Jazz interview with a bad musician, as if saxophonist Fabrizio D’Alisera. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Fabrizio D’Alisera: – I grew up in Rome, I joined music as a guitar player. There were many guitarists at the high school and my mother had a guitar at home.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the saxophon? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the saxophon?
FDA: – There was a club in Rome in the 90s called “La Palma”. The world’s best jazz musicians came there to play. I saw Wayne Shorter, Paul Motian, Seamus Blake, Joshua Redman, Steve Grossman, Lee Konitz, in a few words the best of the best! I used to go there every weekend. One day I arrived too early and I caught Joshua Redman in the room. He was trying different reeds to choose the best one for the concert. He wasn’t playing. He was singing through the horn! It was an extension of the voice. That sound hit me so hard that the next day I bought a tenor sax.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
FDA: – It is a difficult question. I am a baritone player, but my major influences are tenorists. Probably the musician that I know better and I have transcribed more is Dexter Gordon. My other big heroes are Zoot Sims, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. I don’t know if my sound is similar to other baritone players. I like a cavernous tone. I identify myself in my sound, but I don’t know how my sound is, maybe the other players can describe it better than me.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
FDA: – I practice a lot setting the metronome very slow, only on the one (1st downbeat) of every measure or even on the one every two measures. This gives me the flexibilty to play relaxed on fast tempos. For example 300 bpm is 75 on every measure and circa 38 on every two measures! Of course is not easy, it is something that I must practice over and over to get better, the journey is long…music is hard!
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?
FDA: – Oh, I don’t practice patterns or particular chords. I am a big fan of playing “IN” rather than “OUT”. Of course you should make a mix of both to play interesting. I like to play in a way that the chords are clear. If you play a solo by Hawkins, Gordon, Getz, or other masters of the past you can clearly hear the chords flowing under their lines. This is particularly important in a trio without the piano. I strive for the courage to play simple, but to play well. It is very very difficult, you must have a strong personality and lot of authority to play simple. Ben Webster is a titan in that category. He could blow down a house with just two notes. This is a quality that today we are losing in jazz, I don’t know why, this is just my humble opinion, maybe I am an old fashioned blue note man. We had a lot of classy players in the past.
JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
FDA: – Honestly I have never thought about that. I don’t know if my playing can remeber that “X” player or not. If you can hear an influence of other jazz players in me I consider it a good thing. Of course at the same time you must be yourself and don’t sound like a bad copy of a player. If you listen and transcribe a player at first will not play the notes, but if you dig more into the music you will develop a lexicon of your own. The ideas come from other ideas!For example you can hear the tremendous echo of Sonny Rollins in Steve Grossman’s playing style, but at the same time you can hear Steve’s personality and the way he elaborated Rollins. Oh what a player Steve is!
JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
FDA: – Honestly I don’t know what people want in jazz music. I like the music that I play and the tunes that I wrote for this record. Maybe if you love what you do you can transmit this passion to your audience.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
FDA: – Many years ago I have played with an italian big band with stellar guests: George Cables, Buster Williams and Jerry Weldon. It was very exciting, they played absolutely fantastic and were very kind to us. I remeber that I struggled to fall asleep that night!
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
FDA: – In my opinion there is a lot of confusion in this aspect. I don’t think in terms of “old” and “new”. Let’s pick for example “inner Urge” by Joe Henderson. He wrote it in the sixties, but to me it sounds more modern that many pop hits we hear on the radio today. It is more in the attitude than in the music itself. Modern for me means an adventurous approach towards the music. Every time I play a standard I don’t know what will it happen. In jazz music you can play the same song 20 times and it could be different everytime. This is because of the interplay between the musicians. I try to be spontaneous when I play, of course this means that I take risks and sometimes I commit mistakes, but I accept it as a part of being a jazz improviser. Even in classical music the musicians used to create an improvised intro before the composition called “preludio”. That was modern. Using computer, effect or noisy sounds in your music does not mean that you are “modern”or “original”.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
FDA: – I feel this this cosmic question bigger than me. Confucius said that life is simple, but people persist to make it complicated. I think that this is true.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
FDA: – Today we can listen to a lot of music via streaming, but people should understand the work behind the music that they are listening. Music like other jobs is an intellectual work and everybody should pay for it, like we all do for other things. I don’t think that the streaming is necessarily bad, but all of the portals should pay the artist more. We cannot drink or eat for free, so why should I listen to the music for free?
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
FDA: – I love the jazz tradition and I listen to the masters: Rollins, Gordon, Donald Byrd, Art Farmer, Don Byas and more … There are some incredible players today like Seamus Blake and Joel Frahm. I also love chamber music by Hindemith and Max Reger.
JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
FDA: – I love to play the saxophone and I like jazz music. I just want to communicate my passion for the music to my audience.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
FDA: – I would like to be in the 1962 at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio during the Dexter Gordon’s recording session of “Go!”.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan