Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Andrea Goretti. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Andrea Goretti: – I grew up in a very small city in Northern Italy called Mantova. An historical jewel with ancient buildings and a nice lake surrounding the town. A quiet and intimate place where nothing special usually happens, but with beauty all around. My parents made me study classical music when I was around 13 years old, but I fell in love with jazz years later, when I discovered Bill Evans.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
AG: – Since I was initially trained as a classical musician, my first issue with jazz was improvisation. Over the years I studied with passion and dedication and my music grew freer and freer. At the beginning, I was still bounded by music sheets, but as years went by I started to avoid and even dislike written music. I wanted just to learn a tune by hearing it, not to be influenced by a piece of paper. When you have chords or melodies written down your brain will tend towards them constantly, and if you are not careful, they can curb you. After a period without sheet papers I started again reading classical music, the most I love are Bach, Hindemith and Ives. When your brain is no more tied down by written music, playing a composed tune gains a complete different flavor and significance. My sound today is highly influenced by classical music, but in a very free way: even in my written tunes there’s a lot of improvisation! An artist whose music helped me a lot to “free” my music is Paul Bely, a great improviser and great source of inspiration.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
AG: – I have a wide set of exercises, sometimes I create them, other times I take inspiration from some books, but the main thing for me is not to repeat the same exercises too often. I try every time to make variations, to apply them to different things. I follow a non-linear approach; I study what inspires me in that particular day. One day I may want to play a drum with a 12/8 African sound and I study and play different rhythm patterns. Other times I may be hearing some interesting rhythmic stuff by some contemporary artists like Tigran Hamasyan, Nik Bartsch or Shai Maestro, and I transcribe them.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
AG: – I had this problem some years ago when I studied a lot the music of John Taylor for my bachelor at the Conservatory. I heard and transcribed a lot of his music, and I become very obsessed with it. When an influence is an honest love for a certain artist, I think there’s nothing wrong with it. By the way, at some point, in order to be able to find a personal sound it is necessary to stop listening to our heroes.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
AG: – I focus on my breathing and on the sounds I receive from the environment. I try to connect myself as much as I can with the moment, the audience, and the space around me.
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JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
AG: – I can quote a passage from Fred Hersch’s book “Good Things Happen Slowly”: <From my very first set with Joe Henderson I found myself wondering how much I should be playing behind him during his solos […] I finally told him: “Joe, when I’m laying out behind you and then coming back in, I assume that’s cool. I mean, you’ve never said anything.” He looked at me through his big, thick glasses and said: “If you feel it, it’s right. If you think it, it’s probably not right”>. For me this is completely true during a live performance. However, while studying and composing music the balance is slightly different. I think the intellect must be pleased as much as the body. If one of these two is missing, for me the music is somewhat incomplete, and thus not so interesting. Intellectual music without soul is cold and boring, and soulful music without the intellectual complexity and sophistication can be attractive at the beginning, but the lack of profoundness makes it not so relevant for me.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
AG: – Well, I can make a step towards the audience – it’s quite common for a musician to grab the attention of the audience with some virtuoso or catchy tunes before more conceptual ones, or at the end as a relaxing farewell – but I want to surprise them, and I require a step by them in my direction too. Life sometimes is easy, sometimes is not. And so is the music: there’s “easy” music (nothing bad about that, it is necessary!) and “hard” or complex music. My aim is to widen the ears of the people who want to listen, sometimes it might be quite easy, other times it might require more attention.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
AG: – I think jazz is more about a feeling and a view on music and life. The point is to have the proper ears to hear jazz, you know what I mean, right? So it’s all about education and environment. The best thing we can do, in my opinion, is to be honest with the audience and ourselves. We have to understand and talk clearly about why we love this music, and what makes it so special, unique and fascinating. And so our music has to be honest and clear in our intentions. It’s a pretty hard purpose, but that’s the only which truly matters.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
AG: – For me there is no final understating: the only thing we can do is a never-ending process of searching the meaning of life. We can move towards different – even opposite – directions at the same time, and every piece we add to the puzzle in our brain makes the picture wider, but some pieces can change the picture’s meaning dramatically! What we were thinking to be completely true might reveal false, and vice versa. So, for me, doubt is always part of my spiritual journey.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
AG: – I usually hear what’s happening in the contemporary jazz scene, sometimes only a couple of tunes for each artist, to see if I like them and if they have something interesting to say to me. Other times I come back to the great historical jazz masters I studied years ago (for example, this week I come back to Tristano – what the hell, every time you hear him it’s upsetting like the first time!). Sometimes I fall in love with one particular artist, and I choose to hear him for several weeks. In the last year, it happened with Tim Berne and Carla Bley.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
AG: – I think music is a direct language: every time I play, a part of my personality emerges and communicates who I am to the audience. For this reason, my aim is to have something good to say, and something special, profound or unusual to feel and bring to the audience. I want my music to be able to build a bridge to the unconscious, to broaden the listener’s horizons.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
AG: – I think I will pass this opportunity: I’m too scared of time-travels! Jokes apart, a bit temptation would be to go in the recording room when “Kind of Blue” or “A Love Supreme” were recorded, or generally being in NYC in the late 50s – early 60s to hear the Bill Evans Trio (w/ Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian), Trane’s Quartet and the second Miles’ Quintet. However, I’m not sure it would be a good idea to do so: it might break the dream I’ve built in my mind…!
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
AG: – Jazz music offer is increasing a lot during the years, and many new talented young artists are releasing new exciting music. Do you think there will be enough space for everybody? How can an independent artist find his own unique place and audience?
JBN: – There will be no free space for everyone, because many of them just produce garbage and just call it jazz. An independent artist can find his way through us, which you did not appreciate, it is your will.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan