Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Stefano Bedetti. 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? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?
Stefano Bedetti: – I was born and raised in a small town in the hills of Romagna, close to Rimini to be exact. Mine is a valley full of nature, animals, castles and medieval villages, where the pace of life is still far from the frenetic pace of the city.
I was born with the music already inside; I remember my dad telling me that when I was only a few months old, he would play the harmonica to make me fall asleep.
Then when I was 14 they gave me an alto sax and it was immediately evident that I had a particular skill for music and especially for that instrument.
They tried to convince me to go to the conservatory or to study with a good teacher, but I have always wanted to do everything by myself, following and listening to my ears and my heart.
I am in fact a self-taught.
After a few months I was already playing in a folk music band and in a pop one.
At the age of sixteen I listened to Michael Brecker for the first time and I decided that the saxophone would be my life; a decision that became more and more consolidated as I met the Masters along the way such as Trane, Sonny, Dex, Pretz etc. etc.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
SB: – My sound has always been very powerful and quite personal, thanks also to my great chest and lung capacity. Obviously, in my sound and in my way of approaching music there are all the influences of the masters of the jazz era, from 1940 to the end of the 80s, and I’m not just talking about saxophonists, but also trumpet players, pianists and also guitarists. Never having had a teacher has always been a reason for free exploration for me, so I always “tweaked” the shot to get the sound and articulation I wanted, just by listening and playing on the records.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
SB: – Every day, even when I’m on tour or in a hotel, I always try to play as much as possible.Often during the sound check, or in the dressing room obviously disturbing everyone … the important thing for me is to keep inspiration high, in fact I almost never do mechanical exercises but I always try to include them in a solo, whether I’m playing live or do it in my studio.When I am at home and I teach online, every hour free I play it as if there is no tomorrow, always learning new themes, listening to my heroes and maintaining a very high physical exercise on the instrument.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
SB: – Well, I would say that change is a natural occurrence.It is not necessarily evolving but more than anything else “satisfying” the research that our musical instinct asks us every time after having listened to a record or having watched a concert.Over the years I have realized that although there is a great change in me, in my way of thinking and seeing music, in my knowledge of musical theory and harmony, the experience gained in 30 years of career playing and recording also with many stars of the world jazz scene such as: Billy Hart, Antonio Sanchez, John Patitucci, Adam Nussbaum, Lenny White, Victor Lewis George Cables, John Riley, etc etc, however there is always that essence and that approach to everything I play that has remained the same.
JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
SB: – For me there is only one way to keep myself focused on what I am playing or what I am going to play: listen to the Masters!In my playlist they can never be missing: Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane … I know, there are still an infinity that I have not mentioned, but the truth is that those names have something that it literally makes me get in touch with the universal whole.Even when I have to play more open, more “free” music, I still listen to them to find inspiration.
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Stefano Bedetti Organ Trio – Chinese Sundays, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
SB: – You know, like all artists, I don’t really see something good in what I do, if you know what I mean, but I must admit that the thing that satisfies me is the fact that I managed to set the mood I experienced in the last 6 years of my life to music.Usually I am considered as a muscular saxophonist, who makes a lot of notes and often “complicated” 🙂 but with CHINESE SUNDAYS I really wanted to do the opposite; I wanted it to be clear that I love cultured music and that I love to play my instrument at a certain level, but I also wanted to share with as many people as possible the music of this record which I think represents me perfectly in a certain way.In fact, it was born after all in a few, very emotional days, especially on 25 and 26 December 2021.Today of course I am different and I also feel different, so I am writing a lot of “different” music, also for a project that I hope will be realized soon, but I will let you know about it later.
JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?
SB: – You see, also the choice of the band, intended as the choice of the instruments to be used and the musicians with whom to share this record, was quite natural for me.The organ trio formula certainly comes from a long way off.I have to my credit some records as a sideman recorded with that formula.the beautiful thing about the Hammond organ, for me magical, is that you can explore all the colors of the music, both the acoustic ones, more “classic”, and the more “modern” ones, and always with a groove that only with that instrument you can have.Yazan Greselin because in addition of being a special person for me, he is also a very prepared musician, despite being young, and when I say prepared, I say above all empathically prepared, something not taken for granted nowadays, and above all, attentive to the dynamics of these songs, which reflect my emotions, and therefore not easy to interpret and manage.Max Furian because I have known him from the days of my Milan acquaintance, playing together in the most popular clubs in the late 90s.I was in my early twenties and we were already playing together, and ever since, there has always been an incredible human and musical understanding.Max ‘is also one of the most successful drummers in Italy and beyond, he is a man of great experience, he is a musician capable of playing any genre with great mastery, so, in this case, I needed truly a master of this instrument, because as I was taught in New York, the drummer can give light to your band, or he can destroy it ????
JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
SB: – This question is really easy for me !!The intellect is needed to acquire mastery with the instrument and the “rules” of music, so you can be able to express what you feel.Then, for me of course, music is only soul!
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
SB: – Absolutely agree! When you manage to excite the listener, then you have fulfilled your mission for me.It often happens to me that at the end of the concert some people come near, maybe elderly, maybe not used to listening to this kind of music, who often tell me: “I didn’t understand anything about what you did, but you made me travel and move”.Here, for me this is what every musician should try to do … music is not a job but a mission first of all!
JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?
SB: – Well, I have so many stories to tell after 33 years on the road to music, but there is one episode that can surely make you smile.I was 16 and I was really a hooligan :-), at that time I was playing in a folk music quartet led by a 75 year old man who played guitar and was very strict and precise.One afternoon we were playing in a field in front of a church, it was a village festival and many people where there.The sound system was powerful because the area on which people listening to music was large.In a moment of pause, I think after the first set, and after the leader announced on the microphone that we would be back in 15 minutes, I decided to make a spectacular exit, skipping the guitar cable that the guitarist had left on a chair and which was still connected to an old tube amplifier, with the audio system still at high volume because no one had turned it down.Well, in the act of jumping the guitar cable, I tripped over it and knocked both the guitar and the tube amplifier to the ground, which, when falling, produced a devastating noise that practically deafened and scared all the spectators.The scene ended with the old guitarist chasing me for a while (but I was younger and faster) and I managed to escape.Then he calmed down and we continued to play, but with the rest of the band that never stopped laughing 🙂
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
SB: – Bach is four hundred years old but his music is still taught and loved in conservatories around the world.Young people must be taught to love music in all its forms of expression, and I believe that the most contagious thing for them is the fact that they have a teacher who has great love and enthusiasm for what he plays and teaches.Enthusiasm and passion are those things that open the doors of the heart or at least the curiosity to see what’s behind it.Nowadays I see many musicians and teachers who have no enthusiasm, who teach mechanically and without any empathy, without emphasizing the beauty of the music of those years, years where the evolution of all theories, of all genres and all techniques, have happened, but always written and performed with a heart and soul that have disappeared today.However, it is a long and complicated speech.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
SB: – Well, I completely agree with Coltrane.I am a very spiritual person and as I have already mentioned in some of the previous answers, music can only be done with the soul, because it is through it that you will reach others completely, totally.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
SB: – You know, for me music is the metaphor of life, it is the mirror of society.Things go with their feelings and there is nothing we can do to change the course, so I’m usually very peaceful about it, but nowadays, one thing that really hurts music and that I would change or I would immediately cancel it is the cost of things and the bureaucracy with its sometime absurd rules, which makes life difficult for those who make or want to make music, from small bars to big festivals.
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
SB: – Well I have to be honest, even though I know pretty much all the musicians on the modern scene, I still listen to “old cats” all the time.The speech is always the same: nowadays music is less and less exciting.We are surrounded by supreme musicians and instrumentalists but the problem for me is always that, feeling that the belly is moving, not just the brain.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
SB: – After many years of study and contact with music, especially improvised music, I realized that we play to discover ourselves and others, and consequently seek a better world.So the message I would like to pass through my music and my instrument is one of union, respect, love and sharing with others and our wonderful planet.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
SB: – Everywhere, because if I could travel in time, I would like to discover the colors and sensations of every era and era; from dinosaurs to the end of the universe days.
JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…
SB: – Yes, I liked the questions, and since you ask me to ask you one, I would like to ask you: Where does your passion for music end and where does your work as a journalist start?
JBN – SS: – When I like music a lot, it becomes my passion and naturally it prevents me from giving a conscious assessment. However, over the years, I have balanced all that in my work. It’s different with already famous musicians, and different when listening to new recordings by completely new musicians. In the second case, journalism becomes more decisive, listening with the ears of a jazz critic.
JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?
SB: – Over the course of my career I have truly attended so many charity events without taking any money; for me sometimes it is very important to be there.As for my expectations after this interview … I expect at least to sell 50K copies of “Chinese Sundays” 🙂
Interview by Simon Sargsyan