by side with one of Bennink and Breuker's more unruly groups. Within the Instabile the upshot of this is a situation not of contradiction but of perfect integration: look at, for example, Minafra's use of Colombo's flute playing in moments of modal tonality or Tommaso's dry humour in the use of elegantly interwoven quotations.
Scarlattina is a recent addition to the orchestra's repertoire. The title is a pun on the Italian name for a common children's illness and an acknowledgement of Trovesi's debt to an old Italian master. In this piece Petrin's piano playing is prominent whilst Trovesi himself dialogues with the orchestra by conducting and improvising on his bass clarinet.
Another recent contribution is Colombo's Scongiuro. The opening section of this piece pays tribute to Naples and to its strong sense of the supernatural through a series of phrases commonly used for invoking protection from and warding off the evil eye. This use of these good luck rhymes first occurred on the cover of If Not Ecstatic We Refund (6) . Colombo has set the rhymes to music using improvisations within a framework of a pseudo dance followed by a romantic melody accompanied by a grumbling trombone. The rhymes themselves are recited by Schiano. Since they are so particular it seems a good idea to quote them in full. No translation is offered for those who can't understand the Neapolitan slang, but perhaps being able to see the words in print will help an appreciation of the wonderful sounds of this dialect.
Uocchie sicche/code e' vacche. Palle, meze palle, chiuove, cape e' cazze, e cape e' pazze.
Pappavalle, barbagianne, cuorve, taccule e curnacchie.
Mammete, patete, sorete, frarete, ziete, nonnete, zoccole e scartellate.
Uno, tre, cinche, sette, nove, unnece, tridece, quinnece, dicessette, dicennove, vintuno, vintitre, vinticinche, vintisette e vintinove.
Nocchie e chiereche, chiereche e nocchie, nocchie int'e' ppacche, pacche int'e' nocchie.
Sci, sci, ciucciuv!
1993 was a difficult year. There were few concerts but they were all highly successful from the Le Mans Festival in France to Controindicazioni in Rome. The next big leap forward came in 1994 with the decision of the German label ECM to produce a CD of the orchestra. This decision was also something of a novelty for ECM, given that the ECM house style tends to prefer the frozen landscapes of the north as evoked by Jan Gabarek or the dazzling virtuosic rhapsodies of Keith Jarrett. The English journalist Steve Lake took the project in hand and the recordings were carried out in Florence in May 1994 and the CD came out in 1995. This striking CD contains only two large scale compositions: Skies of Europe by Gaslini and Il Maestro Muratore by Tommaso with Gaslini's piece being chosen to be the album title. It was presented at a crowded Teatro Ponchiello in Cremona - one of Italy's beautiful 18th century horseshoe theatres where it was an immediate success with the critics; it was warmly spoken of abroad and in the Italian magazine Musica Jazz's annual referendum it was awarded the prize of best CD of the year. It is a real accomplishment in which the differences between the two compositions emerge clearly: Gaslini's is more eclectic and fiery with the orchestra often broken up into small chamber music style groupings; Tommaso's is more emotional with extensive full scale orchestral writing showing off the Instabile in all its glory. Being a studio production, the technical quality is decidedly better than that of the first CD, but it remains debatable whether the "ECM sound" is really the most suitable for conveying the Mediterranean richness of the Instabile.
All such moments of achievement contain a hidden element of risk: was the Instabile to follow in the footsteps of many other groups and soloists and become so dazzled by its own success that it would want to imitate and repeat its image as created by the recording? It was soon apparent that this was not to happen. In the middle of riding on the crest of this wave of success with invitations flowing in from all round Italy and Europe, the Instabile, being true to its own name, underwent some major internal changes.
