May 20, 2024

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Interview with Francesco Chiapperini: Music is language of the soul … Video, new CD cover, Photos

Interview with Jazz baritone saxophonist, bass clarinetist and fluteist Francesco Chiapperini. An interview by email in writing. – 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?

Francesco Chiapperini: – The passion for music was born when I was a child: I listened with amazement to the local marching band of the town where I lived, I fall in love with the clarinet and at the age of 8 years I decided to start studying it. I took part at the local band where I made my first concerts. My passion for big group of instruments playing together grew up. When I was 14teen I started studying classical music at Conservatory of Bergamo. I worked as classical musician player in the orchestra of the “Pomeriggi Musicali di Milano” for few months. Simultaneously with this classical soul, I was interested in improvised music and so I decided to buy my first saxophone with which – once I moved to Milan, I began my journey, first as a student and then as a professional. In December 2014 “NoPair” – my first record – was released. From that moment on, I experienced an explosiveness of ideas that led me in the following years to record other and different projects that today are part of my discography.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

Living playing jazz? Not in Italy.. In my life I have also a degree in Economics, and today I am able to peacefully reconcile the two dimensions.

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

FC: – I think sound is the hallmark of a musician and, in my opinion, is more important than technical competences. I define sound as the soul of the musician that emerges when he speaks through a codified language such as that of music.

And I also think that the search for one’s own sound is the starting and the arrival point of a journey made of exploration, imitation, but above all research.

My references were great musicians, starting with my teachers (Daniele Cavallanti), but also Coltrane, Dolphy, Surman, Garbarek, Barbieri, and others. By carefully listening to their records and to the way they express themselves, I tried to find my personal and distinctive way by blowing into my instruments.

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: – At the beginning of my musical journey I invested in instrumental technique. I spent hours and hours in front of a wall listening and searching for the sound I wanted to have, while exercising my fingers, also taking advantage of the technique developed during my classical studies.

Then the exploration of harmony was based on the study of jazz standards, but above all by playing in rehearsals and live during concerts. Every performance on stage gives me the opportunity to experiment and push rhythmic and harmonic boundaries beyond my comfort zone.

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

FC: – After more than 10 albums recorded as a leader and as many collaborations as a sideman, I think my music always maintains an imprint that characterizes my personality and my way of playing. I always try to bring emotions to the listener. My need is to express the power that music can unleash. I’ve explored this in different forms with different ensembles and now that I am thinking on it I see myself in a sort of a spiral where when moving ahead I sometimes go back bringing my past e.g. band experiences end expressing it in new fashion.

In my last project I have been living a return to “neoclassical” forms, taking up a more written than improvisational approach and writing in ways that are more reminiscent of my past as a classical and orchestral musician. A sort of need to return to the order of things..

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

FC: – Energy grows during the creative process of any new project. I usually start writing the parts for all the instruments with the exception of the drums, where I convey my ideas verbally – imagining the kind of sound atmosphere and spiritual energy that I want to get. The writing process is made of multiple trying. Then I organize rehearsals with the musicians where I explain what I want from any song and at the same time, exploiting the skills and creativity of who plays with me, new ideas emerge.

Once this type of work is done, we go out to play live concerts, and here is where musical and spiritual energy grows exponentially. I organize some of them consecutively and then record – always live. On the one hand this modality allows me to get “warm” to the recording, on the other hand live concerts allow musicians to express themselves at their best, without the anxiety of having to register in a recording studio. In fact, almost all of my latest recordings are recorded in a “live-mode”.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2023: Francesco Chiapperini – Transmigration, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

FC: – I think Transmigration is one of my best productions for a number of reasons. First of all, I like the idea of writing for large ensembles: I find it stimulating and very challenging at the same time. Secondly, I wanted to give to my trio – WE3 – a wider configuration, to explore how the spirit of our trio could change and expand in a big ensemble. So I decided to gather around me, Luca Pissavini and Stefano Grasso (WE3) the most representative free jazz musicians – in my view – of the Milanese scene.

Today I’m working on a second album for the same ensemble I used for Transmigration work, which however will have a more electric and more improvisational flavor: the idea is to let the music be created freely, starting from the small harmonic, melodic and rhythmic structures that I’m writing…

Buy from here – New CD 2023

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

FC: – Like any other Project, I believe that the human component plays the fundamental role for the success of an idea. The musicians who have played in Transmigration are people with whom I usually collaborate with. The feeling and the understanding I have with them remain the main factor of choice. Plus, besides being wonderful people, they’re fantastic musicians.

Finally, there is an “additional musician”, Luigi Naro, founder of the record label “Splasc(H) Records” who is one of the people who made this work great.

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

FC: – One of the memories that I have most imprinted in my memory concerns another collective work that I recorded in 2018: it is called “The Big Earth” and it is a project that explores the roots of my native land: Puglia. I remember that I had called 11 musicians (with me we reached 12) and since we played the religious funeral marches that are played during the Apulian Easter, I liked the idea of playing with the clothes that are used in Puglia on that occasion. So I commissioned the mother of Luca, the bass player with whom I have been playing for more than 15 years, the clothes we wore while playing live: 12 colored tunics, which often reminded me of the amazing clothes of the Sun Ra or the Art Ensemble of Chicago musicians.. It was really exciting!

