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Claudio Filippini: Facing North

Robin Arends By

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AAJ: At the age of 17, you won a scholarship at the Pescara Festival Jazz that brought you to the Columbia College Of Music in Chicago. How was it to be there at such a young age?

CF: It was amazing! I was 17 and it was my very first experience in the United States. I left my heart in Chicago. It is such an inspiring city. A lot of things happen there and I also like the people very much. When I was there at that time I was not allowed to go into jazzclubs or play at jam sessions, but I have a lot of great memories of that travel anyway. I met a trombone player from there, he was studying at the Columbia College as well. We spent some hours playing together and listening to some great records in his house. He made me discover Danilo Pérez, he thought that my style was close to his. It was such a great experience, also for the guys who came with me from Italy. I came home with my head full of music and my bag full of music charts and records!

AAJ: Do you feel your style is in any way similar to Danilo Pérez?

CF: I can't say if my style is similar to his, but I like Danilo Pérez very much. In my opinion his language is a very good blending between traditional jazz and latin jazz. One of my favourite records of him is Across the Crystal Sea (EmArcy, 2008) with Claus Ogerman. I also like his playing with the Wayne Shorter Quartet.

AAJ: In 2004 you received a diploma in piano at the Conservatory GB Pergolesi in Fermo. What happened then?

CF: I consider obtaining the piano diploma as one of the many pages in my life. I really liked to play classical music but I've never done it in public. That day was the end of my classical experience because I knew that I could never become a classical pianist. So I studied for that performance so much that I wanted to play the best I could. I played a partita by Bach, a Beethoven Sonata, Ravel's "Sonatina" and some Chopin nocturnes and other pieces I don't remember.

AAJ: What is your connection with classical music nowadays?

CF: Nowadays I still have the passion for the classical repertoire, and when I have time I like to play some stuff that I already studied in the past. Some music from Mozart, Bach or Mendelssohn. I think that every pianist should study the classical repertoire. It gives you the sense of discipline, severity and it allows you to discover the infinite possibilities of the instrument. It also allows you to increase your sound and makes a lot of sound shades. All these characteristics are also useful for playing jazz.

AAJ: Two years after you received your diploma you recorded your debut album Quadricromia (DDE Records , 2006) together with saxophonist Gianni Virone, bassist Davide Liberti and drummer/ percussionist Mattia Barbieri. Ten original tracks. How do you look back on that album?

CF: I have nice memories from that period, we were young and hungry! I was the only member of the band from Rome, the other guys were from Turin (7 hours from Rome). I was so much into what we were doing that I frequently traveled from Rome to Turin just to do rehearsals. We did a lot of gigs, mostly in the northern part of Italy and the thing I liked more was that we liked to improvise collectively.

That record is exemplary of what we were doing at that time, but I didn't like the piano that was in the studio at all and didn't like the sound of that record in general. Probably this is the main reason that keeps me from listening to that album today, but maybe there's something in it that I can rediscover of my playing.

AAJ: You played with Max Ionata on his album Zaira (Wide Sound, 2001). You play standards, like "Waltz for Debbie," "Theme for Ernie," "My Romance" and "Cherokee," as well as originals, like the titletrack "Zaira." A coherent innovative jazz-album. This is the only record you made with Ionata. Can we expect a new album in the future?

CF: "Zaira" was my very first studio experience, It was recorded in 1999 but it was released in 2001. "Zaira" was the name of my first original composition. Max and I met 15 years ago and we are still in touch. He's such a gifted guy, I really have learned a lot from him. Every now and then we meet each other in a band. I'd really like to play with him in a new group and go back in the recording studio. Maybe we'll do it the twentieth year since our first meeting!

AAJ: In 2009 you recorded your solo-album Tintura Madre( Cinik Records, 2009) , a crossover between jazz and classical music, with dreamy, sometimes bluesy, melodies which remind me of Keith Jarrett. How did you experience making this album?

CF: Tintura Madre is a record that I made in only one night. It is an impromptu record that I wanted to do just to vent my feelings on the piano. I sat on the piano and recorded from the beginning to the end. There are some mistakes, dirty passages, and wrong chords but I decided to keep them because that was the sense of the record: an improvised session. Tintura Madre is the pure extract from a plant, bitter but pure.

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