Interview with Giovanni Ceccarelli: Music today is in a very difficult situation։ Video

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Jazz interview with jazz pianist Giovanni Ceccarelli. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Giovanni Ceccarelli: – I was born in Fabriano, Central Italy where I lived until I was twenty. When I was seven my best friend involved me into taking my first piano lesson. I come from a family who loves music, my father was an amateur musician in his youth and he organized classical music concerts in our town.

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

GC: – I believe that in a way you have your own sound from the start, but in addition to that your sound evolves with you growing up and having more and more musical and life experiences. I listen and study a lot of different kinds of music, at the same time my search into sound is an intimate one, always aiming towards honesty and sincerity.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

GC: – I enjoy space in music, so the less you play the more each sound must be played with a great sense of time, a rich sound, the best choice of notes. This is an important part of my practice, though I really don’t have a practice routine. Surely one important element which also involves rhythm is how to keep a natural flow when playing. Even when playing an unexpected note, you can learn to accept it and to transform it into something musically meaningful.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

GC: – As I said I love a lot of different music, from Bach, the Beatles, Monk, Jobim to Ravi Shankar, Miles, James Taylor and Mozart. As you develop as a person and as a musician, you go deeper and deeper into yourself, you learn more and more who you are. Music is a way, a wonderful one, to express your being, your vibration through sound. All the musicians you love are also part of this search, so a strong influence might come up in your playing through a phrase, a quote, a chord and I find that as being part of a tradition, a musical legacy.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

GC: – Music is a very complete art form, involving the body, the mind and what we call spirit. When playing you ideally search for a unity in your being and with your musical partners. You actively listen and react, you feel and give back. No time for thinking and reflecting on stage, while a musician’s intellect is active when practicing, composing and arranging at home.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

GC: – A creative musician goes on stage knowing that each performance is unique. He is ready to capt the audience’s vibration and to give it back in his own, personal way. When I go to listen to a concert, I don’t expect anything, I am open to being surprised and to be led by hand to new sounding places by the musicians on stage. I believe that it is important for a musician to stay true and to be honest with the audience.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

GC: – I was honored to play several times with the great, late Lee Konitz. Playing with him was really improvising, because within the jazz standards repertoire everything was open: you did not know who in the band would start what tune in what key. Along the years I have had the chance to play great music with the musicians who composed it: I played live “I Remember Clifford” with Benny Golson and I recorded “Começar De Novo (The Island)” with Ivan Lins. I love playing with singers and I had the chance to share the stage with great vocalists Mark Murphy, Nancy King and Amii Stewart. One night Betty Carter showed up in a jazz club where I was playing and we jammed together!

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

GC: – Today jazz welcomes different musical languages coming from all over the world: Jan Garbarek from Norway plays with Zakir Hussain from India, Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu records with Cuban pianist Omar Sosa. I believe that jazz is a musical language, but beyond that it is an open way of conceiving and feeling music. Talking about the repertoire, for example Brad Mehldau plays the jazz standards as well as Radiohead, the later maybe catching the younger audience’s attention in a stronger way then, let’s say, “You And The Night And The Music”. Anyway, once you dig Mehldau, you might discover that he studied with Fred Hersch, who was influenced by Bill Evans, who loved Bud Powell, who comes from Art Tatum… so then you are hooked!

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

GC: – I believe that life is. It just is. We give it the meaning that we want. We have the chance of being alive in this world. Certainly music gives me the opportunity to connect with other people’s minds and spirits, the fellow musicians’ and the audience’s. I feel lucky and gifted to be making music, which is a lifelong search and discipline. John Coltrane was totally devoted to his art, along his career his spiritual dimension in music became more and more important and meaningful. His music is universal, as all great music.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

GC: – Music today is in a very difficult situation. The record business is ruled by the digital platforms, whose deals with the record labels recognize almost no rights to the music creators, the composers and the lyricists. As a result, musicians have to be permanently on tour in order to survive. In this reward, 2020 and probably 2021 too will result in an economic disaster for musicians. I believe that the core of the problem is economic but cultural too: worldwide many politicians and governments give less and less importance and sustain to education and culture. So my dream is that more and more people realize that culture and music are essential elements in one’s life. And understand that the music that one plays on his/her phone was created by a musician, a human being who works as a musician.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

GC: – I listen to music for pleasure and also as part of my research. Lately I have been listening to great guitarist, pianist and composer Ralph Towner and to his wonderful group Oregon. I also listen to string quartet music by Mozart, Beethoven, Shostakovich.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

GC: – My music has really no message. I believe that if you are true and honest when making music, then the audience will feel that when listening to you. Sometimes I take part into benefit concerts and I co-organized the Concerts For Syria with the aim of raising money and bringing the people’s attention towards the terrible situation inside of Syria. In this case the music is a vehicle for supporting a humanitarian cause. Music in itself brings a message of peace, because making music on stage involves listening, respect, collaboration: the ideal society, isn’t it?

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

GC: – I am fascinated by the history of American music: this blend of musical cultures coming from Europe, Africa, the homeland and giving birth to jazz, afro-cuban, Brazilian, tango music. So my time machine dream would lead me to New Orleans, Havana, Rio De Janeiro, Buenos Aires between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

GC: – My question is: how can each one of us contribute to making a better world, considering the ecological issues which have come to the point of threatening the survival of the human race? I know that this question does not concern music, sorry…

JBN: – ․․․ with music that evokes good emotions ․․․

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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