Piero Umiliani

Pianist, composer and conductor Piero Umiliani (1926 – 2001) during World War II began to take his first steps in the jazz scene in his hometown of Florence

The young pianist approaches jazz, banned by the fascist regime and later disseminated through V-discs by American troops stationed in Europe, through listening to songs by Duke Ellington and other musicians from the Swing was from the 1930s and 1940s, broadcast by Swiss Radio during the conflict

Moving to Milan, Piero Umiliani has the opportunity to put himself on the map as a brilliant and elegant pianist within the local jazz scene. He records several records with the Basso-Valdambrini Quintet, Gil Cuppini, Roberto Nicolosi, Attilo Donadio and others. Returning to Florence, he undertook studies at the Cherubini Conservatory, where he graduated in counterpoint and fugue

In 1957 he recorded some compositions for the RCA label with an octet formed by the best musicians of the Milanese jazz scene. Shortly thereafter he was called to Rome by Armando Trovajoli to serve as arranger of musical scores

In the capital city begins for the Florentine pianist, with the Taviani brothers’ documentary Pittori in Città, his long production of music for film, with more than 150 soundtracks composed and scored over a decade-long career. The first is the one composed for the film I soliti ignoti (1958), directed by director Mario Monicelli

In the late 1960s he composed the musical theme “Mah nah mah nah”, for the film Sweden, Hell, Heaven (1968), directed by Luigi Scattini. Thanks to a remake by French singer Gabriel Salvador and use in famous TV shows, such as the U.S. variety show Muppet Show, the song becomes a worldwide hit

In March of the same year he recorded the song Sequenze ritmiche included in the album 40 anni di jazz in Italia, edited by Adriano Mazzoletti

In 1969 Piero Umiliani, together with his wife, opened the Sound Work Shop in Rome’s Trionfale district. In the recording studio he makes soundtracks and records of “sonorization” straddling jazz, psychedelia, pop and electronics, making use of prestigious musicians from the Italian jazz scene

In 1974 he recorded a disc for the “Jazz a Confronto” record series licensed by the Horo label, featuring original arrangements of Duke Ellington compositions performed by the RAI orchestra

After suffering a stroke, the Florentine composer returned to musical activity, recording the Umiliani Jazz Family album in 1991 with his singer daughter, Alessandra, trumpeter Paolo Fresu, double bassist Giovanni Tommaso and drummer Giampaolo Ascolese

Essential discography: I soliti ignoti (1958 – RCA Italiana), 40 years of Jazz in Italy (1963 – Ricordi), Jazz dall’Italia No. 1 & 2: Piccola Jam (1967 – Omicron), Jazz a Confronto 35 (1977 – Horo Records), Umiliani Jazz family (1991 – Liuto Edizioni Musicali), Studio Umiliani (2017 – Four Flies Records)

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