Jazz and Italian Cinema – Ennio Morricone


On the occasion of the recording of the soundtrack of the film at the Studi Forum in Rome in 1983 Once upon a time in America, director Sergio Leone, are called by Maestro Ennio Morricone, to join the other members of the orchestra directed by him, three musicians from the Italian jazz scene: the drummer Pierino Munari, the pianist Enrico Pieranunzi and the double bass player Enzo Pietropaoli. The reason for the involvement of jazz musicians known and appreciated for their technical-instrumental value in the creation of one of the best and award-winning soundtracks in the history of cinema is linked to the historical period in which part of the film's plot takes place, between the 1920s and Thirties of the 20th century. The music must recall the atmospheres and timbres of the main music of those years, jazz, both in the original themes (including Amapola and Poverty) than in the choice of standards such as God Bless America by Irving Berlin, Summertime by George Gershwin e Night and Day by Cole Porter. Pierino Munari and Enrico Pieranunzi had previous experience as session workers in the creation of soundtracks at film studios. The drummer in the films the good, the bad and the ugly (1966), by Sergio Leone, The Battle of Algiers (1966), by director Gillo Pontecorvo, Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), by Sergio Leone, The professor. dr. Guido Tersilli head physician of the Villa Celeste clinic which has an agreement with mutual societies (1968), directed by Luciano Salce and interpreted by the Roman actor Alberto Sordi (the long drum solo that opens the famous theme, composed by Piero Piccioni, the March of Aesculapius is famousat the age of ten. The initial interest in blues soon turns into a strong passion for jazz, a musical genre that he deepens at the Saint Louis College of Music in Rome, first following the traditional diploma course and then the three-year jazz period. Men against (1970), by director Francesco Rosi, and several others. For his part, Enrico Pieranunzi had collaborated with Ennio Morricone on the films A genius, two cronies and a chicken (1975), by director Damiano Damiani, e The blue-eyed bandit (1980), directed by Sergio Leone. For this last film Morricone chooses a cut with a strong jazz imprint, departing from the canons of classical and symphonic music and the avant-garde of the Second Vienna School traceable in his vast musical production. For this purpose, the Maestro makes use of the trio of the Roman pianist, formed by the double bass player Riccardo Del Fra and the drummer Roberto Gatto.

Although of excellent compositional and executive quality, The blue-eyed bandit and Once upon a time in America, they are an exception in the long career of Ennio Morricone, jazz being a musical genre that he has little preference for the aesthetic-formal process traceable in his methodology of expressive research on applied music, with attention to the smallest details. On the other hand, the experience that will see him, from 1966, join, as a trumpet player, the New Consonance Improvisation Group, founded by the pianist Franco Evangelisti. The training will be the first in Italy to perform free improvisation, deduced from the studies on aleatory music, deepened both by Morricone and by Evangelisti during their previous stay in Darmstadt, for the summer courses of New music. Saint Louis New Consonance Improvisation Group in the early seventies he performed at the experimental theater Beat '72 in Rome, together with other coeval experimental and free jazz groups such as New Sound Forms of the trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini and the group of the multi-instrumentalist Alvin Curran.

Paolo Marra

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