1996 was this year of change: after a period of doubt Gaslini finally left the orchestra to dedicate himself to his personal projects and Umberto Petrin came in to replace him. Next came the arrival of the trumpeter Enrico Rava who somehow manage to find space in his crowded schedule to join the Instabile in its adventures. In the space of two concerts it was unanimously and mutually agreed that he should become a full time member of the orchestra. It is indeed a magic moment for Rava where it seems everything he touches turns to gold: his opera projects; his acoustic and electric groups; and his collaborations with leading jazz musicians from both sides of the Atlantic. On being asked why he had added the Instabile to this profusion of other commitments, Rava simply replied that he was quite fascinated by the Instabile. And this is not the first time in his career that he has been involved in similar projects, the most important of which have been the Jazz Composers' Orchestra, the Globe Unity Orchestra and the European Orchestra of Cecil Taylor.
It is worth singling out from all the other moments of the Instabile's career the fact that Musica Jazz's referendum has acclaimed the orchestra as best group of the year three times: in 1992, 1994 and 1995. It has acted as a springboard for young musicians such as the trumpeter Alberto Mandarini (who unfortunately can't be present at Pisa due to conflicting concerts with Paolo Conte's orchestra).
After seven years of intense activity recognition has still to come from most of the major Italian festivals which present main stream jazz. Yet the Instabile has clearly become a force to be reckoned with both at home and abroad and it has amply fulfilled the objectives set by its founders. Marcello Lorrai sums it up thus: "Minafra's idea was to bring together a pool of improvisers who had not only studied jazz's rich patrimony with love but who had also learned jazz's lesson of non-conformity, that is to say, musicians who are not concerned with orthodox rules but who are totally open-minded. He wanted an orchestra which would have its own voice but at the same time provide both a focus which would allow musician's individual voice to emerge and a means for stopping the dissipation of energies - a truly Italian hallmark". (7)
I also realised that from within its own ranks the Instabile offers a wide range of small scale groups and projects, some of which have existed since before the Instabile whilst others have grown out of the Instabile's activities. It was easy to imagine building a rich festival programme based entirely on the Instabile's internal resources. There is an amazing selection of small groups: the Instabile String Trio (8) ; the Brasserie Trio with Actis Dato, Mandarini and Tramontana; the Trumpet Buzz Duo with Mandarini and Mazzon (9) ; the brass quintet which consists of the trombone section plus Martin Mayes and Eugenio Colombo (they gave a quite exceptional performance at Moers); Udu Calls with Cavallanti and Tononi (10) ; and the Gruppo Romano Free Jazz whose founders are all members of the Instabile. Then there are all those who have developed solo performances, some of which have been documented on CD: Actis Dato (11); Tramontana (12); Colombo (13); and Mayes (14). And as if this weren't enough my imagination ran wild imagining all sorts of possible combinations which the musicians themselves haven't dreamed about or realised. In fact, Pisa will see world premieres of a sequence of duos based on long standing partnerships: Geremia with Mazzone; Trovesi with Damiani; Petrin with Mazzon; Schiaffini with Tramontana; rounded off by something quite unique, never heard before, a tantalising novelty - Rava and Minafra in duo.
The Instabile's "book of compositions" now boasts a grand total of 20 compositions, making it quite impossible to give anything remotely resembling a satisfactory cross-section of the orchestra's repertoire in just one concert. For the Instabile Festival at Pisa ample time has been set aside for the orchestra to brush up old pieces which haven't appeared in concerts for some time as well as to prepare the world premiere of Giancarlo Schiaffini's Litania Sibilante.
Given the group's continuing and growing success at home and abroad and given the lack of response from Italy's major jazz festivals mentioned above, it seemed only right follow the example set by the 1992 Moers Festival and to prepare a programme which would serve as compensation and give the Italian public the opportunity to fully savour everything the Instabile's Aladdin's cave of musical wonders has to offer.
Those who are already familiar with Pisa's involvement with jazz will note that the structure of the Festival is quite deliberately reminiscent of that of the 1976 - 82 Rassegna Internazionale del Jazz which allowed musicians the opportunity of presenting and documenting a variety of aspects of their work, including solo and duo concerts in the afternoon, open forums, and recordings for possible later release on LP or CD. Thus the Instabile Festival is a continuation of this tradition but modified to take account of today's climate. The aim is to make it become an annual event of international importance.
