May 28, 2024

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Interview with Antonio Fusco: Peaceful Soul: Video, Photos, new CD covers

Jazz interview with jazz drummer and composer Antonio Fusco. An interview by email in writing. – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. 

Antonio Fusco: – I grew up in south Italy, Avellino. My father actually used to be a drummer and he remembers that when I was two years old I used to get the kitchen tools from the furniture and started to beat everywhere like I was a drummer. I can definitely say that he was the one that introduced me to the music. I remember that when he was having rehearsals with his band, he used to take me on the drums , playing together with him. At 4 years old I got my first drum set, at 9 my first concert. So the music has been with me since I’ve born.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

AF: – I found out that my sound changes almost every year. Peaceful Soul, in fact, represents a moment of my life where I have been searching and working on my own sound related to the tradition. Then I have the chance to record and play with a bunch of projects, discover new music, new sounds such as a new set up, helps me to open new doors and discover what’s inside. For example recently I got back to a low position on drums with cymbals a little bit high. I feel that a further change is happening and I’m happy that this thing happened. I don’t like to stay comfortable in the things that I already know; I always need to break up the monotony, to discover and go over myself.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

AF: –  Regarding the rudiments, for three years I used to practice the Alan Dawson Rudimental Ritual exclusively with brushes (actually my big passion more than the sticks). Then I have different warm ups that I personally wrote down and developed for independence of four limbs, ride cymbals and kind of patterns around the drums. Regarding the harmony I don’t have a specific practice. What I used to do is just one thing: enjoy the music at 100%, leaving the drums to speak like a piano or a saxophone instead of just as a “ drums’ ‘. Of course I studied complementary piano at the conservatory in italy, but I’m not talented at it and in fact I just use the piano to compose my music. What I love most is the trumpet and I promised to myself that one day I would like to implement another strument in my life.

JBN: – How do you keep stray, or random, musical influences from diverting you from what you’re doing?

AF: – Talking about drums, I just avoid listening too much to all the new generation of drummers because from my point of view (not all of them) they miss the poetry and the elegance that the great masters have. In terms of composing music, since it is always my instinct that speaks laud, I just follow what I feel inside. I like to communicate with people on both sides, when I play drums and when I compose music. Melody, rhythm and interplay are always part of my music. I prefer to be simple and deep instead of writing mathematical melodies that make me crazy and also the musicians that have to play my music. Furthermore the audience can get stressed from  and they just got home thinking that probably was much better to have a pizza ( LOL).

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

AF: – I just follow my instinct and of course I try to keep going with practice when I have time. In Beijing life is very busy and there are a lot of opportunities for a musician for perform around the city at least three times per week. Before It was more intense including travelling all around China which is a wonderful experience. Regarding my spirit I was a buddhist for over 14 years but since I put my feet in China, life has become busy as it never been before when I was living in Europe and at one point I stopped. But, often, when there is the chance to visit new cities in China I use to go to the temple to enjoy the peaceful time with monks even if I don’t understand what they’re chanting. I just follow them and I let this beautiful energy get into my soul. Furthermore recently I met a new friend that introduced me to some Yoga routines. I like to discover new things for my spirit as well 🙂

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Antonio Fusco Quintet – Peaceful Soul, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

AF: – Honestly, I couldn’t expect to release this album, after two year of hard time with the pandemic, with a title that right now, represents exactly what humanity needs: “ A Peaceful Soul”. It was completely spontaneous and the title was decided in 2019, right after the recording session. I like the sound because it’s a mixture between the traditional and the contemporary jazz. Recently I’m working on a new quartet based in Beijing featuring some of the best of the jazz scene in China and at the same time I still have a lot of productions that need to be released. My new quartet ” SILK ROAD ” has already catched up with the interests of the scene and I hope to record an official album with it here in China.  Furthermore, recently I got the chance to be the protagonist of a little documentary on my life here in China. In the meantime I’m looking forward to starting the tour  with Peaceful Soul.

Antonio Fusco Quintet - Peaceful Soul (2022) ISRABOX HI-RES

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

AF: – It was a process after I’ve been invited in Japan by Yasuhiro Kohama for several times, playing with different musicians of the Nagoya Jazz scene and after the last time,  I decided to record the album there together with Noah Hocker that at that time he was at the same college, the Beijing Contemporary Music Academy.

