December 10th 2012
Despite the bad weather conditions, the last appointment of the 10th edition of the Lamezia Jazz season successfully took place on December 8th at 09.00 pm at the Umberto Theater in Lamezia Terme with the great performance of the SPECIAL PROJECT “THE MUSIC OF ART PEPPER” PEPPERLEGACY (George Cables – Piano; Bob Magnusson – Bass; Charles Barnett – Drums; Gaspare Pasini – Saxophone). A tribute to the great saxophone player for the 30th anniversary of his death.
December 10th 2012
Scicli, December 9th 2012 – The opening of the Jazz Season 2012-2013 at the Millenium Club in Scicli last December 6th was more than an event, when the famous club in via Francesco Mormino Penna hosted saxophonist Gaspare Pasini’s quartet paying a tribute to a great jazz musician: saxophonist Art Pepper untimely passed away at the age of 57 in June 1982. An event which brought to life the work of the jazz musician from California in all his spirit, thanks to the passion and the touched interpretation of the saxophonist from Venice who called up in his quartet, for the purpose, three musicians who had performed with the great saxophonist from California.
In the project “Pepperlegacy”, in fact, we’ve seen again pianist George Cable, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Carl Burnett.
The evening opened with a refined tasting in a pleasant atmosphere, with people waiting for what is expected to be an exclusive concert.
Some musicians that have experienced the golden age of jazz are about to come on stage, and when Gaspare Pasini and the trio Magnusson – Cable – Burnett start to play, it’s like breathing the air of a New York jazz club, thanks to the lively and pulsating expressive force of the quartet. Pasini seems totally captured by the hard bop geometries of Pepper’s compositions, immersed in a kind of tribute-review of his art. His lexicon is visceral and full of great admiration for the work that the Californian musician has managed to outline within a tormented existence.
He expresses the themes carving each detail, than he unleashes his improvised jazz moods without overdoing, tracing almost mystical lines of great jazz. He puts himself aside in order to leave the scene to the onetime fellows adventurers of his beloved Pepper. Here comes George Cables in all his magnificence, tireless on keyboards, his hands seem to barely touch the white and black frets, but the notes are woven explosively in his impenetrable rhythmic perseverance. He allows himself just a few breaks, only to shine a light on the statuesque and sophisticated Magnusson. The elegant bass player who sometimes imitates ironically the gabble of his instrument’s sound, that every now and then he likes to distil. And then Carl Burnett, a piece of jazz history inside the four walls of the Millenium hall. It seems incredible, another perfect score by Pasini who wanted him in this quartet. His drumming is colored and fluorescent, constant and propelling.
The whole performance is dedicated to Pepper’s compositions from True Blues on. Yet, by the end of the show, the saxophonist from Venice does not renounce to close the performance with one of his songs called King Art, which sums up the constitutive elements of the work of the Californian musician, a great proponent of bop while lovable dispenser of cool moods.
The next appointment will take place on December 20th with a piano concert by a talented young musician from Sicily, Seby Burgio.
November 27th 2012
The words of the saxophonist, before the Pepperlegacy Tour
For any jazz lover it would be hard to find not only an adjective, but even a superlative, to define the music of Art Pepper, the giant from California who untimely passed away and left a great inheritance, but fell into oblivion. Pasini paid tribute to that unmistakable emotional trace that marked his artistic period, that is the stage of his great re-entry in the mid ‘70s. Pasini, after deep reflection flew to the United States to bring back together some of Pepper’s most trusted musicians. The target? To pay a sincere and passionate tribute without creating any competition, but rather emphasizing a gratitude that is still not entirely recognized. And so Pepperlegacy, together with George Cables, Bob Magnusson and Carl Burnett, will tour across Italy, from the end of November till probably Spring 2013. We talked about this and more with Pasini, a name that maybe does not mean very much to you, but that has actually sown a lot, and gained great praises by experts such as Phil Woods, Cedar Walton and Ray Mantilla. After having crossed the path of the Italian saxophonist, they bless this new and crucial stage of his career.
Gaspare, what does Pepper represent to you and what is his distinctive feature?
I always felt for him an unconditional love, even before I had the chance to see him live in Pescara and Bologna. There I was so lucky to meet some of the personalities who played a key role in the development of jazz in Italy, such as Alberto Alberti and his wife Marcella, who honoured me with their friendship and treated me like a son. This project is the result of a deep love for Pepper’s sound and for his absolutely emotional way to perform ballads.
You can notice a greater evolution in his sound than in his phrasing, a characteristic that you can’t modify, but rather condense over the years. In the last official albums of his career there are features of an unreachable technical virtuosity, developed through a resounding instrumental mastery, also greater than that of the ‘50s and ‘60s, a period in which he was mainly involved in his studies. But through this final evolution, Art was able to elaborate a more suffered sound that arrived directly from his innermost part. The difference lied right in the quality of his sound, as it came from the heart. In his case, I don’t feel like I’m mistifying when I take into account his life and his personal sufferings. This can be seen in the use of over high notes, a derivation of ‘60s free jazz. A form of expression that he had never used in his young years and which he actualized with a bewildering lucidity and speed, even though, especially when talking about saxophonists, what counts is certainly not speed.
How did you get from the initial idea to the live performances, only in Italy at the moment?
Through a multifaceted series of moods but also because I knew I could have made it. I’ve been to New York for the first time in my life only last year, thinking I’d meet George Cables, through my friend Ray Mantilla with whom I had often played. Ray was nice, he organized me a meeting with Cables at the Iridium where he played. I didn’t know who was about to play with George. I explained the project to him and he listened to me very carefully although he could have been of course doubtful, as I was a complete stranger to him. And yet, I won my first approval.
That same night, at the bottom of the hall, I saw David Williams who was arranging his instrument. David is another great friend who cristened my studio session career with Cedar Walton in an album for Red Records. Meeting his eyes again was touching: “Gaspar!” he uttered throwing his arms around me. By the time we had a beer together, I was already explaining him my wish. He, a life lover ever since, told me immediately that he couldn’t wait to do it. So we parted ways with the promise to implement the project before the end of 2012, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Pepper’s death.
Then I returned to New York to meet Pepper’s widow, Laurie, who was very kind during our first meeting. She gave me some original manuscripts of Art and Carl Burnett, his last drummer, who will take part in this adventure. Nobody had a clue about where he was. It was a miracle for me to found him again on a YouTube video in which he played, 30 kilos after, but still with a great swing, together with Henry Franklin, bassist from LA. Williams won’t be in this first round for commitments with Cedar and Piero Odorici which afterwards were unfortunately cancelled. He will be anyway replaced by the great Magnusson, absolutely enthusiastic to be part of the crew.
Which one of Pepper’s albums are you mostly linked to, and how are you going to face his music?
I’m terribly linked to “Thursday At The Village Vanguard”, played with Cables, George Mraz and Elvin Jones. I consider that is the synyhesis of what Pepper had done and made before: it was a magic and unique night and not only for the interpretation of My Friend John, which I think is his spiritual testament. That is a theme that still today makes me shiver, for its unique metric structure and a very difficult harmonic sequence in its originality. For the solo and for what he does during the piece, I couldn’t find the appropriate superlatives to express what I feel when I listen to it. In this concerts, after 30 years after his death and the following partial oblivion he’s fallen into, we will travel again through the compositions that in the last part of his career have mainly represented and marked Pepper’s language and poetry. There won’t be tricks or effects, neither pathetic attempts to hit off what nobody else could do. In other words, I want to play his music with the same emotional aspect which we probably share when blowing.
Even Phil Woods, when I wrote him last year to ask him his opinion on the project, replied that it was a good thing to do, since at that point nobody had played the music of his friend Art. Moreover, he sent me a composition (still unreleased) that he had dedicated to Pepper after he passed away, inviting me to play it.
In addition to Pepper who are the other heroes of the musician Pasini?
Some great musicians I’ve listened to over the years starting from Phil, obviously. Then Jackie McLean, Cannonball Adderley, Gato Barbieri, Steve Grossman, with whom I often played, but also Chet Baker, Bill Evans, Glenn Gould, Michel Petrucciani. Along with the famous heroes, I would include also those who for obscure reasons didn’t have the fortune they would have deserved. One of these is Mario Costalonga, born 1932, an amazing trumpet player from my territory who is also very esteemed by Enrico Rava. On day he told me, as simple as he can be: “You know Gaspare, in life it is important to do nice things.” A motto that highlights an exemplary truth, that we all should try to accomplish.
You are a “new” name, not really unknown in the house. Actually, by the end of the ‘80s you had an album ready and you had already been a guest of Cedar Walton. What happened afterwards?
A man’s life is always the outcome of different factors. I always cultivated many interests and maybe I’ve been weak in not relying enough on my talent. Frankly, only the Americans acknowledged me, while the Italians never did.
In 1991, after my son was born, I stepped out of the scene. Yet, it is right with him that I lived my most beautiful feelings, when Elvin Jones gave him his drumsticks at the end of his last concerts at Umbria Jazz in 2003: I had taken my son to the concert, but we could only get it for the last encores. This unforgettable memory is a prelude to the other side of the coin, because my life was anyway lucky, even in the jazz field. I played with many great musicians – every now and then of course – even though only now I feel really aware that I am able to say interesting things with my horn.
To honor my 50th birthday I released “Philing”, my first work recorded in the distant 1988, together with the musicians with whom I shared the stage at that time: Luigi Bonafede, Piero Leveratto and Paolo Pelegatti were a close rhythm section – actually, an out-and-out trio – and the harmony, based on a strong groove and a deep swing with them was immediate.
Woods wrote the cover notes and when I finally felt totally certain, at last, in 2008, I decided to release the album.
What have you learned from them and from jazz?
In jazz you can’t bluff; maybe you can correct some notes in studio, but when you perform on stage and play in order to transmit an emotion in front of people you don’t know, you can see straight away if you have something to say or not. There is no room for chitchat: if you’re there, you’re there.
With the Americans I learned another important maxim: always give the best and the foremost. If anybody did that, the world would roll with more agility or, in fact, with more swing. I treasure with affection, for the wish of Marcella, Alberto Alberti’s biography. In the footnote there is a dedication of Pepper; he says that he never played safe, he rather tried to always create something new and unique, never experimented before. I consider this quote totally right and appropriate. As far as I’m concerned, I also add the wish to play jazz with someone who’s able to arouse emotions, a shared mood, with people who recognize each other. Setting up these things with good musicians is an ideal situation. When it happens you can feel absolutely privileged in life.
By the way, in the mansard of your house you created a charming jazz club…
That was another fortuitous circumstance of life. My very good friend Francesco Bearzatti, by talking to me about an instrument, gave me the possibility to meet the owner of this country house raised in 1902, that maybe, without knowing it, was born to become a jazz club. Inside there have been many friends which accompanied me in this forty years of life with this amazing music. We recorded with Ares Tavolazzi, Ellade Bandini, Roberto Gatto, Danilo Rea. The latter is realizing a series of sensational subject videos, with the help of Roberto Castellano, a video maker with a unique sensibility, having been been a musician himself. Maybe all these experiences will flow together into a label which would have at least a bunch of excellent sections, thanks to the sessions with Shawnn Monteiro and Edy Martinez as special guests.
Pepperlegacy on tour: 30 November, Ferrara, Torrione Jazz Club / 1st December, Sacile, close to Pordenone (Il volo del jazz)/ 3rd December, Villa San Giovanni, La Sosta/ 6th December, Siracusa/ 8th December, Lamezia Terme, Teatro Umberto (Lamezia Jazz) / other dates to be added.