Italian Jazz – The protagonists (Part Two)

In the 1970s, the Italian public’s increased interest in jazz gave rise to an overlapping of generations of musicians active in this musical area, divided between those who had begun their careers, often amateurishly, in the postwar period and a new crop of young instrumentalists.

It must be emphasized how these jazz musicians differ from each other in technical quality and creative gesture, understood as a form of autonomous expression put forth in order to research and define their own language. Often, but not always, the two aspects will find full and final fulfillment in the same figure.

With these aspects in mind, in mentioning the main jazz musicians active in Italy between the 1970s and 1980s we will follow a chronological order.

Among the pianists are Franco D’Andrea, Amedeo Tommasi and Giorgio Gaslini. The latter we can consider a case in point; a theorist of total music, he worked over the years on the blending of multiple musical currents: European art music, serial and dodecaphonic, experimental, folk, free jazz, with the addition of aesthetic content and meaning directed toward political and social engagement. The relevance of the figure of Giorgio Gaslini in Italian jazz is connoted in the cultural transformation initiated since the mid-20th century by various European composers and instrumentalists, as well as welded to an indefatigable activity aimed at teaching in the Conservatories of Rome and Milan.

Around Giorgio Gaslini, beginning in the early 1970s, the new Italian jazz movement was formed, which gradually came to national and international prominence: saxophonist and conductor Tommaso Vittorini, Neapolitan saxophonist transplanted to Rome Mario Schiano, pianist Patrizia Scascitelli, and, again, saxophonists Maurizio Giammarco and Massimo Urbani, trombonist Danilo Terenzi, and double bassist Bruno Tommaso, to mention only a few.

Another prominent name is that of pianist and composer Enrico Pieranunzi. Approaching the hard bop style in the early part of his career, the Roman pianist in the years to follow would shift to a far more lyrical approach to composition and performance closely intertwined with classical music and the melos of the Mediterranean tradition, combining these elements with total interaction within the trio formation.

Like Giorgio Gaslini, Pieranunzi remains unique in the jazz scene of that period: a musician from the classical area who independently immersed himself in the jazz scene, assimilating its techniques and expressive language without, however, ever abandoning the approach to the instrument, in touch and writing methodology, proper to cultured music.

Continuing the chronology of jazz musicians active in the 1970s, it becomes necessary to survey the two main Italian cities in which the main groups of musicians were gathering: Rome and Milan.

In those years several venues with concerts dedicated to jazz were born in Rome, most notably the Music Inn founded by Pepito Pignatelli, a jazz enthusiast and mid-high level drummer. In Milan, following the closure of Jazz Power, Capolinea opened on the initiative of Giorgio Vanni.

Both jazz clubs, Musica Inn and Capolinea, are destinations for prestigious foreign jazz musicians who have arrived in Italy, but at the same time they are the meeting place and training ground for a large cadre of newcomers. In Rome, the aforementioned Enrico Pieranunzi, Maurizio Giammarco, Massimo Urbani, double bassists Roberto Della Grotta, Enzo Pietropaoli, Giovanni and Bruno Tommaso, and drummer Roberto Gatto.

In Milan saxophonists Larry Nocella, Sergio Rigon, pianists Sante Palumbo, Guido Manusardi, Luigi Bonafede, drummers Tullio De Piscopo, Giancarlo Pillot, and double bassists Lucio Terzano and Attilio Zanchi.

Note 1: Neapolitan drummer transplanted to Milan Tullio De Piscopo forms the Big Band at the Capolinea

Note 2: The Brass Club association, directed by pianist Ignazio Garsia, and the Brass Group Sette in which Cicci Santucci and Sicilian tenor saxophonist Sal Genovese were active, was founded in Palermo

Paolo Marra