It has taken two years to set this extremely ambitious project up. None of it would have been possible without the collaboration of the Teatro di Pisa and my very warmest thanks must go to the theatre's president Ilario Luperini, to the theatre's Management Committee and to the whole administrative and technical team. They have all shown great sensitivity and cultural openness in making the theatre's services and technical resources available, and this has been of essential factor in the creation of a project which it is hoped will widen the limited outlook and break down the sectarian divisions which have characterised so much of the musical life of our country for so long. The contributions from the Regional Administration and from the Town Council of Pisa are of major cultural importance and have played a vital role financially; for this my thanks go in particular to the Officers responsible for Culture, Aurelio Pellegrini and Grazia Gimmelli.
Born in 196, this brilliant trumpet player represents the younger generation of Italian jazz. Of the groups he has worked with, the most notable is the Jazz Chromatic Ensemble which has recorded Skydreams . Several of his solo spots on this CD have been singled out by reviewers; see, for example, Milo Fine in Cadence: "Calabrese's extended lyrical-to-piercing solo on 13..".
Cavallanti, an inventive tenor sax player, was, together with Mazzon and Liguori, a founding member of the free jazz scene in Milan in the seventies, at which time he was also to be found working with Aktuala, an underrated group of what would today be termed World Music. It was with Tononi that he subsequently founded Nexus. This is one of Italy's most uncompromising and long standing groups. From the very beginning it was driven by a deeply felt, non-written, adherence to the free jazz aesthetic. Many different the musicians have played with this group over the years including Minafra, Trovesi and Lauro Rossi. Cavallanti has also collaborated with many of the American musicians who have inspired him, both with Nexus and in his own projects. These include Dewey Redman on Cavallanti's Times for Peace , and Herb Robertson on Free Spirits by Nexus. With Tononi and Angiolo Tarocchi he founded the Jazz Chromatic Ensemble in 1989, one of the most interesting Italian orchestras which already has two CDs to its credit: Skydreams, and Evening Standards and New Music. "Cavallanti is a direct and potent tenor player" wrote Stuart Broomer in his review of Times for Peace for Coda. "He doesn't sound overmatched with RedmanÉ It's powerful, incantatory music, in which the two strong tenors roll back and forth over one another's lines, almost indistinguishablyÉNexus uses its influences well. One of the joys of their sources was the level of interplay, and Nexus emphasises this. It would be refreshing if some young American musicians updated and upgraded their source material to this level."
Saxophone, flute player and composer, Colombo brings together in his music ancient Mediterranean culture, Afro-American influences and free improvisation, constantly displaying an extraordinarily flexible musical mind and an inimitable sense of humour. His has played in every kind of context from performances of pieces by Scelsi and Berio to several collaborations with Giovanna Marini. He was the creator of the sax quartet I Virtuosi di Cave; he composed Banda Sonora for soloists and brass band; he has improvised duets with his old friend and long-standing partner Luca Spagnoletti; he has worked with live electronics; and he is a member of the Fortuna quartet with Massimo Nardi, Tommaso and Fioravanti. He has just made his first foray into film music inviting Gianni Lenoci, Tommaso, Fioravanti to play for a TV movie soundtrack. One of Colombo's specialities is solo performance, which is a perfect showcase for his instrumental technique and the huge palette of sounds that he is able to extract from his instruments. Unfortunately little of his production is available on CD, an exception being Giuditta, a wonderful oratorio for three female operatic singers and a "jazz" trio of reeds, bass and drums. This is now available as a CD on the Ermitage label. Buy it immediately before it becomes a collectors' item! Marcello Piras wrote: "É this is surely one of the most original works to come out of the Italian musical scene of the 90'sÉ.The listener becomes entranced by this evocative composition, with its rare combination of ingredients: Colombo's majestic, melodic perorations on alto sax, soprano and flute interspersed with the periodic appearance of the three singers chanting melodic words in a dead language set to a sinuous theme exploiting unusual scalesÉ."
