Jazz and Italian Cinema – Enzo Pietropaoli


In the mid-1970s, musicians who wanted to be employed as shift workers by film productions turned to the Unione Musicisti di Roma, a sort of union or organization set up for this purpose. Several of them in that period were hired for a fixed fee for the creation of soundtracks of various kinds in the morning and afternoon shifts at the film studios. Among these the double bass player Enzo Pietropaoli. The musician was part of that large group of Roman jazz musicians who came to prominence in the Capitoline jazz scene for their technical-instrumental skills honed through multiple experiences in jazz clubs, in particular the Pepito Pignatelli's Music Inn, alongside foreign musicians, mainly from the United States. It must be kept in mind that the musicians coming from the jazz scene, in which there was a certain inhibited propensity for creative and expressive freedom inherent in solo and collective improvisation, derived from their experience in film studios a composure given by more rigorous recording times and a attention required of the instrumentalist by the conductor for the individual sounds or notes to be introduced in the overall musical framework of the score relating to the themes of the film. An experience subsequently translated into the jazz language by various musicians, to the point of thinking differently about their own approach to the composition and execution of a piece of music. At the beginning of his journey in film studios Enzo Pietropaoli takes part in the creation of music for films of the so-called genre b-movie, come The Shark Hunter (1979) played by the actor Franco Nero. The opportunities for greater artistic depth came in the 1980s: Once upon a time in America (1984) directed by Sergio Leone, with the soundtrack composed and conducted by Ennio Morricone and the instrumental contribution of two other jazz musicians from the Roman jazz scene, Pierino Munari and Enrico Pieranunzi, and three films by the actor and director Roberto Benigni, Little devil (1988), Johnny Toothpick (1991), The monster (1994). Arrived in Italy, the American composer Evan Lurie called to write the soundtrack for the films of the Tuscan director relies on Pietropaoli for the search for valid instrumentalists to bring to the recording studio.

In the nineties the double bass player played in the soundtracks of a series of films by the Roman director Francesca Archibugi: Towards evening (1990), The big watermelon (1993), With closed eyes (1994), The pear tree (1998) e Tomorrow (2001), in which he collaborates with the guitarist and composer Battista Lena, author of the musical themes of the film. The double bass player works again with Battista Lena, in this case on musical themes written by the guitarist himself for the films August holidays (1995) and Ovosodo (1997) diretti da Paolo Virzì e partecipa alla registrazione delle colonne sonore dei film People of Rome (2003), diretto da Ettore Scola, con la musica composta dal Maestro Armando Trovajoli, Go Go Tales (2008, diretto dal regista statunitense Abel Ferrara, con la musica composta dal chitarrista e compositore inglese Francis Kuipers, e Plan only (2007), diretto da Riccardo Milani, tratto dal libro di Walter Veltroni “Il disco del mondo – Vita breve di Luca Flores, musicista”. Nel 2010 è la volta della partecipazione alla realizzazione della colonna sonora scritta dalla pianista Rita Marcotulli, also curator of the arrangements, for the film Basilicata Coast to Coast, the first work of the actor Rocco Papaleo. The soundtrack was awarded the Silver Ribbon in the same year.

The long and fruitful experience as a session worker at the service of excellent composers and orchestra conductors pushes Enzo Pietropaoli to try his hand at writing music for films. The opportunity comes when he is approached at the end of a solo double bass concert at the Palladium in Rome by a young director who, pleasantly surprised by his performance, asks him to compose the music for his debut film, Apartment in Athens (2012), based on the homonymous novel by the American writer Glenway Westcott. For the creation of the soundtrack Pietropaoli works alone in his apartment in Rome: he plays, in addition to the double bass, guitar, percussion and electronic instruments, recording the various tracks digitally.

About the numerous experiences lived as a session man in film studios Enzo Pietropaoli says -“I have played in countless film soundtracks with prestigious directors and musicians: Sergio Leone, Paolo Sorrentino, Ettore Scola, Roberto Benigni, Paolo Virzì, Francesca Archibugi, Pupi Avati, Ennio Morricone, Armando Trovajoli, Riz Ortolani, Evan Lurie, Battista Lena and many others” – and continues – “Lhe lesson I learned in the field of the association between images and music helped me better interpret my role as a musician, as a composer and as an improviser. Using music to create images, even in the absence of images, has become one of the keys to expression that I prefer, as well as trying to describe emotions and arouse suggestions without being intrusive, all convictions gained through direct participation but also thanks to listening of film music, one of the arts that I love most, through which I continue to grow"

Paolo Marra

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