May 28, 2024

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Interview with Stefano Bollani: There’ s no debate between my intellect and my soul: Photos, Video

Jazz interview with Italian jazz composer, pianist and singer, also active as a writer and a television presenter Stefano Bollani. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – What got you interested in picking up the piano? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the piano? 

Stefano Bollani: – I was born in Milano but grew up in Florence. I had no musicians in my family, but when I was 6 years old, I told my parents I was going to be a singer and they proposed me to study an instrument to be able, one day, to comp my voice. That was the piano, by chance. It could as well have been an accordeon or a guitar. Then I had a lot of teachers, classical ones and jazz people; I was stealing from all of them what I found interesting.

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

SB: – The piano has been on my side for the whole life, so my sound on the piano is always going side by side with my evolution (or involution…that’ s depending on your point of observation).

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

SB: – I never had a practice routine. Infact, I’ m not practicing that much, ‘cause I’ m constantly on the run. I take myself two months each year to develop new things. In that period, I’ m not having concerts. Still, I have to admit that sometimes the best ideas are coming during tours or stressed periods….so, practically speaking, I have no idea of routine and how it works for me. 

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

SB: – Improvising means building the harmony at the moment. So I can only answer that in this particular moment, if I had a piano, I’ d play a C7.

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: <Que Bom>, how it was formed and what you are working on today. 

SB: – I had in mind the sound of my album Carioca, where I was playing samba and choro and wanted to re-create the sound with my own compositions. So I decided to went to record to Rio de Janeiro with the same rhytm section I had on Carioca plus Thiago da Serrinha. Actually, I wanted to hear my piano surrounded by percussions, since my instrument is comin’ from the same family! Then, since I was in Rio, I called some guests to join the band: Caetano Veloso, João Bosco, Hamilton de Holanda and Jacques Morelembaum.

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

SB: – Point is I forget about the divisions while I’m playing so there’ s no debate between my intellect and my soul. Improvising to me means being in contact with something we called “inspiration” (or “source” or “God” or “Entity” or “Humpty Dumpty”). To get a good contact, the channel must be clear from thoughts and debates.

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

SB: – I can tell you one about Que bom: Caetano was supposed to sing something totally different but when he came at the studio at night, I just had finished to write the lyrics to a melody I had in mind. He listened to the song and decided to record it. Since that one was in italian (“La nebbia a Napoli”) he proposed to record also his “Michelangelo Antonioni” which he wrote in italian some years ago as a tribute to the great movie director. We completely shifted the repertoire.

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

SB: – By telling them that lots of things we love in life are older than those standards. Sex is older but still, surprisingly, people likes it.

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

SB: – The Dada movement had a good definition of the word Dada. It means nothing AND/OR everything. That’ s the same about art. And it could be the same about life. It depends on your way to look at the things. When you don’ t have anymore your personal point of view on the things that are happening, that’ s the beginning of the “losing interest” phase. Everyday I remember myself that we are entwined, we are all ONE. We’ re just experimenting the sense of division to have fun. Life’ s an illusion and a wonderful role game;  we forgot the rules for that game before our birth, but we all try and do our best.

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

SB: – Louis Armstrong would never die. 

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

SB: – Lots of brazilian music, of course, since I was involved in the Que bom recording. Radames Gnattali e Carolina Cardoso de Menezes were two fantastic choro musicians everybody should check out.

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

SB: – In the thirties, having a drink with the guys in Paris. (Dalì, Bunuel, Breton, Queneau….) or in the seventies, having a puff with the guys in America (Robert Anton Wilson, Tom Robbins, Terence McKenna, the Discordian Society…). I think both the companies had a lot of fun.

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

SB: – Yes, the question is: Is this interview finished? The answer is “It seems so but that’ s another illusion”.

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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