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Claudio Filippini: Facing North

Claudio Filippini: Facing North
Robin Arends By

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When I have the chance to play difficult music, I like to play it in a very simple way. —Claudio Filippini
Pianist Claudio Filippini, born in Pescara in 1982, is one of the bright young stars of Italian jazz. With his album The Enchanted Garden (CAM Jazz, 2011) he was hailed as the new "wonder boy" of Italian jazz. Now he is regarded as a pianist/composer of international stature, with his album Facing North (CAM Jazz, 2013) receiving widespread critical acclaim.

At the age of 11, Filippini enrolled in a course of jazz piano, parallel to his classical studies at the Musical Academy of Pescara, where he had the opportunity to study first with Angelo Canelli and later with Marco Di Battista graduating after five-years with the highest honors. During his studies he met musicians like pianist Kenny Barron, pianist George Cables and trumpeter Jimmy Owens.

At 17 Filippini won his first scholarship to Columbia College of Music in Chicago, followed by several scholarships in Italy and abroad. Filippini was 1st prize winner of the European Competition for Piano Solo—Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe 2002, and the Massimo Urbani Award 2003. In recent years he has played in numerous festivals around the world. In 2010 Filippini began playing with singer Mario Biondi on his numerous tours. In 2011 he recorded The Enchanted Garden for the Cam Jazz label, with Luca Bulgarelli on double bass and Marcello Di Leonardo on drums.

In 2013 Filippini released the CD Facing North with a new trio featuring Palle Danielsson on double bass and young Finnish drummer Olavi Louhivuori which achieved significant critical acclaim.

Over the years Claudio Filippini has performed alongside big names such as Wynton Marsalis, bassist Ben Allison, clarinetist Tony Scott, Dee Dee Bridgewater and guitarist Mike Stern. This year Claudio Filippini will visit North America with his American trio.

All About Jazz: You started to play the piano at the age of 7. Why did you choose this instrument?

Claudio Filippini: The first memories I have about the music go back to my third year. My father used to listen to classical music, such as Listz, Rossini and Verdi and I was completely into that. I remember that I sat next to the stereo speakers for hours, listening to the same vinyl over and over. My father never played any instrument, although he has a really good musical ear. He still can play a melody on the piano after one time listening.

My musical origins probably come from my dad's ancestors. It seems that his grandfather played the cello in the first half of the 1900's. He named his daughter Walkyria, my grandmother, because of his passion for Wagner's music. My grandmother used to play the piano when she was really young but at a certain point she had to stop because of the war.

So that's how everything started. We didn't have any musical instrument in our home except for a very weird toy keyboard which was my favourite buddy at that time. When I was 6 years old I asked my parents if they could buy me a real piano, so they rented a very cheap upright piano just for trying to see if it could become a real passion for me. After the first month at the music school, my first piano teacher told my parents that I was really into the music, so they let me continue to study.

AAJ: You have a classical background.

CF: That's right, I started with classical music but at a certain point I was wondering if there were other ways to make music. Classical music can be very severe, hard and boring for a child, if the teacher doesn't find a proper way to explain the beauty of that music and the pupil doesn't find any motivation to study.

AAJ: How did you discover jazz music?

CF: I always liked to play by ear and played what I was listening to, without any score. One day I knocked at the door of the jazz class and there was Angelo Canelli playing a blues. What a fabulous discovery! I really was fascinated by those "strange" chords and by the rhythm that was coming out from his piano. Then I thought "Wow, that's what I want to do one day. I wanna play like him." So I started to study with him when I was 11 years old.

AAJ: You were inspired by pianists like Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Chick Corea. Which pianists are you inspired by today?

CF: I always listened to the pianists you mentioned, and I still like to hear the pianists from the tradition, but I also like to listen to the new jazz scene, especially from New York. Talking just about pianists, I really love people like Robert Glasper, Gerald Clayton and Danny Grissett for example.

AAJ: They are all American pianists, are there also contemporary European pianists that you admire?

CF: Absolutely. There are also so many pianists that I've been listening to from Europe too: Michel Petrucciani, Tete Montoliu, John Taylor, Enrico Pieranunzi, Eric Legnini, Bojan Zulficarpasic, Esbjorn Svensson and many others.

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