May 18, 2024

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Interview with Emanuele Maniscalco: 2018 could be the year of my new solo project … Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist, drummer Emanuele Maniscalco. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Emanuele Maniscalco: – I grew up in the countryside around Brescia (Northern Italy), in an area called Franciacorta, famous for high industrialization, nice hills and excellent sparkling wine. My parents are music lovers and amateur players, so I was exposed to music very early.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the piano and drums?

EM: – A piano had been in the house since I was born, and I started taking lessons when I was 8. Drums came later, I got my first real drum kit at 12. Brazilian music (mostly Jobim and João Gilberto) was the first thing I fell in love with, at 10.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the piano and drums?

EM: – I am largely self-taught, but there were two older musicians I had the chance to play/study with in my late teens, who were crucial in my further development: guitarist Sandro Gibellini and pianist Stefano Battaglia. Both are also exquisite composers. At some point in my early-twenties I had a crush on classical piano, so I took lessons for a year. I partially attended the jazz program at the Conservatory in Brescia, before moving to Copenhagen in 2012 to attend the Soloist line at the Rhythmic Conservatory.

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

EM: – I have never really focused on sound as a distinct matter of investigation. Music only exists through sound, expression and sound are tightly connected, therefore every artist who has been somehow influential on my direction has naturally informed my sound too.

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

EM: – In my early-twenties I used to have a quite heavy routine: 4-6 hours a day on the piano, starting from scales to technique studies, Bach, Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, Ligeti, to free improv, crossing Broadway standards and self-composed material. Plus, I was a young jazz drummer starting to get an international reputation with Enrico Rava. As every other ambitious and gifted young musician, I guess I just wanted to suck the soul out of everything I loved, but I was also a very unquiet being. Everything is (slightly) more clear and stable now, and I have to admit I do very little practicing these days. I mostly rehearse music I am supposed to play/record, with some occasional time for a good old ballad or a classical piece. I am trying to learn how to play the acoustic guitar, and I have been quite active as a photographer for the past four years. I am involved in numerous processes within personal expression, so I do not really miss the jazz musician’s routine. When musicality and creativity are kept alive as a stove in a a countryside kitchen, life becomes a more bearable, and an even more enjoyable adventure.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

EM: – I don’t have an answer to this question, but I can say that I prefer everything that can surprise me. I am learning and unlearning slowly and constantly, and my will is not so active in this process.

JBN.S: – Which are the best ten jazz albums for you this 2017 year?

EM: – I don’t listen to much jazz today, but I follow and admire many musicians. I was particularly impressed by Maria Faust and Kira Skov’s pop-jazz-folk collaboration ‘In the beginning’, as well as the Frisell-Morgan duo on ECM. I haven’t listened to many full albums, but I enjoyed some tracks from the recent works by Roscoe Mitchell, Craig Taborn, RJ Miller, Christian Wallumrød, Lucia Cadotsch, Mark Guiliana, Eve Risser.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

EM: – Do what you love and love your limits. Everything else is a social game – success included. Once one is aware of that, no real defeat is possible – and even the ‘business side of life’ can be faced with dignity, not as a threat to artistic integrity as many Romantic theorists have taught us for decades.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

EM: – Jazz is a quite niched and mostly low-profile business (we will never be the ones making the real money, to be clear), but it is indeed a tough one, as it pretends to conceal or even dismiss marketing rules by flirting with the concept of freedom and widespread tolerance. Under this tolerant veil, one can find a significant amount of competition, hostility and opportunism, too. I am not saying it’s like that for everybody, but I generally perceive that there is less freedom in the so-called ‘jazz environment’ than one might think.

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

EM: – By avoiding philology as much as we can. Domenico Scarlatti couldn’t record his own music, while we have old records of Miles Davis for appreciating what he had to say in the most direct way. Sympathy for the language, free interpretation are much better attitudes in order to keep something alive, in every cultural perspective based on time and/or distance. Keep in mind that I’m Italian and I have never put a foot in the US. I would definitely have a different perception if I were born and raised there. Grandparents would have experienced Duke Ellington as part of the contemporary local culture, as much as mine had records of Claudio Villa and Quartetto Cetra. I don’t know if I like the idea that pizza can taste the same all over the world because everybody has access to the same ingredients – I have the same thoughts about jazz. I want to be recognized as a Southern European musician playing jazz, delivering a different message, with my very own limits and strengths.

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

EM: – When I was younger I was interested in many things, not just music. Then ambition came and I started to think of myself as a musician, with all the sense of sacrifice and self-infliction that is typical in any adult commitment. At some point in my mid-twenties though, I realized I was missing a lot by just sitting in my room playing my instrument. I was easily sad and frustrated, because that perseverance wasn’t for me. My ‘diet’ wasn’t balanced. So I decided to expand my field of interest again, using all my best energy to be at the center of anywhere I wanted to be. Sometimes it would be away from music (although never for too long). As a matter of fact, I believe that this approach has made me a better musician than I ever thought I would be.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

EM: – Despite being quite careful in exposing myself to social networking, there are times when I get stuck scrolling and looking at things people do, instead of doing my own. This kind of information can be interesting and stimulating in small amounts, especially when it’s carried by word-of-mouth, live appearances, real meetings, etc. But seeing it on a screen makes everything flat and frustrating at the same time. After a few minutes I begin to think that other people’s lives are spectacles, while mine is static and empty. Because it’s true: while I’m watching my smartphone, I am static. As for my expectations, it is very difficult to have any at this point in history. Maybe hopes.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

EM: – I tend not to plan my life too much in advance, therefore I only know it is a frontier once I’ve gone through it. Anyways, 2018 could be the year of my new solo project ‘VÆVER’, where I’m playing both drums and keys simultaneously. More info and music at:

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

EM: – As far as I’m concerned, these definitions are primarily a practicality for music libraries and record stores. It all depends on the point of view: why would you set borders within the same practice? I prefer to search for similarities between different practices like design and music, dance and photography, prayer and medicine.

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

EM: – I’ve listened to Hejira by Joni Mitchell while writing my answers to this interview, but these days I’m mostly enjoying silence (as I do more and more often when I’m home) practicing new music or listening to rough mixes of upcoming releases. I made a very fun playlist for New Year’s Eve though, including Milton Nascimento, Julie London, Huerco S. and Glen Campbell!

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

EM: – I usually commute between a grand piano and a simple drum kit, or my lightweight Nord Electro when the piano is not available or I need electric sounds/effects. I was treated a small, cheap Fender parlor acoustic a few months ago by a good friend, and I am playing it regularly at home. But I have to say that my favorite piece of gear is a Leica M9 which I always have in my bag.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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