Fiddling with style

Italian violinist Luca Ciarla performs a solo concert in Jerusalem.

Italian violinist Luca Ciarla (photo credit: ANDREA ANGELUCCI)
Italian violinist Luca Ciarla
(photo credit: ANDREA ANGELUCCI)
Any solo concert can be a challenge for both the performer and the audience. The former can’t let his or her concentration drop, even for a second, as he/she has no band mates to hide behind. The soloist simply has to keep the audience engaged, all on his/her own. Meanwhile, the patrons don’t have much to keep them visually on board unless, for example, there is some alluring video art to be viewed as the music goes on.
Luca Ciarla has solved the sonic solo conundrum, at least, by augmenting his one-man violin output with a little help from some state-of-the-art overlaying gizmos.
The 40something Italian violinist crafts sonic sculptures as he unfurls individual lines and lays them down as a multi-layered platform for his flights of creative fancy.
That should keep his May 16 (8:30 p.m.) Confederation House audience duly riveted as the one-man orchestra produces his animated goods.
It is, says Ciarla, very much a matter of being in the moment.
“It is all live. There is nothing prerecorded. I do everything on stage, and I play over myself all the time, sometimes five or six times,” he says.
It all started for the musician in a pretty conventional way.
“I began with classical music,” he recounts. “I had a great teacher named Josef Gingold at Indiana University [Jacobs School of Music]. That was after the conservatory in Italy.”
Still, some extraneous sounds and beats did make their way into Ciarla’s teenage consciousness.
“I heard pop and rock, but I have to admit I was into folk music and jazz,” he states. “But my main influences have, of course, been classical.”
Even so, the youngster was eager to break ranks as soon as he could.
“I started improvising when I was about 13 years old,” says Ciarla. “I fell in love with [jazz pianist] Keith Jarrett and his approach.”
While Ciarla admired the stellar jazzman’s work from afar, he did however get to engage in a creative confluence with someone close to Jarrett, the latter’s young brother Chris, who also plays jazz piano. The synergy was based on musical sensibilities that hail from this neck of the woods.
“We actually played an arrangement of a Sephardic tune,” the violinist explains.
The number in question is called “Cancion Sefardi,” and Ciarla and Jarrett have performed it at various venues around the world, such as the prestigious Rhino Jazz Festival in France. The two put in a highly creditable turn, with Ciarla producing some nifty Arabic phrasing betwixt the more harmonious slots.
Ciarla says he developed an interest in a wide range of cultures and their music some years ago.
“I love all the traditions around the Mediterranean. And I love all cultures, from India to Argentina. The violin belongs to all of us. It’s true that the instrument developed in Italy, but it wasn’t born there. There are so many traditions around, and they are related,” he says.
Celtic music also comes within Ciarla’s professional purview as does Arabic music.
“I like the traditions of northern Europe, and I try to incorporate quarter tones in my compositions,” he notes, adding that with such a broad artistic hinterland, it is important to stay grounded and not spread himself too thin. “You have to find a balance,” he says.
In addition to his solo work and gigs with Jarrett, Ciarla has a quartet with an intriguing instrumental spread that takes in an accordion, double bass and percussion. The foursome’s latest album includes novel renditions of such jazz standards as “Night in Tunisia” and “Caravan.”
But there are also some romantic classical interludes, as well as some gypsy-oriented spots. And there’s Ciarla’s work with envelope-pushing Italian visual artist Keziat on which the violinist adds more avant-garde and eclectic routes to his musical output.
Working with other musicians must be a very different kettle compared with Ciarla’s one-man shows. While he has complete control over his looping structures, other band members could surprise the violinist with some unexpected rhythmic or textural departure. Ciarla agrees with that angle but says he can be thrown off his stride even when he is alone on stage.
“When I play with loops, it might be more structured, let’s say that, but there is a lot of improvisation as well. It is like a puzzle, and I have to fit all the pieces together. I like that,” he says. “I like to come up with new things. It is fascinating for me.”
Presumably, that goes for his audiences as well.
After performing around the world, Ciarla says he is delighted to be coming to Israel and especially to perform in Jerusalem.
“I have a new program that is called Sacred Works. It is new and still developing, but I couldn’t have chosen a better place to perform it than Jerusalem,” he says.
The program takes in a broad swath of music with spiritual intent and from diverse cultures, including special arrangements of works by Bach and sacred folk music from North Africa.
“It is going to be wonderful to play this music in a place like Jerusalem. It is going to be very inspiring for me,” he asserts.
Luca Ciarla will perform on May 16 at 8:30 p.m. at Confederation House in Jerusalem. For tickets and more information: *6226 and (02) 623-7000, and