Damiani is one of the leading figures of the Rome school of improvisers. He first emerged on the scene through a long collaboration with Giorgio Gaslini which began just after he had concluded his studies at the Music Conservatory. He has worked as an improviser in "classical" music, and has been intensely active as a bass and cello player, as a composer and as a teacher. He also acts as the artistic director for several important festivals, chiefly Rumori Mediterranei at Roccella Ionica in Calabria in South Italy, one of the most interesting events of the Italian summer. One of the specialities of this festival is the presentation of widely differing projects created specially for the festival and many of these have been recorded and issued on LP and CD, for example: Live in Roccella Ionica with Norma Winstone, Tony Oxley, Paolo Fresu and Anninnia. The list of the musicians with whom he has worked includes many of the most important contemporary European musicians such as Steve Lacy, Wheeler, Billy Higgins and Charlie Mariano. As President of Association of Jazz Musicians, AMJ, he is consultant to the Department of Culture of the Italian government, and he is actively lobbying for official recognition of improvisation in the soon-to-be-approved new law about music and for the introduction of jazz and improvisation studies to the Music Conservatory courses. Despite their importance these organisational activities must not be allowed to overshadow his purely musical qualities which are very apparent in productions of his own like Eso, a record of "songs" about which Marcello Piras has written: "This is not a commercial record but a record that combines Damiani's classical training with aspects of popular songs It is a music which disdains metrics, accents and rhymes, showing a taste for the juxtaposition of colourful assorted images articulated by means of long melodic arches, modal harmonies, abrupt melodic jumps and changes of rhythm and an ample use of polyphony." Song Tong, is his latest CD where his melodic vein and his architectural sense of musical layers are clearly revealed by the wonderful playing of a truly dream band: Wheeler (trumpet), Trovesi (reeds), Maria Pia De Vito and Tiziana Simona (voices), Stefano Battaglia (on piano), Jean Marc Montera (guitar) and Fulvio Maras (percussion).
Born in Venice in 1930, he graduated in violin at the Santa Cecilia Music Conservatory, Rome, one of Italy's most important. He immediately chose to set out on an adventurous career that led him to play in night club orchestras and jazz bands, with Stephane Grappelli and Armando Trovajoli, as well as in recording studios and in concert halls. In 1951 Bruno Maderna heard his playing and invited him to record as a soloist on tenor and alto sax and violin for a movie soundtrack. He had retired from extensive concert activity and was living a quiet life just performing locally when Mazzon and Toni Rusconi insisted on him participating in the improvising group O.M.C.I. (Organico di Musica Creativa e Improvvisata). His talent as a poly-instrumentalist and improviser is extraordinary as will be apparent in his appearances during the Instabile Festival: as soloist and composer; as a violinist in the String Trio; and as a pianist and flautist in the duo with Vincenzo Mazzone. He has recorded with The Unrepentant Ones, the ICP Orchestra and Misha Mengelberg, and with O.M.C.I.. Among his records currently available are the outstanding Italian String Trio CD, From Grningen To Mulhouse, and Blue Memories, a trio with Mario Schiano and Jelle Landre (recorded live at the 1994 Ragusa Ibla Festival) where he plays all his instruments.
Born in Scotland but now resident in Turin, the Instabile's horn player started his career on the London experimental music scene of the seventies, where he was a founder member of the London Musicians' Collective as well as a performer with street theatre and visual arts groups. He was attracted at a very young age to the music based purely on sound rather than pitch of Stockhausen and Cage and the writings of Cage in books such as Silence exerted a strong influence on the development of his ideas in general. He studied classical and contemporary music and it was while at university that he came into contact with the Music Improvisation Company of Bailey and Parker. He has played and recorded with several important European orchestras lead by Radu Malfatti, Franz Koglmann, Georg Graewe, Cecil Taylor and Hannes Zerbe. In addition to improvisation and electronic music he is interested in mediaeval and early classical music with particular emphasis on the traditional repertoire for the "natural" (valveless) version of his difficult instrument, whose history and character he has studied in some depth. All these different facets of his artistic personality are excellently portrayed on his first solo record, Unique Horn 1997. Bach, handhorn, his self-invented "dopp-le horn", echoing spaces and the use of words all create an absorbing listening experience that will be incorporated live in his solo concert.