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

FC: – I believe that the intellect is the fuse that ignites a compositional path. At the same time I believe that structures, melodies, harmonies and rhythms must remain intelligible. Between intellect and soul, I much prefer the latter. I don’t particularly like records and productions where it is hard to understand what happens during the performance of complicated tunes. It is as if the musicians of the generation following mine feel a sort of “pleasure” in writing music which is increasingly difficult to decipher. In all this intellect, I lose the emotion that music must give to the listener..

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

FC: – It’s one of the thoughts that sometimes comes to my mind when I write or play music, but it’s definitely not what makes me write or play in a certain way. I firmly believe in what I do, with the style I have. I also believe that often, if we talk about “free jazz” people turn up their noses, but then listening to what I play, the emotions come. In a different way perhaps compared to the fees people are used to, but they arrive anyway. And at the end of the concerts, people are satisfied. I therefore believe that an artist must remain faithful to his idea of making music: if he is able to make himself “understood”, then he does not need to bend his ideas to commercial expectations ..

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

FC: – I believe that an “accompanied” listening can be one of the ways to achieve this goal. I am referring above all to the scholastic world, where obviously the “theoretical” approach must necessarily proceed in parallel with listening to what were the great stages in the history of jazz, embracing all eras, even those where the music becomes “harder” to listen and comes out of the usual schemes – I am referring to everything produced from the 70s onwards-

Therefore I think that a listening approach must be a fundamental element in the educational path of a student who faces this music, being careful not to forget anything.

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

FC: – I believe that Coltrane has grasped the essence of musical research, incessantly digging into an instrument and the possibilities it offers. In the recordings of his quintet with Eric Dolphy or in masterpieces such as “Ascension”, one perceives his continuous exploration, which never ends. This is a great example for me: the spirit of life can also be revealed by music, especially when it leads you to share experiences with people on stage that can touch mysticism. When it happens to me, I am extremely grateful to the music..

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

FC: – Dreaming big, it would be wonderful if culture institutions around the world would support jazz/improvisational musical projects where musicians with different musical and cultural backgrounds would play together. Music is language of the soul and could create deep emotional and spiritual connection between cultures, even between the ones that usually struggle to talk one to one other.

At a more concrete level I would the organizers of the Jazz Festivals to take into greater consideration musical proposals that do not come from the “usual well-known names”. I believe that the courage to discover new form of musical expression should be pursued with force.

If many artistic directors of famous Italian Jazz festivals would embrace this proposal, it would lead the public to get to know musicians that otherwise continue to remain and live in the shadow of local clubs, ad struggle to survive.

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

FC: – For me, summer has always been a time when I don’t play, or practise, or listen to music. The summer months are for me a way to recharge my batteries by doing something else (I read, ride my bike, spend time with my family). This allows me to recover the energies necessary to face the following musical season, both from an executive and a compositional point of view.

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

FC: – My dream is to have a tour in Iceland by bike in total autonomy. It has little to do with music I know, but the bike is my other great life passion. And often, pedaling in the most solitary and remote places, I have conceived musical ideas that have then found their realization.. So, no time machine that takes me back to the past: it is a future dream, but I want to get there by living the years of my life, without using time jumps!

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

FC: – Redemption. I find in the music that I write a message of suffering that is transformed into redemption, into a transmigration process.. I believe that music is the tool that makes me aware of the suffering of the human condition and that, through its development, one can arrive at a message of hope and joy. I believe that the way this type of passage expresses, and the emotions connected to this “crossing” can also be expressed by totally free music, because it is in such a way that the musician does not feel bound to any pattern and can at the same time give light to that mighty, energetic flow, sometimes even angular, but rich in humanity which is the soul of the improvisational process..

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

FC: – I like to answer such profound questions as the ones you asked me. Because the response process makes you stop and think, and brings your beliefs and thoughts into focus. And it’s a way to find out if what I’ve always believed is still valid.

The question I have for you is this: do you think that the greats of the past are still “present” in the ideas of today’s musicians? And if so, in what form?

JBN: – Thank you for your answers. Yes, of course they are present, with the styles they founded, the ways they play, reminding themselves continuously and with their spirit.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

FC: – Certainly. Music has the great power to introduce you to places and people and, consequently, to enter the lives of others. It happened, and I think it could happen again, that I could play without having to be paid on requests from some people I’ve known in my life: these are situations in which the personal story for which I choose to play is “stronger” than the request for a cachet. And I’m not ashamed of this.

By the way, I think the most important unpaid concert I played was the serenade dedicated to my wife ????

Last but not least, having “promotional” purposes of a Project that makes its debut for the first time can lead me to make an assessment of this kind.

What do I expect from this interview? Above all, I like the idea of being able to answer such articulate questions: it is a way to stop and take stock of myself and my life.

Interview by Emmanuel Bolton

Note: 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.

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