Jazz: Saxophone soundtracks

Rosario Giuliani and Luciano Biondini perform in the Hot Jazz series.

June 3, 2015 16:25
Luciano Biondini

Luciano Biondini. (photo credit: OH WEH)

Over the years, Italy has produced its fair share of jazz luminaries and, in addition to the matter of the Renaissance, the country has also given the world quite a few cinematic gems. So it makes perfect sense to marry the two areas of artistic endeavor, which is exactly what Hot Jazz series artistic director Ziv Ben is doing for the next chapter of this year’s series.

The six-date installment, which will take place from June 6 to 13, takes in shows at Ganei Tikva, Herzliya, Modi’in, Tel Aviv and Haifa and will be spearheaded by Italian saxophonist Rosario Giuliani and compatriot accordion player Luciano Biondini. They will be supported by Israeli bassist Dor Samoha and drummer Shai Zelman.

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The repertoire performed by Giuliani et al will include personal takes on soundtracks written by Nino Rota, who scored many of Federico Fellini’s masterpieces, and by the prolific now 86-year-old Ennio Morricone. The latter’s bulging six-decade portfolio includes such memorable works as the ever-popular musical theme for iconic spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and the intro to The Untouchables and Cinema Paradiso. The latter will feature in the upcoming Hot Jazz shows.

Jazz has, of course, evolved into all sorts of surprising directions over the last century. Even so, the confluence of saxophone and accordion does not instantly spring to mind. Giuliani feels it is a twinning that has much to offer.

“People think this is a strange combination, but the sound between these two instruments is beautiful,” he states.

And the reedman has the collateral for his claim of inter-sonic success.

“In 2004 I did an album with original compositions for the French label Dreyfuss Jazz, called More Than Ever,” Giuliani notes. “I played on it with [stellar French accordionist] Richard Galliano. That was the first time I played with an accordion, and the sound was amazing. It was a surprise for me, too.”

Then again, the synergy with Biondini was not entirely unexpected, although it took some extraneous input to get it off the ground.

“We have known each other for a long time, but this idea [for them to play together] was an idea from Ziv [Ben]. Ziv asked me to play with Luciano for this project, then Luciano and I went to a studio and made a demo CD together, and the sound was perfect,” he says.

The two subsequently decided to go with the flow and see where their newfound harmony would take them.

“We did a few concerts around Italy for a few months, and people loved it,” says Giuliani. “It is a good idea to continue with for the future,” adds the saxophonist with a nod to Ben. “If Ziv had not come up with the idea, I don’t think Luciano and I would have thought of playing together. With music, it is good to stay open to different ideas.”

It may have taken some time and some outside intervention to get Giuliani and Biondini together, but the reedman has a long history of working with movie theme music.

“I came in to jazz quite late,” says Giuliani. “I did all kinds of things. I played in theater and on a television show, and I did a lot of soundtracks.”

The latter work also brought him into contact with one of the principal figures behind next week’s Hot Jazz shows.

“I did a lot of soundtracks with Ennio Morricone in a recording studio, and I did a lot of stuff with Nicola Piovani and with [Armando] Trovajoli and lots of other soundtrack composers,” he says.

In fact, Giuliani is a longtime appreciator of the musical sound of the motion picture industry.

“I learned a lot about movies and music. When you understand how much the music is important for the movie, and vice versa, how important the images are for the music, that is something I feel very strongly,” he asserts.

Jazz fans who attend the Giuliani- Biondini shows will hear improvised renditions of Morricone’s emotive theme to Cinema Paradiso and the score of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 classic The Godfather written by Rota, as well as Rota’s timeless compositions written for Fellini’s La Strada and La Dolce Vita. There will also be a couple of Giuliani and Biondini originals in the mix, which the saxophonist says will adhere closely to the soundtrack program ethos.

Despite the fact that the Israeli shows follow on the heels of a number of Italian concerts, Giuliani says that the Hot Jazz series is the real start of his project with Biondini.

“This will be the first real tour with this material, and it will be the first time we get a real response from the people to the project, concert by concert,” he says.

The saxophonist’s penchant for movie-inspired music, he says, is the result of a natural inter-sensory interface.

“When I play music, it always comes from images. You live your life to find the emotion of your life and the impressions in your life. Anytime you see a landscape or you see anyone, you take with you an image, a photo, inside of you because it is for you a big moment,” he explains.

Pictorial retention can, says Giuliani, help to recall feelings as well.

“If you want to remember the emotion of a moment, you can take a picture of it; and when you look at the photograph, you feel that again,” he says.

That often inspires new artistic directions.

“When I travel around the world, I take pictures. And when I look at a book of photos I have taken, I sometimes like to choose from them and figure out the elements, to write music based on the pictures,” he says.

That image-based mindset also passes through a multifarious filter of early influences, including such modern jazz masters as bebop founding father Charlie Parker, hard bop reedman Cannonball Adderley and avant-garde jazz giant John Coltrane. But some of the greats from very different areas of musical creation also leave their imprint on Giuliani’s artistic evolution.

“Sometimes I get inspiration from Bach or Mozart or Tchaikovsky, but sometimes I am inspired by artists who played other instruments, like [iconic jazz pianist] Keith Jarrett. The music needs to be open, and you always have to find the signal that life gives you,” he says.

That, of course, includes signals from the silver screen.

For tickets and more information: (03) 573-3001 and www.hotjazz.co.il

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