Born in Milan in 1946, Mazzon started in music by studying clarinet, later picking up trumpet to play in a brass band and to study at the Music School of the Town of Milan. In 1964 he began to play jazz in a student trad band and from 1967 he studied composition privately. From 1970 to 1974 his Gruppo Contemporaneo evolved through several different line-ups with unusual instrumental combinations with Mazzon himself doubling on piano. Other members of the Gruppo Contemporaneo have included Cavallanti, Marco Marini, Gaetano Liguori, Luigi Corsanico, Attilio Zanchi, Roberto Del Piano and Filippo Monico. From 1975 he played in a trio with Roberto Bellatalla (bass) and Toni Rusconi (drums), which sometimes extended to being a quartet with Edoardo Ricci or Renato Geremia. Other groups he has led include Capricorno with Pino Martini; the Precarious Orchestra; and a brass quartet. He has also had long standing collaborations with Centazzo and Schiano. Of his recordings not many are available in CD; of those that exist Trumpet Buzz Duo, with Alberto Mandarini (trumpet) is important and there are two recent CDs with the trio with Petrin and Tononi: Profumo della Libert in sextet with Geremia, Ellen Christi, Eleonora Nervi and Other Line by just the trio. The Mazzon/Petrin duo presented in the Festival stems from his ongoing work with the pianist in different contexts.
A self-taught musician, he started to play drums in the small local bands which play for weddings in his hometown of Ruvo, Apulia, South Italy where he was born in 1957. He later went to the Music Conservatory for more formal studies. After graduating he worked with the Bari Symphony Orchestra with which he has made several tours abroad and in Italy accompanying pop artists like Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach. He began to study the playing of the great jazz drummers after starting to play jazz with Pino Minafra while still at the Conservatory without, however, losing touch with classical and with contemporary music which he had discovered as a teenager through Stravinski's Rite of Spring. He appears on most of Minafra's records including the latest CD, Sudori.
The trumpet and fluegelhorn player and originator of the Instabile Orchestra was born in 1951 in Ruvo, where he still lives and teaches. He sang in the church choir before starting on the trumpet in his hometown's brass band. He then joined a classical music group, but very soon jazz trumpet began to prove to be an irresistible temptation. In 1980 he began his brilliant career as soloist, composer and leader of his own group. Soon after his first ensemble, Praxis, had gained national exposure at the Roccella Ionica Festival, he began promoting and organising with the aim of creating occasions for bringing this area of music more into the public eye, quite some undertaking as live concerts of contemporary jazz are even rarer in the South of Italy than in the rest of the country. The international premiere of his group came with the 1982 European Radio Festival in Belgrade after the Italian radio producer Pasquale Santoli managed to get Praxis to represent Italy instead of the more usual traditional jazz group. It was on this occasion that he first played opposite Kenny Wheeler, one of Minafra's early idols. The development of his career has run along similar lines to those of the other musicians of his generation. He has shown unprecedented artistic and organisational initiative, promoting concerts and festivals all over South Italy and bringing many younger musicians to the attention of the public, often with great success: Roberto Ottaviano, Gianni Gebbia, Stefano Maltese, Giorgio Occhipinti and Paolo Fresu to name but a few. This kind of extra-musical work is very demanding and he has often sacrificed time which other musicians would have dedicated to pursuing their own personal music projects. He has been the founder and artistic director of two of the most important festivals in recent years which in a very short space of time have become famous all over Europe: first the Europa Jazz Festival in Noci and then the Talos Jazz Festival in Ruvo. His discography is limited to a few but excellent records: happily Splasc(h) has reissued Colori, a quintet recording from 1986; there is an improvised trio with Reijseger e Bennink (NociÉstrani frutti) and a collaboration with the Sicilian musicians Giorgio Occhipinti, Branciamore and Guarrella on Concert for Ibla; the Canadian label Victo has issued the critically acclaimed Sudori, following the group's successful performance at the Festival of Victoriaville in Canada. Sudori is an ideal introduction to his present musical direction, and was nominated one of the best records of 1996 by the French magazine Jazzman. "All of the musicians played with a raw freshness, and Minafra is a master of both trumpet and fluegelhorn" wrote Michael Rosenstein reviewing his 1995 Canadian concert for Cadence. "His phrasing is a charge of slippery, careening runs and cutting blue notes extended at times by playing without a mouthpiece for squealing torrents or playing through a bull horn, eliciting images of a squalling electric guitar. His occasional wild scat vocals interjected the music with rhythms of skewed free-bop hip-hop". One of Minafra's most important new projects has just been released on the German Enja label as a double CD: a traditional brass band from Apulia plays traditional arrangements of popular operatic arias together with original compositions by Michel Godard, Willem Breuker and Bruno Tommaso, with Minafra, Lucilla Galeazzi and Godard himself as soloists. He has also recently been invited to play in Keith Tippett's Tapestry orchestra, and with Michel Godard's D'Ali e d'oro project.
