Jazz on the Radio: A Certain Music Speech

For its innovative and high-quality content, “A Certain Music Speech” was a unique radio program dedicated to jazz.

In the aftermath of the 1975 RAI reform, public service broadcasting, through a special commission, shifted from government control to parliamentary control, resulting in the birth of the third network.

The competitive regime within RAI due to the division of the three networks among the main political parties, Christian Democracy, Socialist Party and Communist Party, allowed for freer programming to begin, where bold, alternative, at times experimental languages, styles and modes of expression found space.

In this renewed public service arrangement, the music and current affairs radio programUn certo discorso” was born in 1976 on Radiotre, with author and presenter Pasquale Santoli in charge.

From his idea, in April 1979, within the format-the title was changed to “A Certain Music Speech“-a series of concerts by the RAI orchestra flanked by big names in international jazz were broadcast, recorded in various Italian locations, including the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome.

The program’s musical proposal is distinguished by a novel use of the orchestral ensemble in which two seemingly distant worlds are combined: the formal approach of the orchestra and the free improvisation of American and European ensembles.

The technical talents of the orchestral players, like those of the jazz players, effectively nullify the expressive gap between the two ensembles, which were put in a position to find an overall cohesion in their approach to the performance of the pieces on the set list. As told by Filippo Bianchi, author of the program together with Gino Castaldo“It could have happened to witness the comparison on the scores of jazz sacred monsters of the caliber of Ron Carter and Eddie Gomez by two double bass players such as Maurizio Majorana of the Rai Big Band and Jean-Francois Jenny Clark of George Russell’s lineup.”

Among the productions broadcast between 1979 and 1980 within the program were those related to concerts by Archie Shepp‘s quintet, entitled “Black Love Call,” by Gil Evans with a lineup that included Lee Konitz, by Albert Mangelsdorff’s quintet with Manfred Schoof and Billy Higgins, with a repertoire devoted to Duke Ellington, by Misha Melberger and Enrico Rava, and by George Russell‘s lineup, with a work entitled “New Jazz Concepts.”

In addition, jazz musicians called to perform with the Rai Big Band are also involved, even in the unusual capacity of actors, in episodes dedicated by the authors to “radio drama,” in which recited texts are alternated with musical inserts.

In one of them, pianist Misha Melberger plays the part of a fisherman engaged in hooking a German saxophonist in the Pincio fountain in Rome, in a succession of surreal and amusing tales in which each musician becomes a participant in the staging of a real experimental theatrical performance.

The radio program “Un certo discorso musica” will air on Radiotre until 1988 with live concerts from Rai studios, Rome’s Folkstudio, with resident groups and soloists for a week, with the addition of a music review around Italy in search of musicians unknown to the general public.

Note: In June 1979, the program “A Certain Discourse Music” was broadcast live from the Janiculum Hill in Rome, as part of the Tasso Oak Festival. On that occasion the Rai Modern Rhythms Orchestra is accompanied by a variety of instrumentalists belonging mostly to the European avant-garde scene: Steve Lacy, Enrico Rava, John Tchicai, Alex Von Schlippenbach, Giancarlo Schiaffini, Roberto Gatto, Bruce Ditmas, Bruno Canino, Giovanni Tommaso

Paolo Marra