Blues interview with Blues pianist and composer Rosario Di Rosa. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Rosario Di Rosa: – I was born in Sicily, a land that historically carries with it the DNA of jazz. My interest in music began as a child: at the age of two I was already strumming the guitar. In my family, music has always been present. My mother has always told me how my great-grandfather, who worked as a farmer in the province of Catania, often ran away secretly to go to the Teatro Bellini to hear the Opera. A very unusual thing for the time.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
RDR: – I had atypical musical training. Usually before arriving at jazz, one passes from the study of classical music. I did exactly the opposite and I must say that it was good for me. Initially, in fact I had a very percussive piano sound, because I liked Thelonious Monk mainly. After years I was lucky enough to study classical piano with great concert performers and this led me to discover many other colors and types of touches on the instrument. Now I can choose the right approach based on what I have to play.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
RDR: – Fortunately, from a technical point of view, even before studying classical piano, I’ve never had big problems. Then, having had Monk as my first reference model, I necessarily had to face the rhythm aspect very early. However, the very rhythmic way of playing has always come naturally to me. Clearly, having dealt with technical studies in the Conservatory has further increased this aspect.
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?
RDR: – The complex harmony used in jazz surely derives from the European culture of the early 20th century. Then each pianist must develop his own harmonic vocabulary. Mine was initially formed by studying the harmony of Bill Evans, but was subsequently greatly influenced by composers of the Second Vienna School for the interval approach. This is why today, both harmonically and melodically, they do not relate to consonance or dissonance, but to the development of lines of musical intervals.
JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
RDR: – The influences are necessary for the formation of one’s musical identity. I love so many people like Monk, Hancock, Andrew Hill but I can not forget that at the age of seven I was listening to Kiss. In my opinion, one’s style lies in not forgetting what one is.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
RDR: – In my opinion, the balance is given by the life experiences you’ve had. They always leave you something that thanks to the sensitivity you can turn into something artistic. Then in the moment of the composition comes into play what you have studied, which is the rational part. All this obviously does not want to be an exhaustive explanation, otherwise the magic and unpredictability of creating something beautiful would be lost.
JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
RDR: – I’m very little interested in giving people what they expect. If I did, it would probably be easier and economically rewarding for me. But I am of the opinion that words like “easy” and “money” have nothing to do with art. It is a question of choices.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
RDR: – Surely the recording in the studio of “CROSSROAD BLUES” with my group “ROSARIO DI ROSA BASIC PHONETICS”. I am practically a fan of each of the musicians and it was amazing to share this experience with them and to hear how each one brought his or her world into my music.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in blues when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
RDR: – Things that are beautiful and rich in content will always be indifferent to time. The problem is that some music does not reach the most popular channels of communication, so if you do not go looking for it you will hardly know and appreciate it.
JBN.S: – How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
RDR: – I do not understand it. In fact I make music to give me a chance to understand something.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
RDR: – I would like you to go back to that curiosity that was once there. We went from those who went crazy for the hallucinating and strange things of Pink Floyd at the UFO club to those who go crazy for “Despacito”. Something definitely went wrong.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
RDR: – Lately I listen to a lot of electronic music. I’m also listening to the latest album by PASHMAK, a Milan band that does something between rock and electronic music.
JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
RDR: – No message. Everyone must be free to feel what he wants.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
RDR: – At the prehistoric age, because there was still everything to be invented.
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
RDR: – Ten records from a desert island. I’m glad you did not make it?
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. 🙂
JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
RDR: – I will answer you with a thought: …
Interview by Simon Sargsyan