This young pianist from Milan has tackled the daunting task of replacing Gaslini on piano in the Instabile with ease and through the refined intelligence of his musical personality he has made the transition feel like a perfectly natural process. His CDs have won Musica Jazz's referendums many times. He has recorded the solo CD Ooze, Wirrwarr with Tononi, Patumi and Schiaffini, and Breaths and Whispers, Homage to Alexander Scriabin, a duo with Lee Konitz. His latest album, Monk's World, is dedicated to Monk and provides the material for his solo concert at the Festival. Stefano Zenni has written: "Petrin's interpretation is outstanding, not conventional, fresh and full of ideas. He improvises using motives from Monk compositions, and playing two or three compositions in the same track, passing from one to the other, sounding like echoes each other. His compositions are reflections on Monk's sounds."
There isn't enough space here for even the briefest outline of Rava's rich and successful career which has led him to becoming one of the most internationally renowned Italian jazzmen. He was born in Trieste and began playing Dixieland trombone as a teenager. In the Sixties he moved to New York to take part in the free jazz scene where he played with Steve Lacy and Gato Barbieri. The groups he has led are too numerous to list, and we must limit ourselves to just a quick mention of his quartets or quintets with Mal Waldron, the alto player Massimo Urbani, John Abercrombie, Marcello Melis and Franco D'Andrea. With the latter he has recently recorded an homage to Beiderbecke and Armstrong entitled Bix and Pop. Among the band leaders that have invited Rava to play in their groups we find Bill Dixon, Nunzio Rotondo and Don Cherry. ECM has recently reissued some of his essential recordings of the 70's such as The Pilgrim and The Stars, The Plot, and E. R. Quartet with Roswell Rudd. Then there are the hugely successful opera projects (Rava L'Opera Va, Carmen) and mention must be made of the latest CDs released on Soul Note and on the French Label Bleu with his innovative quintet Electric Five comprising very young players: two electric guitars with Trovesi or Stefano Di Battista guesting on sax. Of the Instabile he has said: "There are defects: yet when it comes to the concert itself a special mechanism moves into play and something happens, the Instabile "bites". I saw this recently in Paris, in a hall full of people with the Instabile up there, looking like a kind of scarecrow army. But when they started to play they established a rapport with the audience which worked and that isn't such an easy thing. So the Instabile has a special charm which has captivated me."
A pupil of both Enrico Rava and Giancarlo Schiaffini, Rossi was born in La Spezia in 1961. He started by studying classical trombone but then since Rava was living not far from his hometown, he started to find out about jazz through him and became a student on his courses in Siena. He gained national exposure through Nexus at the end of the eighties and today he is a member of Pino Minafra's sextet and of the Jazz Chromatic Ensemble mentioned above. Apart from Rava, the influences which he acknowledges include Gato Barbieri, Roswell Rudd and the music of the Gnawa from Morocco. He has recently started an exciting quartet of his own with Cecchetto on electric guitar, Maier on bass and U. T. Ghandi on percussion. This promising group has already been invited to play in several festivals and clubs and this will hopefully encourage it to develop into a permanent formation.
