Jazz interview with jazz singer Mafalda Minnozzi. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Mafalda Minnozzi: – I grew up in Pavia in N. Italy and those first years contributed to my musical education since I attended the “Le Canossiane” school there that included dance and classical musical listening courses at a young age. Later I moved to the Marche region famous for lyric singers. It was all around me.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal?
MM: – The freedom to imagine and express my own musical vision.
JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today?
MM: – I`ve had professors that helped me train my voice. I’ll always thank Maestro Gustavo Palumbo in Rome that had the wisdom to train my voice via the roots of the Neopolitan song regardless of my eventual direction. Thankfully I love and still use the influence of the music of Naples in my jazz language.
JBN.S: – What made you choose the jazz vocal?
MM: – Jazz vocal allows me the chance to follow the power of the words.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time?
MM: – I think by nature my musical instincts are explosive and through the passage of time and maturity I’ve learned to measure the music in my body and heart. I`ve certainly gained in my dynamic, breathing and rhythmic control resulting in a sense of composure that have lead to more vocal colors including the use of harmonics when the song calls for it. I’d say my sound evolved into something more elegant and sultry that respond to my sense of how I try to be as a woman even though it came from hard work.
JBN.S: – What did you do to find and develop your sound?
MM: – Listening and performing and searching out musical encounters as much as possible without ever stopping the study. Not only the musicians but the audience is also very important in inspiring me with the natural give and take that enriches me in my search to have a sound that is unique and faithful to my path. This is the magic for me because it`s a path and not a destination in continuos evolution. I look at the music with a deep humility.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
MM: – In the first years of my career in Italy I suffered an accident that required a therapy to restore my vocal range after a difficult recuperation where i lost the upper regions. Later i also had a 1 year training period in Brasil on how to use and preserve the voice. Since then I became aware of things i needed to do to protect my voice including not drinking cold fluids, talking as little as possible in the morning or in a moving car on even on the phone. AIr conditioning, smoking and even diet have to be under control. To answer the part about bettering the musical capacity in terms of rhythm …well the fuel for us is oxygen and the conditioning of the vocal chords and diaphragm are essential to being able to follow the creative voice inside. I began my studies with a drum machine that was a richer template than a metronome to play off of. Of course my time in NY and Brazil have afforded me the luxury of playing with some of the finest grooves on the planet.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
MM: – The beauty of musical freedom permits one to hear harmony and rhythm in countless combinations. When it responds to a musical beauty, i embrace it with no discrimination.
Eventually something that can be more complicated might require patience and comprehension to evolve one`s own aesthetic sense.
JBN.S: – How it was formed and what you are working on today?
MM: – Today I am working on taking this language to the stage in front of audiences around the world to see how far I can dare to take each song. To be an artist , in my view ..or to live a life of an artist is to be always plugged in 24hrs a day independent of what new project is on the horizon. This is the goal but to get there I need to apply myself in various segments like stage scenery, designing my clothing, attending musical conventions, work on new songs, practice, go out to hear colleagues, very often manage my own career and carefully consider my choices without forgetting that behind an artist is an individual with a life that has to be lived.
JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you of 2017 year?
MM: – I’m really enjoying Central Line by pianist Art Hirahara.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
MM: – There has to be a balance … it can’t be all of one or the other in my case.
It depends if it’s music for the stage or for the studio. On stage I generally follow my instincts as well as those of the public…. especially since we are speaking of jazz and improvisation where the spontaneity is more physical. When music is created in the studio there tends to be a more architectural perspective that rarely reaches the energy level that an audience gives. I think a CD is more of a crystallization of my sound. To achieve this arrangements must be built with an architectural sense and naturally, the intellectual part is more present. My goal is to produce a CD in the studio that is as free as the sound is on stage. I believe that Cool Romantics was a giant step in this direction.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
MM: – My favorite show was the one I did yesterday because each stage is a conquest and an exchange of strong emotions. My recent shows in NY to full houses at Birdland and Mezzrow with Paul Ricci on guitar and Art Hirahara on piano were so thrilling. But last week in Milano and Allessandria and Munich were just as exciting. In each one I bring everything I’ve already done in a new light. Maybe this is a good time to invite your readers to visit my Facebook page where i often post videos and photos from my many gigs in Brasil, Europe and New York. In terms of recordings, I can’t wait to hear the recordings I did with Brazilian piano wizard André Mehmari a few months back. This will be something really special.
JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?
MM: – In so many years of collaborations it`s funny how one memory with flash back at me on stage and at that moment it becomes very important. In the Italian tradition my theatrical training with Saverio Marconi’s Compagnia Dell’Arancia and dance with Marco Ierva at IALS combined with my 2 years on RAI TV with violin virtuoso Cristian Pintilie’s classical orchestra definately contributed to my stage persona that is very often cited as being something special. In Brazil I began my collaboration with NY guitarist Paul Ricci and we have been working together since for over 20 years culminating in this present project entitled “eMPathia Jazz Duo”. The ability to delve so deeply into the music with Paul has lead to so much musical growth. Of course, I grew from each duet in Brazil with Guinga, Milton Nascimento, Paulo Moura, Martinho Da Vila, Leny Andrade, Toquinho and so many others. In NY the addition of the great pianist Art Hirahara has enriched our duo as has the group Paul and I do with Helio Alves on piano and Rogerio Boccato on percussion.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
MM: – Doing exactly what I’m doing! A young person doesn’t have to be interested in only what is happening today. The question underestimates the youth in my opinion. I think we have the obligation to pass along substance and authenticity and truth to the young … a truth that you can tell because it is yours! At that point it is they they who will decide. This form “trendy” to converse with the young is very contrived. In fact, i am very young. More than a number, to be young means to continue believing in your projects of life as long as you have life to live.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
MM: – The meaning of life to me is in all of my choices where I try to preserve my liberty. That is my spirituality.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
MM: – My expectation is to die singing on stage at 100! What brings me fear and anxiety is the present direction of humanity and where it is taking us on a dangerous path of individuality, arrogance, violence and drugs. We are so busy chasing money that we have forgotten just how much education and culture are important. I am embracing the art of learning how to live with less and not more. It makes traveling around the world so much more liberating.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
MM: – Take away all of the musical reality shows! Only one?
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
MM: – Of course !!! I think my musical trajectory is the proof of that. I began early on with the love of the music from Naples which incorporates many Mediterranian influences from Spain and northern Africa and beyond. Only a few months ago I came full circle to record a CD of Neopolitan songs in an almost free jazz reading with André Mehmari who writes for orchestra and plays jazz with no distinction between the two. Also present on my recent recordings of Neopolitan music is the veteran NY guitarist Gene Bertoncini. As Louis Armstrong said, “All music is folk music”. Not many people know that Armstrong was influenced as a youngster by the sound of Caruso on the gramophone in the house of the family he delivered coal to in New Orleans In the same fashion my jazz is influenced by Maria Callas and Enrico Caruso too.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
MM: – Popular music from Brasil .. “Singers Unlimited” presented by Michael Bourne on WBGO radio is a constant source of “provocation” and every chance I get to hear some good live music is worth going for.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
MM: – I’d like to be at the side of Lorenzo De’ Medici aka “Lorenzo the Magnificent” because of his refined taste of the liberal arts and his support of the artists at the end of the 1400’s in Florence and to answer the question why… because of my desire to be surrounded by the beauty of the art of Michelangelo, Donatello and those who were able to advance humanity through art to the point of influencing politics, poetry and philosophy.
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself …
MM: – The only possibility that leads me to go on is the certainty that the music wiil always be able to have the force to open the hearts of the people. This certainty feeds me. I’d like to ask each of you if you also have the same belief?
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. Yes, of course.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan