Musica Jazz, Italy

Is the forthcoming European tour with the Akoustic Band meant to revive the experience of the record released in 1989?

John, Dave and I have been collaborating on various projects throughout the years. We always have a great time playing together. But certainly, every time it is a new experience. And especially now, playing in an acoustic trio context, it all feels very fresh.

After so many years of collaboration, your interaction with John Patitucci and Dave Weckl sounds quite empathetic, both in that context and in the Elektric Band. Is the Akoustic Band going to release a new album?

Yes! We recorded a double CD from a live performance we did this past January. We hope to have it ready to offer on our upcoming July tour.

The trio seems to have been the ideal setting to fully express your ideas and creativity in terms of interplay and dynamics since the seminal of “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs”. How do you evaluate your past experience in this particular context?

The trio formation in jazz – piano, bass, drums – is the classic formation, similar to the standard instrumentation in classical chamber music of the string quartet. So when we get together playing in this context it’s very intimate, allowing for practically anything to be created musically.

Can such recordings as “ARC” and “The Song of Singing” be considered groundbreaking? Were you searching for freer forms at that time?

Dave Holland, Barry Altschul and myself were in very much an experimental mode for that recording. It felt liberating to play in an improvised way, with very little structure, choosing to make the form of the music grow spontaneously.

Looking back, how do you judge your experience with Circle?

Again, a very creative and explorational period. Anthony joined the trio – which actually was originally a duet with Dave and myself. We had already been testing our imaginations, playing together in the Miles Davis quintet with Wayne Shorter and Jack DeJohnette. Breaking the form of the songs down and breaking “free” was (and still is) a great musical game.

Talking about freedom, to what extent did your collaboration with Miles Davis urged you to look for new musical directions? Such recordings as “Bitches Brew”, “Live at Fillmore”, “Isle of Wight” are quite significant in this respect.

Miles had a very imaginative and creative mind. He seemed always open and interested in what other musicians brought to the game. He was a very collaborative musician to make music with – very interactive and responsive. So he set a great example of trusting oneself and the others in the band to explore areas never tried before. He would sometimes say “Play what you don’t know.” It’s great game and allows one to let one’s imagination flourish and be used to the fullest.

As in the case of many other groups, the music of Return to Forever was labeled in many different ways: jazz-rock, crossover, fusion. What is your opinion concerning this issue? Does it make any sense to talk about fusion today?

Well, we should talk about whatever interests us. I never thought the label “fusion” was very good for the music of Return to Forever. If I had to describe it today, I might call it “orchestral hard jazz-rock.”

Can you tell us something about the band that you recently formed with Steve Gadd?

That was a great experience. I wrote new music for Steve and I. We chose some great musicians to play with us, and had the greatest time recording and touring. Steve and I have always had a very special connection as friends and musicians. We always instantly connect. Plus, I love the way he creates drums around the compositions I write. It’s a wonderful collaboration.

Do the Latin elements in your music derive directly from your past experience with Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria or is there any influence from the Italian heritage of your family?

It’s hard to trace the influences that come my way because so I’m always learning new things from many places, and so many different kinds of musicians and music. Certainly, Mongo and Willie Bobo were very inspiring, as was Paco DeLucia and my Spanish flamenco friends. My family roots are actually Italian. My Dad was a first-born from an Italian immigrant to the US from the Catanzaro area of southern Italy. My grandfather played a little mandolin – but my Dad was a really good trumpet player who loved Miles and Bird.

What is your opinion about the current jazz scene? Has it really become a universal language that can absorb elements from every culture?

“Jazz” is everywhere, and that’s a great thing, because it is truly a universal language, as is all music. But the spirit of improvisation and freedom to combine forms in any way is what attracts the creators to making jazz music. The world needs more creative artists and less wars. The “jazz” musicians as well as all artists are doing their best to calm things down and improve the quality of life.