Jazz Band - Common sense of the collective


The jazz band they represent an organic complex within which the specific functions of the soloists are correlated and overlapped, finding a common sense. If we want to make a parallel, we can take a flock of birds as a model in which the single element assumes a precise position based on the direction taken by the other in the group in order to create a cohesive and organized whole. The listening and the response of each member of the band towards the other, and consequently the collective, gives rise to sound "shapes" that to the listener's ear seem to undulate downwards and upwards, stimulating alternating emotions and often unpredictable. It is the teamwork that allows the music to hover above the cold schematizations, a sublimation of Art in a physical and spiritual sense. Regardless of the greater or lesser harmonic freedom, from referring to the scale or chords, to melodic research and temporal scanning, the central and incontrovertible core of group integration is represented by the dialogic function of improvisation, in which individual qualities become interdependent and functional to a common idea. One cannot escape the fact that when this overall vision is lacking, often carried out by sacrificing part of one's artistic "self" with conviction, the project at the basis of a jazz band shipwrecked in a completely physiological and sometimes sudden way in favor of new ideas and new collectives that can make them grow and come true. We can trace the genesis and evolution of the social structures put in place by man throughout history in the essential elements of this artistic process, but this is not surprising in light of jazz's ability to reflect the political, philosophical and psychological aspects of human existence .

Going back to the strictly musical aspects, it is noteworthy that the former jazz band of the Thirties were complexes of a smaller structure made up of components of large orchestral formations; an emblematic case is that of the Big Bands of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. In a similar way, in the 1950s it was born on the initiative of two members of the RAI Light Orchestra, the trumpeter Oscar Valdambrini and saxophonist Gianni Basso, one of the most important quintets in the history of Italian jazz, the Basso-Valdambrini Quintet (during the fascist period Valdambrini together with the trumpeter Nino Culasso, the saxophonist Glauco Masetti and others, had been part of the Orchestra of the EIAR - Italian body for radio auditions - directed by Carlo Zeme). The quintet will later become a sextet with the entry of a young trombonist, Dino Piana, fresh winner of the radio competition organized by RAI, "La Coppa del Jazz" (the guitarist Renato Sellani, the double bass player Giorgio Azzolini and the drummer Gianni Cazzola were also part of the lineup). Another formation made up of elements of the RAI Orchestra, active in the early Sixties, is Sandro Brugnolini's Modern Jazz Gang, which includes trumpeter Cicci Santucci and saxophonist Enzo Scoppa, who will give life in the following years to a successful quintet.

Starting with Charlie Parker's legendary “be-bop” quintet, Lennie Tristano's sextet and Miles Davis's “cool” period Tuba Band nonet, passing through the various formations of hard-bop up to the free, the dialogue within jazz band it is becoming more and more dense and interacting. This occurs hand in hand with the increase in tension between the parties within the group in favor of the continuous stimulus to increase, not only the individual technical rate, but especially the creative, emotional and spiritual cohesion between them, up to to a level never reached before. Two examples out of all give us the measure of what has been described: the second Miles Davis Quintet with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter and the John Coltrane quartet with McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison. Since the mid-1960s, the ascending parable in the search for a common language derived from the sum of individual approaches to composition and execution within the collective has also affected the numerous formations within Italian jazz. Naturally it is impossible to list them all, so we will only mention a few that have somehow contributed to speeding up the process just described. The trio of double bass player Giorgio Azzolini, with pianist Franco D'Andrea and drummer Franco Tonani, with the album What’s Happening? (1966) begins to experiment with elements borrowed from atonal music and free jazz on a background still linked to the blues tradition. This direction will reach its culmination of expressive freedom and shared experimentation in the Modern Art Trio project, shared by two musicians with double bass player Bruno Tommaso. The common idea of ​​the three musicians to elaborate a mix between free and the twelve-tone theory of Second Vienna School by Arnold Schönberg and the integral serialization of his pupil Anton Webern, developed with hours and hours of daily rehearsals, gives rise to a high degree of mutual harmony and interaction that brings together mathematical formulas, logic and improvisation. In the context of the avant-garde jazz of the seventies, the Roman Free Jazz Group of the saxophonist Mario Schiano and the trio of saxophonist and clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi with double bass player Paolo Damiani and drummer Gianni Cazzola.

To arouse in the second half of the seventies, a renewed interest in Italy in regards to be-bop (this stylistic current will be indicated internationally with the term "neobop") will contribute the quartet of pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, formed by Bruno Tommaso, drummer Roberto Gatto and saxophonist Maurizio Giammarco. In this case the direct complicity in balancing the acclaimed technical skills of the four, as well as the compositional skills of the leader, can be traced back to the shared melodic sense of the musicians involved, supported by the overlapping of fiery hard-bop improvisations, interspersed with more reflective moments and lyrical. It will all flow into the album From Always to Now (1978).

The jazz-rock band Il Perigeo also finds a place in this short list, in which the cohesion between the five components – Franco D'Andrea, the double bass player Giovanni Tommaso, the saxophonist Claudio Fasoli, the guitarist Tony Sidney and the drummer Bruno Biriaco – finds its raison d'être in the search for a sound language resulting from the electro-acoustic amalgam of timbral and rhythmic aspects, and the quintet fusion Lingomania, with particular reference to the latest formation in activity, composed by Maurizio Giammarco, the pianist Danilo Rea, Roberto Gatto, the double bass player Enzo Pietropaoli and the guitarist Umberto Fiorentino.

A further change of pace in the eighties takes the form of the Space Jazz Trio of Enrico Pieranunzi, Enzo Pietropaoli and Fabrizio Sferra (replaced in some recording and concert episodes by the Swiss drummer Alfred Kramer). The philosophy of this small band revolves around the concept of equal roles between pianist, double bass player and drummer – in the wake of the conceptual heritage at the base of the trio of Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett – in order to combine the language of each in the exploration of a microcosm where the creative finds an ideal synthesis reason. A similar musical dialogue based on the prior reading in real time of what the other member of the group will perform - a sort of ineffable communication between the parts - can be found at the end of the nineties in the Doctor3 trio, composed of Danilo Rea, Enzo Pietropaoli and Fabrizio Sferra. Finally we would like to mention the quartet formed by two unforgettable musicians, who sadly died prematurely, the saxophonist Massimo Urbani and the pianist Luca Flores; together with the double bass player Furio Di Castri and Roberto Gatto the two record the album Easy To Love (1993) in which the four jazz musicians carry out a work of subtraction on their strong technical, creative and expressive personalities in favor of an intense and poetic choral work.

Paolo Marra

In the photo (by Roberto Masotti), from left, Maurizio Giammarco, Roberto Gatto, Enrico Pieranunzi and Bruno Tommaso


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