Born in Rome where he still lives, Schiaffini graduated in Physics but then abandoned a promising career in scientific research to dedicate himself to music. Self-taught on the trombone, he is one of the few Italian musicians who has managed to affirm his personality with ease and authority on the European improvised music scene, playing with Evan Parker, Maarten Altena and Barry Guy. He has also operated in close contact with the academic avantgarde: he has taken part in the improvising group Nuova Consonanza; played solo compositions by Berio and Scelsi; and he is the soloist of choice in several pieces by Luigi Nono. The more experimental side of his solo production, with an eloquent but intelligently measured use of live electronics, can be heard on Edula. This is not to say that he denies his strong jazz roots which are evident in his impressive improvisations, in his teaching activities for the Siena Jazz Courses and on the CDs he has made featuring imaginative homages to the music of Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk: As A Bird and About Monk. The trio SIC (Schiaffini-Iannaccone-Colombo), which produced two memorable LPs in the seventies, is back on the scene with Passemmezzo, a CD recorded live at Controindicazioni 1994. And with a completely new and innovative group with strings (Beate Springorum on violin and Daniel Studer on bass) and voice (Silvia Schiavoni) and traditional percussion (Mohsen Kasirossafar) he has recorded Dubs.
Neapolitan by birth, this initiator, pivot and moving force of the free jazz scene in Rome began to experiment in the Fifties with the concept of improvising without using jazz chord changes; his unmistakable personality can be felt not only in his instrumental and vocal contributions but also in the use of his abilities as a promoter, organiser, and music director to establish new and stimulating musical situations. Together with Schiaffini and Tommaso he founded the Gruppo Romano Free Jazz, a group that is coming together again in a special set for the Instabile Festival. He has always remained attached to his roots in the "commercial" music of the night clubs of his formative years, and in honour of this he will be featured as a keyboard player and singer of Italian songs in the after hours Nightclub. He has recorded more than 50 titles (for complete information on his recordings see Francesco Martinelli's Discography recently published by Bandecchi e Vivaldi) but only those published or reissued by Splasc(h) are readily available: Ecstatic; Original Sins; Sud; Unlike; Meetings; and Used To Be Friends. The Canadian label Victo has issued Social Security, a live recording of Schiano's performance with Evan Parker, Sebi Tramontana, Guy and Lovens at Festival Musiques Actuelles 1996.
Born in 1946, this Rome bassist is now a key figure on the Italian scene. In his career he has ranged from mediaeval to contemporary music to jazz. He assumes many different roles: instrumentalist, composer, arranger, conductor and teacher. He was one of the founders of the important popular school of music in the Testaccio neighbourhood of Rome; he was the first president of the Italian Association of Jazz Musicians; his influence can be detected in most of the musical projects of interest of the last twenty years in Italy; and wherever in Europe he has been commissioned to compose or create special projects he has left his mark. He is an outstanding composer: La Scalata del Monte dei Cocci, Sinfonia Sconcertante, Dies Irae, 12 Variazioni su un tema di Jerome Kern and soundtracks for several silent movies by Buster Keaton. More recently he was responsible for the musical realisation of Enrico Rava's projects Rava L'Opera Va and Carmen. At times it might seem that his outstanding talent as an instrumentalist and improviser is somewhat overshadowed by the other aspects of his multifaceted musical personality. In the Instabile Festival he will be featured not only as a composer and conductor of the orchestra but also as a bass player in the Gruppo Romano Free Jazz and in the Italian String Trio. His available recordings do not do full justice to his musical output as a leader as several important LPs are no longer available. However, the following can be mentioned: Meditango; and Nux Erat, an orchestral project premiered at the Noci 1993 Festival). The following works have been issued on small labels to document specific projects: Il Diritto e il Rovescio, Right and Wrong, (where Tommaso used texts which include the writings of the judges Falcone and Borsellino who were killed in Sicily by Cosa Nostra for their battle against crime); Orchestra Utopia e Paolo Fresu Sextet (with Bruno Tommaso conducting); Nelle Sale delle Arcate; Vento (music for a ballet produced by Ravenna Teatro and the European Jazz Network).
Born 1956 in Milan, he founded Nexus with Daniele Cavallanti. He has studied jazz drums and percussion with great players such as Andrew Cyrille and classical percussion with David Searcy and Jonathan Scully of La Scala Theatre, Milan. He created the percussion trio Moon on the Water which plays both works from the contemporary classical music repertory and original improvisations and compositions. In more recent years his Society of Freely Syncopated Organic Pulses (with Cavallanti, Rossi, Geremia and Mazzon among others) has brought out two important CDs, homages to musicians whom he considers to be his most important influences: to Don Cherry on Awake Nu; and to Coltrane on Coltrane's Infinity Train (recorded live in Rome, May 25, 1997 at a memorial concert for the thirtieth anniversary of Coltrane's death, in a joint production by the national radio (RAI) and Musica Jazz).
In Cadence Andrew Bartlett wrote the following about Udu Calls, his sax-percussion duo with Daniele Cavallanti: "They present mixtures of percussion from West Africa and Euro-American kit drums with the European sax in a beguiling storm, partaking generously of the avantgarde Jazz world they both know well. This is highly percussive and free-wheeling music, full of torrential rumbles and splashing cymbals, set against soaring saxophonics that get compactly gritty and burst into rays of bumpy hoarseness through the thicknessÉ. neither Tononi or Cavallanti settles into any repetitive groove. They have a broad imagination, broad enough ..to investigate wide musical wakes in the collective history of the sonic artist. For the most part Tononi and Cavallanti blaze freely on the obviously "jazz" cuts and go for percussive multiplicity apart from this firestorm. In any case, this is a fantastic session".
Tramontana was born in Rosolini in Sicily, but he has been living for several years now in Germany. In Sicily he was a member of the first groups formed in the seventies by the composer and leader Stefano Maltese. When he moved to Rome he met in Mario Schiano and studied with Giancarlo Schiaffini, with whom he shares an interest in electronic alterations of the sound of the trombone. The Instabile Festival will be a rare chance to hear their duo, a project very dear to their hearts. The duo fascinates listeners because of the way the sound and the musical personalities complement each other and because of the creative use of the latest electronic technology. Sebi works with several important European improvisers such as Georg Graewe, Jelle Landre and Ekkehardt Jost and with several German theatre companies. An excellent and dramatic solo performance has been issued on CD: Il Giorno del Santo .
Born in Nembro (an very small town in one of the valleys above Bergamo) where he still lives, Trovesi worked for many years in the Milan Big Band of Italian TV (RAI). Whilst still at school he was already precociously active playing in the brass bands and dance orchestras of his home town where the folk music tradition is still very much alive and flourishing. His first major experiences in jazz were as a member of Giorgio Gaslini's group. In spite of an interest in the more radical experiments of free European improvisation he remains very much in love with jazz and with the popular music of his youth. He has played with European musicians such as Louis Sclavis, Michel Portal, Sylvain Kassap, the group Zhivaro, Connie Bauer, Albert Mangelsdorff and Keith Tippett. His unquenched musical curiosity led him to explore mediaeval music, folk music, circus music and sacred music in depth. From all of these he took elements which have contributed to his creation of an absolutely original and expressive sound world. Stuart Broomer wrote in Coda: "Trovesi possesses a wonderful lyricism, a singing clarity drenched in expressive folk sources, and it is most apparent in this simplest of settings [where] he forsakes his saxophone to concentrate on his clarinets, from bass to sopranino including his exceptionally beautiful alto." His discography includes Radici, a successful duo with his childhood friend Gianni Coscia on accordion, and the excellent recent CDs by his own octet: From G to G (which was awarded 5 stars in Down Beat) and Les Hommes Arms. Over the last few years both the octet and the duo have been invited to play at all the most important European festivals. The duo with Paolo Damiani which is featured in the Festival does not exist as a permanent group but the two have an important mutual history of collaboration on many projects including a co-led group called Roccellanea.
The Panel Discussion and the afternoon concerts will take place in the Theatre's smaller hall (Ridotto) and are free. After hours: Il Night di Mario Schiano at the Banco della Berlina, official restaurant of the Festival.