Peaceful Soul - Antonio Fusco - CD | IBS

JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

AF: – For me the thirty percent is of intellect and seventy is all about the soul. From my point of view, this it doesn’t make any difference between a performance and composing music. I personally like to let my soul talk instead of my brain because the brain often makes mistakes showing us the things that we believe are right or beautiful for us,  but probably for the audience it is not the same. This is what happens in many jazz musicians of the new generation. They used to play and write music in such a difficult way that it didn’t allow the audience to get in touch with them. Nowadays music is full of intellect but it misses the blues and soul of jazz. My big challenge in both cases is always creating music for the audience not only for me.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

AF: – If people don’t get emotional when I play, it means that I’m just playing music for myself, for my “Ego”.  This is something that I never could accept. There’re many musicians that used to think in this way, letting the ego talking, instead to create ” interplay” with the listeners. In my opinion the most beautiful thing is that the audience gets back home with beautiful emotions and, if they remember at least a part of the melodies that we played, it means that we have earned a place in their hearts. Isn’t it beautiful ? I guess this is the reason for why we do music !

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

AF: – I have many memories. For example when I had the chance to play for the first time with the incredible Tim Bern in a little theater in Domodossola. I still remember that concert with the nice quartet ” NO PAIR”  with whom I was playing at that time. It happened only one time with him, but it was enough for me to understand his way of thinking about music. Absolutely incredible and out of this world. Another nice moment that I can’t never forget is when I started to follow the italian jazz guitar player Gigi Cifarelli in every concert that he was doing in the 2000 in Milan city, because I was wanting so much to play with him. Well, one evening at the legendary jazz club ” Le Scimmie ” (now it doesn’t exist anymore but many greats have been playing on that stage) I asked him ( after many months of monitoring every concert) to give me a possibility. Well, during the sound check he gave me this possibility to play together and the first tune that he called it was right Dr Taylor. Some week later I got that place and I started my wonderful experience with him touring all around italy. He was one of my big mentors and in 2010 I had the chance to record his live album.I consider him like a father.

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

AF: – This is a difficult moment for the music scene. The new generation pays more attention to the show instead of the music. Many of them even don’t know where the drums come from. It is very difficult to get the new generation passionate for jazz music and all the greatest of the time that were the protagonists of the jazz scene. Personally I find this difficulty in China, because jazz here is a new music language and they didn’t even have chances to see the concerts and the development of this wonderful art. So the only thing that we could do nowaday to let the new generation get to know about jazz history and all the music that was created is guide them in this process. Jazz is a mission not a job and this is what I do in China. I try to transmit to my students that jazz is not in the book but in the heart, in the way we live life. I try to make them now through history, starting with the New Orleans drummers. Sometime they ask me ” teacher I wanna play like Marcus Gilmure” and I reply that this is quite impossible if you don’t understand first all the drummers that opened the way for all of us like Philly Joe Jones, Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, Tony Williams, Chick Webb just to mention some.

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

AF: – Being honest and transparent first with myself and then with the others. I really care about having a lovely relationship with my colleagues and all the musicians with whom I play. I don’t like the arrogance because at the end we’re all here for a huge mission: be happy and make the people happy, not upset. I don’t like to create tension but only love and enjoyness. I think all this is reflected in my way of playing the drums and also in my music. This is my spirit, my way to live life and I like to be happy and make the people happy. I like to smile when I play and to transmit what I feel during my performances. Furthermore, I’m lucky to have a lovely and special wife in my life. She’s definitely the light that in twelve years together guided me to be a better person.

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

AF: – Recently I’ve been listening to different things, from Led Zeppelin to Peter Bernstein. For example I’m listening a lot the Peter Bernstein live with Greg Hutchinson, Brad Mehldau and Cristian McBride. I never focused so much on Hutch,  just because from my point of view every single thing has a specific time to be listened to. Well this is the time that I’m listening to him a lot and this album already a hundred times ( LOL) What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

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

AF: – In the 60’ because it was the best moment of humanity. I won’t go into the future because the present is already telling me what it can be.

JBN: – At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

AF: – To be honest I liked it a lot and you did a great job giving me specific questions on the album, life and more. Thank you so much for this wonderful experience. A huge hug for all the readers and thanks a lot to Jazz & Blues magazine to have made this happen. Cheers from Beijijg.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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