Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Rossano Sportiello. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Rossano Sportiello: – I was born in Vigevano, near Milan, in Italy. I got interested in music as a young child by listening to popular Neapolitan songs.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
RS: – I started studying classical piano at the age of 9 and graduated in classical piano at 22. At 13 I fell in love with Jazz. All I did and still do is basically listening to the great masters like Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Dave McKenna, Ralph Sutton, Barry Harris, Ellis Larkins, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell and many others and I try to understand how they played and what they played. My sound is a blend of many influences.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
RS: – I still practice classical music, and keep rotating my jazz repertoire by spending hours every day improvising on tunes, transposing them in different keys and a lot of practice with the metronome plus a 30 years non-stop career. I need to practice and perform to stay in shape. The 2 go together. Practicing without performing and performing without practicing don’t work.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
RS: – I don’t prevent any influence. I seem to retain what I like. What I don’t like or does not interest me it’s filtered out.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
RS: – I try to get enough rest and sleep before performances.
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JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?
RS: – No other musicians.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
RS: – I like Vladimir Horowitz said, music is controlled emotion. As musicians and performers we need to learn to do that.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
RS: – I always try to please the audience and myself at the same time.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
RS: – On my first recording session as a leader, almost 20 years ago, I spent a lot of time preparing specific arrangements. When I got to the studio I started the session just by playing completely different things without preparation and the result was so smooth and natural. So you can prepare but always be ready to change everything on the spot. I had to learn that stiffness does not get along with jazz.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
RS: – I don’t think that this question pictures the reality. Plus, fifty years is nothing! What was composed 3 hundred years ago is still so incredibly advanced. There are lots and lots of young people interested in jazz. NY City if filled with young people that love this music. Same for Italy and many other countries that I visited.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
RS: – This is something personal, that can be felt individually but not explained, in my opinion.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
RS: – Right now I would not change anything. Things are what they are. As far as I’m concerned I’m only interested in becoming a better musician.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
RS: – Earl Hines and Teddy Wilson.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
RS: – Insist in improving yourself in the things you can do and be open to discover things you don’t know yet. I like when I see people smiling at my concerts.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
RS: – Sometimes I’d like to go back to when my four grandparents were still alive.
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
RS: – I think I am the music I play.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan