Jazz interview with jazz singer Anna Panzanelli. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start withwhere you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Anna Panzanelli: – I was born on the 25th of January 2000 in Perugia, a beautiful city in the heart of the center of Italy. my dad and his brothers are professional musicians and music lovers. They, when I was very young, gave me the interest in singing and in black music. also my mother, even though she doesn’t practice music professionally, loves singing and jazz music.In Perugia I have grown musically, thanks to my parents, to the school that I have attended and to the numerous concerts that I saw: Perugia is the homeland of “Umbria Jazz”, one of the most important jazz music festival in the world. In this occasion, I get to assist fantastic concerts: Diana Krall, Keith Jarret, Pat Metheny, Roy Hargrove and others.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in piccino up the jazz vocal? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal?
AP: – My father, is a fantastic saxophonist, but is also a scholar of vocal cords and singing voice, and he has been teaching singing for many years. With him, I started singing when I was very young, learning famous jazz and soul tunes. Growing up I have become more passionate about singing and vocal improvisation, and this passion never died in me. I frequented a lot of music environments: for two years I was in a big band of my city, for four years I attended the Umbria jazz clinics led by Berklee College of music, and during this experience I met important singing teachers and vocalists, like Donna McElroy, Denis Montgomery III and Jeff Ramsey. For seven years I attended the vocal improvisation workshop “Camp Vocal Jazz” organized by Kris Adams, also a professor at Berklee college of music.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
AP: – My singing style is a result of a studied theory, but mostly of my experience, music listening and of my personal taste, and it is constantly evolving and changing. Not only ofall the workshops that I attended, but also of all the musicians that in my limited life I had the luck to meet, defined my vocal style. Since I was six years old, I study classical piano, and I love playing music written by authors like Chopin, Debussy, Ravel and Barber, and this practice helped me not only in the musical studies, but also in singing and in improvisation. In time I have come to understand that the listening and the comprension of different music from jazz and blues, makes me better understand my musical style and my potentials.If I think about how I was singing two years ago, I realize that I have lived a great musical evolution, which I hope will never stop.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
AP: – Every day I practice music and singing 4-5 hours: I do some vocalizations, scat, harmonic studies, I learn new standards, tune and classic music on piano. In every period of my life I focalize on some goals and I try to reach them.To improve my rhythm perception, and in general, my musical ear, I think that the best way for me is improvisation, listening to music, playing with other musicians, mostly pianist and bassist, and doing body music.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?
AP: – I love dissonances, and when I sing, I try to use them in the right measure. I love the seventh, the altered none and fifth. when I study, I try to understand the harmonic function of the notes that I play, but when I sing in front of an audience, I try, on the contrary, to be free of mental schemes and to let my ear work. The dissonances that I use when I do scat and I sing are of conscious decisions, result of my studies, but made from ad-lip or improvisation.6. How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?-I’ve always listened to the music that I love, like Jazz, soul, rub, blues and classical music, and I’ve always lived in a musical environment and frequented people that love music.This factors influenced my style positively, and during the formation of my critical musical sense, I try to stay away from listening to “junk-music” that all the kids of my age like.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: , how it was formed and what you are working on today.
AP: – My album is a tribute to two women composers, singers and band leaders that lived in two different periods: Lil Hardin (1898-1971) and Laura Nyro (1947-1997). During the creation of this project, my intent was the search of women composers of jazz and soul music, who lived in a musical world dominated by men. My tribute is a way to claim the artistic female invention in music.
The other fundamental element of my project ‘Bluer Than Blue’ is the blues.
In the music of these two composers, the Blues goes beyond notes, form and musical structure. It is a hot and intense emotion, a simple and direct language, full of life. It’s an expressive note beyond which they could have exchanged their ideas with force and strength.
To me, searching for Blues in music represents the necessity to express feelings, like nostalgia and love. The tunes in my project are arranged in a modern style by myself and by my musicians.
I started to work on ‘Bluer Than Blue’ on 2016, I recorded the first four tracks in 2017, and the last in 2018, during the state exam of high school. Now my project is out in all the major platforms, and can be purchased on iTunes and Spotify. Now I am dedicating myself in promoting my album and presenting it in concerts and events.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
AP: – Intellect is an efficient tool in the creation and preparations of our musical style. It’s appropriate to use it on study, to give voice to our soul. It must never be an end in itself, but a way through which we’re able to express with fluency our ability within our inner soul. . A great musician does not study harmony, scales and patterns to exhibit his knowledge coldly or his virtuosity, but on the contrary, he does it to shape his ideas and to give voice to his interiority and to the feelings that he has inside. The soul creates music, but the intellect gives voice to the soul.
JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
AP: – When I sing In front of an audience I try to create an invisible thread of communication. First, I try to express myself, but I also try to pay attention to the reaction of the audience and to understand what they like. When there are people that are listening to us, we cannot play only for ourselves but mostly for the others, we donate music and receive gratitude. It’s a beautiful exchange.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
AP: – I remember with joy the first recording sessions for ‘BluerThanBlue’ in 2017 with my musicians that are also my friends. On January 2017 I was in a prestigious concert calendar of my city. My performance was appreciated, and this gave to me a lot of joy and satisfaction.
The same goes at the ‘Argo jazz’ festival in Basilicata: I got to know a new musical environment and a new audience, it was a beautiful occasion to improve myself and make experience.
In my city Perugia some locals organize jam Sessions: me and the other guys from my music conservatory play in this occasion until late night.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
AP: – Jazz like a musical period, as well as classical music, Rock n roll and soul, is historically died, but, nevertheless, it continues to live taking different forms.
I think that the best way to do jazz music now, and to get young people interested, is to renew it, and mix it with with other musical genres and with our musical taste. I try to do this operation on my album ‘Bluer Than Blue’.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
Every time I sing and I do music in general, I try to always understand my interiority and my soul, and to be in connection with them. Maybe this is the spirit that Coltrane talked about. I can see it , and maybe also understand it, every time I sing and I listen to music.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
Music is expression, but listening to the music that today is divulged by radio and television, this statement loses its meaning. Now a lot of music is made to obtain money, power and fame, and this is not so wrong: it is alright to gain money in a project. But the thing that in my opinion is wrong, is in the base: expression is lacking in a lot of music. If I could, I will say to all the people that want to make music, that they have to be authentic and original.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
These days I find myself listening to one of my favorite trumpeter, Roy Hargrove, that unfortunately died recently, and Stevie wonder, Eva Cassidy, Whitney Houston, miles and bill evans.
JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
-the message that I try to bring through my music is to be original, authentic, expressive and to be yourself.Every thing that we love Doing, we have to do with truth and passion. In this way we can’t go wrong.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
My dream, since I was a child, is to become a singer whose music is appreciated and not only heard in italy. In a year or a little more, I want to live in America and try to create a musical career. My dream is to make music professionally, travel all the world to do concerts, record numerous albums and to be listened.
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
Do you love my music? And what do you think about my voice?
JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
Now I try to take from my life and my experience every thing that for me can become a musical inspiration. The academic studies and the singing techniques are the fundamental of my musical capacity, but they are not enough. I need to travel, to learn something new, to make concerts and to communicate all the feelings that I already have inside of me. All my life comes to form in my music: both the past that I keep in my memory, and the future that is waiting for me.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan