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Fondazione Siena Jazz Summer Workshop 2013

John Kelman By

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"I studied in the Netherlands and there is a specific way to how they improvise," Dolsak concludes. "It's connected only with traditional jazz, but I was always interested in listening to guys from New York and the States in general. I really like the way they play, and I thought, 'You have to come here to get the chance to actually see it and hear it.' And maybe play with them, because also, I see them in concerts and they touch me in a very different way. I very much like Eric Harland and Reuben Rogers; I think Walter Smith III is fantastic. And, of course there are trios like Brad Mehldau and Branford Marsalis' quartet. I really like drummers a lot. I play in many groups at home and I also write, so I think the goal here is to get motivated and inspired; to see what they [the teachers] have to say about their playing, get some advice and just a plain meet people and get exposed to some different influences."

From Poland, 21 year-old pianist Sebastian Zawadzki could normally be found sitting somewhere with a set of headphones, a laptop and a small keyboard. "I became interested in jazz when I was 16 and my father told me about these workshops that were in Poland. I was already playing piano at that time, coming up with classical studies; I actually began playing piano at age seven, but I started to play jazz when I attended this workshop. I can't say that there was any one moment when I started to improvise. I was already composing and that's really improvising anyway—it's just a different style of improvising. This is my first time at Siena jazz Academy. I was in a jazz competition called the European Jazz Contest last year with my band and we won it. I got the usual prize, which is this workshop."

On Sunday, July 28, two of the Workshop's youngest performers—drummer Luca Caruso and alto saxophonist Lorenzo Simone, both 14— demonstrated remarkable breadth and maturity, playing with musicians twice their ages or more at a neighborhood dinner, and holding their own without any difficulty. "I started out playing pots and pans when I was a baby, and I started taking drum lessons when I was almost seven years old," says Caruso, "and it was always jazz. The first song I ever learned was "Ain't She Sweet," with just a snare drum and a cymbal."

Born in Italy but now living and going to school in London, Caruso says that he plays "all sorts of music because of the school I'm in. It's a bigger rock scene and it's good because it helps my jazz playing. Playing with older musicians here has helped me a lot, it's a really good push to play, living with and being around more experienced musicians. My instruction classes this week are with Roberto Gatto in the morning and Jeff Ballard in the afternoon and the next week I've got Ferenc Nemeth. For combos this week, I've got Michael Blake and Stefano Battaglia. I'm looking for as much experience I can get out of it; they're so well organized; it's such a good experience—I'd love to come back again. I've only been here three days and I already love it."

He may be only 14, but Caruso already has some well-reasoned thoughts about some of the drummers who have influenced him the most. "The ones I listen to the most are Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, Antonio Sanchez—I listen to him a lot—and Elvin Jones. When I first heard Jack I didn't really like him, because it sounded sort of messy, but then I listened to more of his stuff with Keith Jarrett—and I saw his band live as well [with George Colligan and David Fiuczynski]—and that changed things a lot for me, even though it was just a year ago. Tony? I could just listen to his [sings] 'ding-ding-a-ding-ding-a-ding'; I really like his darker cymbals."

The diminutive Simone played with a surprisingly rich tone, equally unexpected soul and, while he had no shortage of chops on display—and the intensity and fire of youth to back them up—he also knew when to back off and let silence work to his advantage. All the more remarkable, then, that he's only been playing saxophone for four years. "I live in Tuscany, about 100 km from Siena," he says. "I started in a band and so I chose the saxophone for jazz music, but I also study classical music at the conservatory. So, while I study jazz more for fun I'm starting to study harmony and so I decided to come here. I like Italian saxophonist Stefano di Battista, but also Phil Woods , Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Playing jazz is interesting and fun; it's a very natural thing for me. It's difficult to do something you don't like; it's not so good if you feel obligated to do something. This is my first year in Siena and I would love to come back."


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