Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Massimo Vescovi. 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?
Massimo Vescovi: –Varese, the place where I was born and raised, between the 80s and 90s certainly had a notable musical activity and organized festivals with the most illustrious names in international jazz such as Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea. Also in that period, the proximity to Lugano and its fantastic “estival” jazz and everything that the nearby Milan could offer among clubs and festivals, the opportunities to breathe excellent music were certainly not lacking. Surely then, being a boy of the 70 ‘, the good fortune to have in those years an older brother than me who played the piano, passionate about music who took me with him to all the jazz and rock concerts, filling our room with vinyls of excellent choice, it was certainly decisive in my passion for music. My adventure was born from having attended excellent schools and excellent teachers from the age of 16 until I reached the conservatory diploma at the age of 40. Receive appreciation on my artistic abilities from masters such as Franco Cerri (Civic Courses of Jazz Milan) and Stefano Battaglia (Siena jazz), collaborating with the first in the publication of two of his record releases related to the “Franco Cerri Guitar Quartet” project and with the second with the release of my first album “Luci e ombre” in 2005, it was fundamental to decide to try to give a professional change to my artistic activity. From 2005 to today my relationship with music has been symbiotically lived as an intense and passionate constant study beyond the few satisfactions and low economic results achieved with the first and two subsequent record productions “Schiuma” and “Whistle this” of 2010. It goes without saying that earning a living with music, also having a family on my shoulders, has always remained a somewhat utopian thing. Certainly, however, between teaching and some concerts, part of my earnings is linked to that.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
MV: – Having started my studies in a classical way, I have always had a greater propensity to express myself musically with acoustic instruments, something perhaps even a little imposed by the musicians with whom I recorded who preferred me this way, proof of this are my first three records. The electric turning point is quite recent and is mainly linked to the purchase of a semi-acoustic super guitar from a formidable Italian luthier “Moffa”. Although this instrument is electric, it is as if it had an acoustic soul within it, better than this it could not have happened to me. Despite the already splendid clean sound of this guitar, I however also embarked on a good research to build myself a pedalboard that could offer me a good variety of sounds to be able to perform in concerts and perhaps insert in the new album “Salvo imprevisti”
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
MV: – The ways to practice are infinite and generally must be chosen according to the level of knowledge reached on the instrument. What in my opinion must always be present in one’s studio is the curiosity for what we like to hear and which at the same time cannot be reproduced with one’s own instrument.
Then, again in my opinion, what must always be clear to every student is that, if you can’t play that thing, it’s not for inability but it’s only because behind there is still a subject of study that you don’t know and which, if one seeks, one finds.
Let me be clear, however, the arguments on music are practically infinite, fortunately I would add.
From this point of view, the Internet is a beautiful gold mine.
Studies and discoveries to report: for guitarists, Ted Greene’s books and studies; for all instruments, however, the studies related to the scales by Barry Harris; without forgetting the various transcriptions of solos by the reference musician to be studied by heart, even better if transcribed in your own hand. The last piece of advice I gave that was fundamental to me is to write and take notes of everything that you discover new on your instrument.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
MV: – The answer I want to give is yes and I hope for the best. Perhaps the result of my constant study and more than thirty years of experience.
JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
MV: – At the base of my preparation behind each event, in addition to the usual review of the scores, there is a considerable number of rehearsals with the group. Those who have to do with me know that I am an anxious type and therefore everything must be perfectly established before each event: concert lineup, song structure, solo sequence, type of sounds to use, etc. As for spiritual preparation, I found that trying to empathize immediately with the audience with a nice initial presentation helps to get rid of anxiety and to start everything in the right spirit.
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Massimo Vescovi Trio – Salvo Imprevisti, how it was formed and what you are working on today. How did you select the musicians who play on the album?
MV: – Difficult to say. Perhaps the thing I loved most about this record was the good feeling of being able to do something more concrete with my passion after 12 years of abstinence. A result that would have been impossible to achieve without a number of positive factors. First of all: having met Carlo Bavetta, a young double bass player recommended to me by a common colleague for his skill, and having found Marco Zanoli whom I have known for over 25 years and with whom I had already collaborated on my first album “Luci e Ombre “of 2005. Two fantastic artists for preparation and originality, willing to meet even just for the pleasure of playing together, to work on music with absolute passion and dedication, to dig into the substance of the same to create a special alchemy between the instruments. Second: the regularity of our meetings that allowed us to refine listening, dialogue, interplay, musical breath, essential elements for the music I had in mind. Third: more practical, but no less important, a place of my own where I can work together on music with consistency and continuity. The natural consequence of all this was the birth of the desire to transform our musical encounters into a real laboratory where to design a record work. As with my previous albums also this time, feeling the need to create original music, I immersed myself in my deepest musical world, the harmonic one. Always fascinated by the infinite mechanisms that regulate it, my compositions often arise from simple concatenations of chords that I gradually try to extend until arriving at a draft that I consider complete. The choice of rhythm, style and melody often comes later, almost as a natural consequence of what has already been established at the harmonic level. The precious collaboration, the research of the details, the advice and the musicality of Carlo and Marco have helped to stimulate and perfect my compositional effort by putting into practice the drafting of the eleven pieces you find in this work. I am currently still working to advertise the CD in order to be able to find concerts and maybe sell some physical copies.
JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
MV: – I would summarize it like this: the intellect in music are all the rules, the harmonic, melodic and rhythmic concatenation that can be learned in one’s own course of study; the soul, on the other hand, is inspiration, genius, sensitivity, singing, something that flies above all the rules. Playing jazz for me is trying to keep these two essential elements in the right balance; which is often not easy ….
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
MV: – Surely among the main factors that determine the success of a concert, in addition to those related to the quality of the acoustics of the place where you play, there is the involvement of the public. The more the audience is attentive, the more your playing does not remain an end in itself but turns into a communication channel of impromptu emotions linked to what you do in that instant: that note, that pause, that solo. In these conditions, clearly the artist, feeling much more motivated, therefore plays much better. As for satisfying the wishes of the public, bringing already well-structured projects, I usually stick to the set schedule. On the encore, however, I gladly accept the requests of those who have listened to the concert.
JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?
MV: – One of the funniest and most affectionate memories I have is certainly linked to my public performance at an early age to a review that took place in the Milan subway together with Maestro Cerri. In full improvisation, the Maestro told me verbally that he had decided to change the structure of the piece and I, I don’t know how, managed at the same time not to interrupt the improvisation by continuing to hear what the Maestro was saying to me; that piece was eventually completed successfully.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
MV: – It seems to me that there is still a great excitement among young people for jazz, I often hear very interesting guys. To name one at random, my bassist Carlo Bavetta is 23 years old: very good! As for the age of standards, I think in jazz it doesn’t matter so much what you play but how you play it. However, I prefer to carry around original music composed by me. One thing that unfortunately often scares the artistic directors of jazz clubs.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
MV: – If I happen to not pick up the instrument for two days in a row, I become unbearable and I feel bad. For me, “playing” is my positive thought and the thing I can always hold on to to get myself out of the negativity that sometimes afflicts me; in short, a cure for the soul.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
MV: – I would only release music on vinyl, thus reopening those beautiful record shops of yesteryear. Perhaps once and for all the loan sharking that is perpetrated against musicians and the few remaining record labels through streaming and online sales would be eliminated.
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
MV: – I often decide to listen to a record obsessively for months or even years. The last two records that received this kind of treatment were “Beyond the Sound Barrier” by Wayne Shorter and “One Quiet Night” by Pat Metheny
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
MV: – As they say: will beauty save the world? Surely in this period full of adverse events rather than a message, I would just like the idea of being able to carry around a bit of beauty with my music.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
MV: – I would say that a trip, as a young twenty year old, around the 30 ‘/ 40’ in the States and thus being able to witness live the evolution that African American music has had in the following thirty forty years, I would do it very willingly.
JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?
MV: – Free concerts yes I did them as a youngster and I also participated in several jams when I was older. The expectation of this interview is to expand my audience a little bit maybe even in your part of the World.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan