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Interview with Giovanni Mirabassi: The intellect masters the dictionary, the soul tells the story: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Giovanni Mirabassi. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Giovanni Mirabassi: – I grew up in Perugia Italy. My father used to play the piano (and a bit of accordion and guitar) and had a nice collection of records and quite wide musical taste.Opera, classical music, Italian hits, pop (we are talking of the seventies), some jazz (from jhonny Doods to the MJQ). As a kid I had all this instruments to play with, I found the piano the best toy ever.

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

GM: – In my city we have this crazy jazz festival, Umbria jazz. I had the chance to see all this legendary musicians performing on stage in the 80’s, I remember many moments of intense emoAons: the list is too long, but I ll try to pick up some of them: Hank Jones trio, Wayne Shorter, Dizzy’s big band, Stan Getz with Kenny Barron, Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn, Weather Report, The Gil Evans orchestra starring Sting, the Lester Bowie Brass Fantasy, Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea, Michael Breaker, Keith Jarreti, Miles Davis (I saw him the first time on 1985, with Scofield and Bob Berg, oh, Bob Berg), the Messengers (the first time with super young Terence Blanchard, and Bill Pierce), The Mingus Dynasty, with the great Don Pullen and the amazing George Adams, and Danny Richmond… Well this is just a litile piece of it and I shade a tear while Im writing. I mean, how could I avoid jazz aber being so strongly exposed to it as a teen ager ? My parents were strongly opposed to help me on that sense, so they didn’t allow me to study music. I had to do it as a self-thought, and finally escaped to Paris. In Paris I met the great classical pianist Aldo Ciccolini, and he had a substantial influence on my sound. Listening frenetically to Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Enrico Pieranunzi, Keith Jarret, had a huge impact on my sound too.

JBN: – What pracAce rouAne or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

GM: – I practice scales 30 minutes a day. Sometimes I use a metronome, especially to practice tricky stuff (like playing a 7/8 ostinato leb hand and improvising right hand for example).

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

GM: – Well, musically speaking I basically welcome influences. I have the chance to have a quite personal sound anyway.

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

GM: – The main ritual is to iron my shirt. I start to get focused on the performance at that moment. Once you get on stage, and from the shadow you enter the light, Ame slows down, and you become the stage transfiguration of yourself. In order to bring the music with you during this Space-time trip you need to focus on the right things. Then, all you have to do is to connect to the energy of the audience, which is powerful, and surf on it. Live performance is a ma^er of focus, focus on the connection with the audience and the other musicians of the band, just listen and feel, and stay focus on the connection, the music will come.

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JBN: – And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

GM: – It is a solo record, except for a song I composed on the lyrics of the French Singer and author Cyril Mokaiesh. He is a very talented story teller, a good friend and partner in crime.

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

GM: – The intellect masters the dictionary, the soul tells the story. I couldn’t say it be^er. Both are necessary. It’s a long way to have an interesting story to tell, and have the right words to do it.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relaAonship between audience and arAst; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

GM: – I would like to say “give to the people what they came for”, or “what they need”. When you take a plane you don’t go to the pilot and start tell him what to do, you just seat and enjoy the flight, you trust the guy. It’s a bit alike. When I get on stage I give my heart to the audience and say “This is my heart, take it, I trust you, so, trust me.” Once the audience trusts you, and you keep being honest with them, you can play anything, they will feel it, no matier if you are playing Mozart, or some devilish free improvisation. Anyway, the perception of art is not a matier of “understanding”, it is a ma^er of pure “feeling”.

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

GM: – I have many, but if I have to pick up one: once I played in Jarasum Jazz Festival (South Korea). It was an outdoor concert, and quite a huge stage. It started raining but the audience decided to stay despite the heavy rain. It was even raining on the stage, and in the middle of my set the lights just stopped working. I was playing with the trio in front of 8000 people, on a dark stage, the keys were completely wet, but the audience was so happy to be there that we kept playing for them the all set. I remember I was thinking “Gosh, I never would endure this to listen to myself, or even to anybody else…”. At the end of the concert the lights were on again. The crowd was on fire, and I would have hug all the 8000 people if I could. Musician’s life is sometimes special.

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

GM: – Standards are a part of the legacy of this music to the new generations, like DNA, it mixes and replicates and keeps alive. The masterpieces are time-proof, and young cats play this stuff with a brand new energy and a modern sound. The best we can do is to allow them to keep the music go forward like the pioneers of it did for decades, instead of keeping saying “jazz is dead” because it doesn’t sound like in the fibies. Talent is subversive by nature. the good thing is that no matier what you say, you just can’t stop it. Trust the audience, trust the new generations.

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

GM: – Oh, this is a quite wide question. I am not that wise, and I am sure I don’t really understand the meaning of life. The thing I know is that music is made by humans beings, for humans beings, to share the best part of the human nature. It seems that I received a gib to be an active part on this process, and I decided to embrace it, playing the piano for the audiences around the world. Every time somebody is moved by my music I feel my life more meaningful, and I feel grateful, despite the issues of such a complicated choice of life.

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

GM: – What about Kenny G playing…. chess? I mean, instead. Or, I would regulate the use of Autotune by some very restrictive law 😉

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

GM: – Steal away: Hank Jones and Charlie Haden

Directions in music: Hancock – Breaker – Hargrove

Concerto en sol Maurice Ravel: Argerich – Abbado

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

GM: – Listen to your Inner child.

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

GM: – A 3 legs trip: Vienna 1790, New York 1956, Tokyo 2150. Well, the last one for the heck of it.

JBN: – So putng that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

GM: – I will keep playing the piano, I have some new upcoming projects and a bunch of gigs to play. The world changes fast, the pandemic speeded up this changes, especially in the music business, I will try to be creative enough to make it. Jazz is not dead, neither am I, and being alive is already something.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

GIOVANNI MIRABASSI PIANO SOLO | Saturday March, 16th 2019 - 8:30 PM @ Salle Doussineau Forum de la Madeleine | Concert | Paris Jazz Club

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