Giuseppe Continenza: Italian Bop Guitarist
I'm proud of my Italian-American heritage, but not because of bruschetta and olive oil. Some of the greatest bop guitarists ever are Italian-Americans: from Pat Martino to Joe Pass, Joe Diorio to Tommy Tedesco, or Jimmy Bruno to Gene Bertocini. So I decided to reach back to the mother land and track down a relatively new name on the scence, an archtop export who's actually from Italy, Pescara's Giuseppe Continenza.
Continenza is a flamethrowing bopmeister who released Seven Steps to Heaven last year. This session basically consists of Continenza and fellow fretburner Vic Juris joining harmonic forces with the freakishly fluid bass guitarist Dominique DiPiazza to tear some familiar standards new f-holes. To those of you who think there are simply no new ways to arrange these tunes or navigate their changes, one listen to this refreshingly aggressive session will make you think again. Meanwhile, pour yourself a sambuca-laced espresso and hang with Giusseppe at our sidewalk cafe.
All About Jazz: How old are you and where you are from? Where's your home now?
Giuseppe Continenza: I'm 36 years old and I come from Torino, Italy but I live in Pescara.
AAJ: How did you first get into music?
GC: My father was a jazz guitarist and he had so many jazz albums around that I started listening to jazz music really young.
AAJ: Who were your first influences, as a musician, and more specifically, on guitar?
GC: I grew up listening to many jazz guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Tal Farlow, George Benson, Django Reinhardt, and Pat Martino just to name a few. I'm still influenced by all different kinds of music. It's really a never-ending journey for me.
AAJ: Did you attend a music school? Who were your teachers and which had the greatest influence and why?
GC: Yes. I attended and graduated from G.I.T in Hollywood, California where I met and was influenced by great musicians like Joe Diorio, Don Mock, Ron Escheté, Gary Willis, Howard Roberts, Jeff Berlin, Scott Henderson and others that, during that time, taught there. The important part was really the playing with all these great musicians who continue to inspire my music and me. In 1990, I opened a jazz school in Pescara, Italy called European Musicians Institute where I've received many visits from guest musicians like Diorio, Henderson, Willis, Dave Friesen, Jack Wilkins, Bireli Lagrene, Jimmy Bruno and many others. Now, we have Dominique DiPiazza teaching at the school. We've got students from all over Europe and it's great to help musicians to become a jazz players and see them play and interact with all the great, famous musicians who visit the school.
AAJ: What are the most important concepts from the academic part of your experience?
GC: I think the organization of my studies and the study of composing and arranging. Also, I really loved to play with the big band we had at the school, and of course, the reading was really an important part of the curriculum.
AAJ: Because you are a teacher, you appear to be quite comfortable with the intricacies of music theory and its application to improvisation and composition. How much of that element do you bring into the compositional process? It probably varies based on the composition and the goals of the composition, right?
GC: Sure, its important to know all the rules for composing and arranging but it's very important to be creative and just be yourself when you compose as well as when you improvise. Often, when I'm improvising or composing I just use the music and my feelings, and all the knowledge or theory is used just to fix some ideas. I prefer to be spontaneous and not mechanical, that's for sure.
AAJ: What percentage of your time is spent on the teaching side versus the creative or performing musical side?
GC:I spend a lot of time teaching and actually I love to do it. For me it's a commitmentit's very important to help musicians to grow up and be professional. I really put a lot of energy into it and it's an important part of what I do. The creative part is also important, so usually I'll wake up really early in the morning and practice everything I know that will put me in a creative direction.
AAJ: Who are some of the great players you've met and gigged with in Italy?
GC: Actually there are so many and it was always different; I've played with Jimmy Bruno, Joe Diorio, Bireli Lagrene, Jack Wilkins, Dave Friesen, Gene Bertoncini, Paul Bollenback and many others.
AAJ: You have one of the world's greatest bassists, Dominique DiPiazza (who is also a fantastic guitarist), and one of our great guitarists, Vic Juris, on your CD. How did you find and then get these players to commit to the new project?