June 12, 2024

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Interview with Theo Allegretti: Music, like all arts, must elevate us: Video, new CD cover

Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Theo Allegretti. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Theo Allegretti: – I grew up in a city in southern Italy overlooking the Mediterranean, Taranto. A strange city, with a port and a very important industrial pole, the main Italian military naval base and a past of “Magna Graecia” rich in testimonies. In short, a crossroads of people and contradictions.

My father, a professor of literature and history of art, painter and curator of a small museum, “infected” me with his passion for music: he painted and listened to classical music. Already very young, as my parents told me, I had an obsession with everything that produced a sound and I played it. Even as a child I played guitar and percussion with friends; then, I started taking guitar and piano, classical and jazz lessons with a lot of profit. At the time, however, there weren’t too many school alternatives, so I continued my lessons without going through the classical conservatory which seemed too restrictive to me. Later, I attended jazz masterclasess with Giorgio Gaslini, Enrico Pieranunzi and a series of lessons from the conservatory jazz master Gianni Lenoci.

JBN: – When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

TA: – I started doing concerts in my teens and while attending university I earned some money with jingles in a recording studio linked to private radio and TV advertising. There I realized that music could also be an economic resource. However, I have always had my foot in both shoes and have continued other studies as here it has never been easy to live on music alone.

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

TA: – I have always had a personal approach to the instrument. As a child I was struck by Fred Van Hove and Keith Tippett who played the piano prepared and with an atypical approach (to name but a few). However, I never tried to imitate them, but I was looking for my own way to explore the piano. At the same time, I listened to a huge amount of music, one different from the other, from free to ethnic music, while I went to all the concerts I could. All of this, along with my natural predisposition to play my music, helped me to find my sound.

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

TA: – For me it was natural to first practice a free and intuitive improvisation. Then, a practice of instant composition and work on patterns, in a more rational way. Today, I still use a similar method and I use even large sessions of meditation and imagination guided by music.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

TA: – Yes, today I have changed a lot, even in my musical listening. If before I was looking for a more extreme way of freedom, today I am looking for the sweetness and beauty of sound, even in a more minimalist way, looking for the poetics of whispering and not screaming.

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

TA: – It depends on the type of work to which one is called (recording, concert, theatrical piece, on impro or specific part…). Of course, careful preliminary preparation work must always be done, also to create automatisms in the execution. But then, it is essential to practice relaxation and let go of all the tension, otherwise all the preliminary work is nullified and the emotion does not come out and instead that is the most important thing in music.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: In Search of Light, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

TA: – Of course, all the concept of the work as a whole is important to me. Beyond the various pieces, one different from the other, it is the intention behind the sound that becomes important, what remains when the music is over. This applies to all my music, regardless of the dress that is used to make it. Meanwhile, now I’m working on the arrangements of the Cd for the live quartet (P. Fl. Cb. Perc.). Then, I will have several theater works and other surprises for autumn.

New CD – 2022 – Buy from here

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

TA: – Each of the musicians has a different background. However, they are all on the border with respect to the music I intended to propose and no one is a pure jazz player. I am happy to have involved each of them for the sound to be made. For example, I am satisfied with the sound of Alesini’s saxophone, with whom I believe I have an affinity of approach (of ambient-jazz background) and, instead, I find a spiritual and conceptual affinity with the great flutist Ceccomori (of classical background), with whom I have been collaborating since 2017 and we have an even longer friendship.

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

TA: – Beyond the aspect of musical performance and everything that has to do with the rational aspect is the soul that must emanate from the instrument, that is the essential thing.

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

TA: – Any performance represents a ritual in which the public plays a fundamental part and can give many immediate feedback, so that they too contribute to the success of the meeting. You have to find a balance in that relationship and it is different every time.

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

TA: – There are several. A funny one is what happened to me in a large international public event in the huge churchyard of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. In front of several thousand people who were starting to occupy the square and the neighboring streets I was the last to check the piano because of the delays of the other musicians. Everything is ready, dozens of TVs from all over the world, but I had to ask permission to play from the great maestro Rolando Nicolosi, pianist of excellent fame (accompanist of Maria Callas, just to mention a name), who was already at the piano because of his difficulty walking. So, Nicolosi first asked me who I was and what I wanted from him and I explained to him that I had to do my soundcheck, so he sat down just to my left next to me and let me play… I played on the fly, very intimidated one of my soft jazz pieces and he: <congratulations, what you did is not easy, it’s alright> and under his unexpected approval I went trembling behind the scenes, ready for the show.

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

TA: – The standards are made for this, to be rearranged every time even in a more modern style. Today, many musicians have renewed the repertoire by adding pop motifs, allowing the less accustomed audience to approach jazz.

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

TA: – I am near Coltrane. Music is for me a privileged channel that brings us closer to the divine, it is the primal principle and substance that permeates the whole cosmos.

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

TA: – I would try to keep it away from the deleterious logic of the market, from distribution to the organization of concerts.

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

TA: – I have a lot of pianist CDs in my car. These days I am listening to Jarrett again by chance, but in general I love all the musicians of the Mediterranean or Scandinavian and “border” area. By chance, a pianist you are now promoting (Avishai Darash) and many others (O. Sosa, T. Hamasyan, O. Klein, S. Maestro, V. Iyer… Among the Italians, Stefano Battaglia is one of the best and most inspired).

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

TA: – Music, like all arts, must elevate us, it must help us grow, evolve and get as close as possible to cosmic harmony, to the Divine. I would like this to be my mission.

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

TA: – I would choose the end of the 60s / early 70s, when jazz opened up to music from all over the world and began to spread all over the world with a meaning more pregnant than today. One emblematic figure among many could be Alice Coltrane who chose to travel to India. I would like to be among those spiritual jazz musicians crossing the world.

JBN: – So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

TA: – From your privileged observatory, how do you see the evolution of the jazz market, towards a natural greater subservience to market logic or is there hope of a liberalization of public tastes towards greater creative freedom for musicians?

JBN: – Very bad for most young people. And this is not the problem of fathers and sons, they try to penetrate jazz from pop, they distort intellectual music.

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

TA: – I hope it will bring me luck for a greater diffusion of my music and its spirit, who knows.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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