June 13, 2024


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Interview with Federico Calcagno։ I would like to break the two-way relationship between audience and artist

Interview with bass clarinetist Federico Calcagno. 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?

Federico Calcagno։ – I started to play clarinet when I was 11. I was lucky to have a great teacher that inspired me to continue my studies so I attended the classical music courses in Milan Conservatory. At that time I spent my afternoons playing clarinet and my evenings playing basketball. I made the decision to concentrate on music primarily only after discovering that it was possible to improvise and make music without using a sheet of music. Improvisation was a fascinating mystery which I wanted to investigate.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

I’m not the only musician in the family; my father is a classical piano teacher and he gave me an example of how your passion can bring you work.

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

FC: – At the beginning I had to learn how to play the instrument in a traditional way, producing a clean, rounded, classical sound. Then I had to unlearn how to sound on clarinet in order to find my tone because I felt that the clarinet classical sound was too standardized. I started to try mouthpieces with bigger tip opening that could help me to play with drummers and I listened to favorite jazz clarinetists as Tony Scott, Buddy de Franco, Don Byron, Eddie Daniels, Eric Dolphy.

The clarinetists I met influenced me a lot, as Achille Succi and Joris Roelofs, which were my teachers for a couple of years. I think a lot of musicians I played with influenced my sound. Besides, klezmer and balkan music is another influence. Recently I tried to imitate the sound and articulation of different traditional music instruments as Greek violin, oud and bouzouki.

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

FC: – I’ve been working a lot on rhythm, with and without the instrument. I’ve been practicing odd rhythms using the metronome in different positions of the bar. I’ve been working on different subdivisions of the beat – not only triplets or quadruplets, but also quintuplets and septuplets – internalizing some concepts and techniques of Carnatic music from the South of India. I’ve been playing and improvising on the piano about harmony. Sometimes I analyze classical scores (including Bach, Berg, Scriabin) to find new progressions and harmonic solutions that are not so common in the traditional jazz repertoire.

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

FC: – I think change is the key element that characterizes this music. Change is necessary because it brings freshness and discovery, opens the door to new territories. I don’t push myself to constant change but I like to put myself in “uncomfortable” situations where I can always learn new things.

There could be talk or advertising about your CD

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

FC: – I don’t think we have enough space to write about this topic… but what I can say is that music – and art in general – is one of the activities in which intellect and soul coexist and functions at the same time. This means a lot to me.

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

FC: – I would like to break the two-way relationship between audience and artist. Artist and audience share the same emotions and experiences as human beings. I’m sure when the audience participates to a concert becomes active part of the performance. A true artist doesn’t feel obliged to deliver the emotion the people long for. A true artist delivers new emotions and what people don’t expect to receive. All the rest is dictated by commercial and marketing purposes.

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

FC: – Most of jazz standards are between 100 and 80 years old actually. Mozart is 230 years old and even though his work is performed in concert halls there are not so many young people interested in it… we live in a time in which memory doesn’t seem so important. I think many forms of contemporary jazz can be interesting for young people, especially when the music is contaminated with hip hop and electronics. We just need to open and support more jazz clubs, creative and underground music places in our cities in order to expose young people to this music. Jazz is live music and it can be truly experienced in a live concert only, in my opinion.

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

FC: – I’m not sure if life has a meaning. I guess we like to find a meaning in order to make it less accidental and painful. In my life I discovered I could be good as musician because I felt I could learn something and give it back to the people. If everyone can do the same thing, no matter what career someone is, the world will be a better place.

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

FC: – I would eliminate the music streaming platforms for three simple reasons: they pay anything to the artists, using them to make their profit; the majority of audience on streaming platforms selects a playlist and listens to it in a passive way, and lastly, people don’t buy records anymore. In the musical world I image there is still digital music (which is sold by the artist directly) but it is distinguished as a place in which the social value of music is placed at the center. Music as collective ritual and practice, and less as individual consumption.

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

FC: – I recently went to local venues in The Netherlands and listened to North Sea String 4et, oud players Nizar Rohana and Yasamin Shahoesseini, bassist Alessandro Fongaro’s.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

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

FC: – Village Vanguard, New York, November 5 1961, at the concert of John Coltrane 4et feat. Eric Dolphy… one of my favorite bands in the whole history.

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

FC: – If you could interview a legendary musician from the past, what would that be?

JBN: – I have interviewed and befriended many legends, interview with Barry Harris for example, befriended Ahmad Jamal, Phil Woods… many many.

Dear readers, you often ask who he is, what can I say, an unknown person. He wrote a smart interview, but he is ungrateful and impolite.

Interview by Simon Sarg

Note: https://jazzbluesnews.com/2023/03/19/useu-jazz-blues-association-festivals/ You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/useujba/

La giovane improvvisazione italiana: Federico Calcagno - Percorsi Musicali

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