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Roberta Gambarini: Very Easy to Love

By Published: October 3, 2006
AAJ: Well, at least I'm sure it's ticking in time.

RG: Yeah. [smiles] No, I'm really happy what I do. But you have to be careful about stress.

AAJ: You were pretty stressed about an hour ago, on the phone—trying to put yourself together for the tour.

RG: I know. It's difficult, but it's what you feel is right, what you're doing.

AAJ: What's the worst part about living your dream?

RG: I think the worst part is the rejection. Everybody deals with this at early stages of their career, and even after. Look at the career of [singer] Frank Sinatra—the guy was on top of the world and he fell, and he came back up. Unbelievable. And [singer] Sammy Davis Jr. faced atrocious racism—and all the cats I know, what they went through with this racial thing—but they overcame it.

So you may get it at any stage of the game. You have to be very centered, and not let it get to you. I was rejected by every record company in the country—that was good training.

AAJ: When you were shopping the project that became Easy to Love?

RG: And even before. It was difficult, like everybody else. Live auditions, auditions for two, three, four different companies, something's happening, happening, happening—and then it doesn't happen. Now I'm trying to launch a record company with very little money. I have a lot of debts. On the other hand, I did the record that I wanted to do, which I probably couldn't have done if I'd been with a major record company. have your own order, and you eat what you order, and you know it.

At the same time I was lucky to have the support and love people like Moody, Linda and Jimmy Heath, Mona Heath, [trombonist] Slide Hampton, so many people—Hank Jones, and Benny Carter, [saxophonist] Michael Brecker, and the Claytons, and—oh gosh—it was unbelievable. So this makes up for the rejection by the corporate part.

My record for example is doing great with the radios, and I'm very happy about this. Like with some stations in central America, Kansas, Montana—it's got a grass roots thing.

AAJ: There's something common to all of these influences and paths: that intimate connection you make with an audience.

RG: I think it's the song. I sing the music.

AAJ: It's more than the song. You do something more. When you go a cappella...

RG: The melody is even more outlined.

AAJ: Yes, there's the intensity of that, and the fact that you're stepping away from all your supports. People resonate to that, it goes right to the heart. When you start a song that way, it's also impressive because with your incredible pitch, nobody has to clue you in as to where to start. Do you know how powerful that is?

RG: No. I don't really relate to thinking what is powerful for other people. I look for the moment when I'm transported: in the best of those moments, you feel almost that you are played by the melody. That's the power, but it's not my power, as an individual.

Roberta Gambarini

AAJ: It's more like becoming the instrument of the song.

RG: That's my ultimate goal, really, to be so empty of b.s. that in the end all you have to do is stand there and sing. But of course it takes a long preparation to get to that, to get rid of a lot of habits. There was a phrase in [author Franz] Kafka's diaries—I read it in Italian, and I don't remember the exact translation—but it's like to know yourself, you have to forget about yourself, or something like that.

AAJ: You mean you have to stop all that clacking and clattering in your head?

RG: Yes, but I'm vulgarizing it, there's much more to it.

AAJ: Is there anything else you wish for, musically? Do you see yourself having a club someday?

RG: Oh, hell no!!! [laughs] Oh my God! Are you kidding me? It's too much work. I wish there would be a club—I came to New York when Bradley's was already closed—I wish, but it's too much work and I don't have a good business sense.

AAJ: A record label?

RG: No, that I already own, unfortunately. This Grooving High is really mine, we had to do a record label to put the record out—I have debts until 3016!—but that's cool, a lot of people have to do that.

AAJ: How about other professional dreams?

RG: Act in a movie. By Pedro Almodovar. Why not?

Selected Discography

Roberta Gambarini, Easy to Love (Grooving High, 2006)
Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Band, Dizzy's Business (MCG, 2006)
Pratt Brothers Big Band/Roberta Gambarini, 16 Men and a Chick Singer Swingin' (CAP, 2005)
New Stories, Hope is in the Air: The Music of Elmo Hope (Origin, 2004)
Roberta Gambarini/Antonio Scarana, Apreslude (Splasc(h), 1991)

Photo Credits
Top and Center Photos: Courtesy of AAJ Visual Arts Gallery
Bottom Photo: Courtesy of Roberta Gambarini

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