Italian Jazz – The protagonists. First part


Between the mid-1940s and the 1960s, while some musicians followed the African-American movement of bebop and hard bop, Italy witnessed the return of traditional jazz, born and rooted in New Orleans in the first part of the 20th century. There are many groups dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of this genre in various parts of Italy. We will not name them all, we will limit ourselves to the main ones: the Original Lambro Jazz Band, the Milan College Jazz Society, the Riverside Jazz Band, which included the guitarist Lino Patruno, the Bovisa New Orleans Jazz Band, in the Lombard capital, the Junior Dixieland Gang, the Roman New Orleans Jazz Band and the second Roman, led by the double bass player Carlo Loffredo, the various formations of the trombonist Marcello Rosa, in Rome. We can also mention the Doctor Chick Dixieland Orchestra of Bologna, led by the clarinettist and future director Pupi Avati. This, once merged with the Panigal Jazz Band, took the name of Rheno Dixieland Band, among whose ranks there was the clarinetist Lucio Dalla, who later became one of the most significant exponents of Italian pop music. And again, the Riverside Syncopators Jazz Band, directed by the traditional trombonist Lucio Capobianco, in Genoa, the New Emily Jazz Band in Modena, the great Kansas Cit orchestra, animated by trumpeter Renato Germonio, in Turin

It is necessary to underline how this page of the revival of traditional jazz was, on balance, marginal in the panorama of Italian jazz, arousing a passionate and fundamentalist following among musicians belonging to a sort of niche separated, except in rare cases, from any modernist movement in within African-American music. On the other hand, the group of musicians dedicated to assimilating the new trends gradually emerging in the homeland of jazz, the United States, is much larger and more varied. It must be underlined that our musicians did not limit themselves to Italianize Afro-American music but have also over the years assimilated the basic concepts of this cultural musical baggage, reconstructing or deforming it according to their own language closely linked with the traditions, visions and values ​​rooted in the colorful regional fabric of the Bel Paese.

In affirming this historical-musical assumption one cannot help but cite the words of the guitarist and composer Django Reinhardt, not surprisingly the first exponent in Europe of that mix of musical traditions typical of the nomadic community of gypsy French and jazz, not forgetting certain reminiscences of the Baroque era and the Spanish school -

Jazz is American. But music has no homeland. And jazz is music. We play a type of jazz that is in close relationship with European culture. But it's still jazz. Because jazz has very precise expressive rules that cannot be deviated from"

The Italian instrumentalists and composers - the two artistic roles are not always both found in the jazz figures mentioned in this context - have carried out their artistic activity over the years in varied musical fields, from the mainstream to the daring aesthetic and formal evolutions of free and avant experimentation -garde. Their merit, beyond the strictly technical or musical writing, is that of having left an indelible mark on the historical course of Italian jazz, from the post-war period up to, in many cases, the present day.

We cannot begin this anthology of modern Italian jazz without mentioning the Basso-Valdambrini quintet, the group that more than any other illustrated Italian jazz between the 1950s and 1960s. The two leaders of the quintet, the saxophonist Gianni Basso and the trumpeter Oscar Valdambrini At that time they were regular guests at the Mexican Tavern in Milan, the only venue in Italy in the second part of the 1950s dedicated to jazz. A famous photo in which the American singer Billie Holiday in 1958 she is portrayed in the Milanese club with a group of Italian musicians, including Gianni Basso and Oscar Valdambrini.

Continuing, in the same period we find the trumpeter Nunzio Rotondo, the pianists Romano Mussolini and Enrico Intra, the clarinetist Aurelio Ciarallo, the saxophonist and flautist Giancarlo Barigozzi, who for a period moved to Hong Kong with his band and later opened a recording studio in his name in Milan. Another figure from the Turin area who came to the fore in that period was the trombonist Dino Piana, among the best specialists in Europe of this instrument in the piston version. We later find him in the Basso-Valdambrini quintet and in the ranks of the Rai orchestra, directed by the pianist and composer Armando Trovajoli, together with the trumpeters Oscar Valdambrini, Nini Culasso, Nini Rosso, the alto saxophonists Attilio Donadio and Livio Cerveglieri, the baritonsaxophonist and flautist Gino Marinacci and several others.

Paolo Marra

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