Interview with Claudio Scolari: Anxiety is always part of me … Video

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Jazz interview with jazz drummer Claudio Scolari. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Claudio Scolari: – I was born in Reggio Emilia, Italy, a small city where music traditions are very strong especially for Opera and classical music in general. Little by little the interest for Rock & Pop music start growing until around the 70’s when also Jazz music became very popular and because of it my interest for the drumset became very strong. When i was 14/15 year old I use to meet with older musicians in the area, usually at their homes, listening to albums of the big names like Gerry Mulligan, Clifford Brown, Max Roach, The Jazz Messengers, Art Blackey and many others! I remember I was particularly amazed by Parker, Gillespie, the trumpet sound of Miles Davis, the free jazz of Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. At the time even though I was very young and not very expert I still felt a deep connection listening to these great artists and that brought me to start practicing drums. After sometime i realized I wanted to take music more seriously so I entered the Conservatory to study classical percussion. There i got the fortune of meeting Stefano Cantarelli, Teacher at the conservartory and Timpanist of the Rai Symphony Orchestra who showed me the world of classical music studying composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Wagner, Schubert, Debussy, Mahler, Stravinskij, Ravel, Rachmaninov, Verdi, Puccini, and many others. This musical trip really gave me the skills to become what i am today as an artist and we have to say what must be said: without Classical music and Jazz, music would be nothing today!

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the drums?

CS: – When I first approach music I remember i took a few piano and music theory lessons with an old music teacher from my town who showed me many instruments including drums. I sat on the throne behind his drum kit and from that moment i realized I would have become a drummer. Of course, the passion for music is always part of me since the day I was born haha!

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? 

CS: – Besides my course of study at the Conservatory with my teacher Stefano Cantarelli, I’ve never specifically had a drum teacher. I develop my skills by listening and listening to vinyl of the great masters like jack De Johnette, paul Motian, Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Buddy Rich, Ton Williams, Steve Gadd, Louie Bellson.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

CS: – To be honest, when I think of my sound I never think it from a drummer perspective, I always think about the music as a whole element where all instruments serve the music no matter how the tecnical aspect is involved or not to obtain certain sounds, in other words when i play I rarely think about how to apply this or that paradiddle, this or that pattern, I just close my eyes and let the vibe guide me through what should happen in that moment. As a composer my sound developed with a lot of daily practice and sound experimentation. I have to say that among the albums I’ve recorded some of them didn’t really satisfy me, I mean I am very self-critical but I recognize when a piece of art really cut through or not really haha. Among the albums i composed and recorded Reflex is definitely one of my favourite, also some tracks from Dreams and Emotions of City got a lot of attention where for the first time my son Simone recorded an important trumpet part, and especially the last two releases Colors of Red Island and Synthesis, when the project became a stable trio with my son on trumpet and Daniele Cavalca on multi-instruments, the project took a great step above in my opinion.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

CS: – I keep practicing on my morning routine when i play snare drum reading charts from Jacques Delecluse methods and other random snare charts. Reading music every day really helps develop focus and attention. Then I take sometime to improvise on my drum kit, and I finish with some scales and arpeggios on my vibraphone and marimba. This also becomes a moment to refresh what I have to teach to my students at the Conservatory of Caltanissetta in Sicily, where I’m currently teaching percussion.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

CS: – I usually sit on the drum set to start finding a new idea, however many times the initial idea happens on the piano. From there I simply improvise and record. I listen again what i’ve done and if something works i start working on it. In this process i feel like a musician needs to be completely free of composing either inside or outside a predetermined formo f the composition. What’s important for me is that the music become really organic and alive.

JBN.S: – Together, Daniele Cavalca and Simone Scolari, you end in january 2018. You will publish the new album “Natural Impulse”. What do you love most about your new album?

CS: – With my son Simone and Daniele Cavalca we tried to search for a sound that we’ve never played before something completely “out” putting together our visions into a unique blend letting the music leading us somewhere, who know where! The basic idea was still the same as i did before: composing in real time with no rules. I like a lot how Daniele Cavalca colors the music with drums, live synths, rhodes, he’s very sophisticated in finding the right timbre for that moment. And i like how Simone plays the trumpet with his unique warm sound, calm and opening up the landskape of our songs.

It has been a great experience so far, everybody is putting their own experience, perspective and passion… the result is a unique and solid piece of art.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians re always loooking for advise when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advise you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

CS: – First of all i think is important to work on ourself as artist until we find a great product to show, I think too many times we see low quality music getting into the music business. This in my opinion have ruined our world of art. Some good young musician get anxious and they ask “why that guy made it and i didn’t”. I tell them to be patient and to keep following their own way without getting lost on making unimportant comparison.

JBN.S: – And furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

CS: – Sadly i don’t believe so. Jazz remain a musical language far away from today music business and on top of that is not so popular to be supported by everyone. From the other hand i see that there are a lot of jazz festivals around the globe and people seems to keep going out to see shows.

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

CS: – In Italy, when Jazz got inserted into the Conservatory courses created a lot of scepticism from the “purists” of classical music. The truth is that fusion between Jazz and Classical gave a lot ot benefits to the comtemporary art and helped approaching the young aspiring musicians to the world of Jazz.

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

CS: – Coltrane was always searching for the deep sense of the universe and soul. I think soul is inside each one of us and it’s something very hard to explain in words. It is something that bring u sto see beyond our life, when we look what surrounds us we have to think it’s not all casual, who has the tool to express himself through art these deep sensations come out bringing sometimes excitement, happiness, other times anxiety!

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

CS: – Anxiety is always part of me. I don’t have so much fear since I’m happy with my life and what I achieved professionally. I was lucky to have performed with great musicians of every syle and genre. I hope our last works with Cavalca and Simone keep giving us great results. I’m very excited for our last album that will be out in 2018 Natural Impulse.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

CS: – Is the possibility that young artists like Daniele Cavalca who performs and produces music can continue searching for his sound experimenting new ideas and publish albums. I hope that music becomes always a little more important in our lives. New technologies let us blend even more innovative sounds in composition and production, keeping in mind that technology can never be used alone. About Jazz music, that will always be my personal starting point in every piece of work i make.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

CS: – Yes there are similarities and very interestign things. The meeting between Classicism, jazz and World Music has been a mandatory fusion not always effective but still experimental, sometime a little predictable though.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

CS: – Lately i listen a lot of classical music especially Wagner, Mahler, Sostakovic e Bartok. I also like listening to the latest works of jack De Johnette, always exciting and with a lot of research. Obviously Miles and Parker are always next to my record player.

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

CS: – I use a Gretch kit “Grand Prix Power”, 18” kick, 10”, 12” and 14” toms, a Ludwig black beauty snare drum, a Zildjian K hi-hat and an Istanbul Agop Turk Series Ride 22”, a 19” crash Istambul Agop and a 18” crash also Istambul Agop.

JBN.S: – And if you want, you can congratulate jazz and blues listeners on Christmas and Happy New Year. 

CS: – Happy Christmas and happy New Year to everybody and thanks a lot for having me here at Jazz & Blues! It has been a pleasure! Greetings from me, Daniele and Simone.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Image result for Claudio Scolari

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