By Jakob Bækgaard
Italian pianist and composer Luca Dell’Anna was born on October 10, 1975 in Ferrara, a historical city with strong ties to jazz. He grew up listening to his father’s extensive record collection. Especially Ray Charles and Nat King Cole impressed him: “While I was listening to them singing, their licks and piano styles entered my memory forever.”
His father also had a classical collection and Dell’Anna quickly fell in love with the music of J.S. Bach. As he approached the piano for the very first time, he quickly began improvising melodies in the style of Bach. Another important influence was Dell’Anna’s grandfather, who played the accordion and stressed the importance of traditional Italian folk music.
The piano came into his life when he started playing a toy piano with his friend at the age of six. One year later, he got an electronic keyboard for Christmas and discovered the world of improvisation. When he was in the sixth grade, he was encouraged to take piano lessons, and this was the beginning of many years of education in classical music. From he was 10 to 19 years old, he studied classical piano and attended the Conservatory G. Frescobaldi of Ferrara. A new path opened that would eventually lead to his rebirth as a jazz musician.
At 16, he started playing in a funk-fusion band that played the repertoire of Tower of Power, Chick Corea, Billy Cobham and other fusion heroes from his youth. The discovery of jazz language resulted in Dell’Anna taking lessons with notable Italian pianist Bruno Cesselli and he would later attend the renowned L’Università della Musica (The Music University) in Rome under the tutelage of the great bop pianist Andrea Beneventano. To this day, the teachings of Beneventano still provide the foundation of the lessons Dell’Anna gives to his own students. At the heart of Dell’Anna’s sound lies a complex understanding of rhythm that goes beyond the generic sound of modern lyrical jazz piano. Part of the reason for this is his discovery of Cuban music and Latin rhythms: “I had very close friends who were big fans of Cuban music and I also started to listen to and learn proper Salsa music, in addition to Latin jazz: Chucho Valdes, Eddie Palmieri and my real big crush, Gonzalo Rubalcaba.”
In 1999, Dell’Anna moved to Milano to become a part of the vibrant music scene. He soon got in touch with the Cuban Latin jazz community and became a companion of great Cuban musicians such as Dany Martinez, who initiated him into the concepts and theories of Cuban and African music. As a musician in demand, he played many gigs in various genres but started to focus on jazz and in 2005 he released the album Brian Had a Little Plate with Rootless Ensemble. In 2012, as a result of his brief experience with avant-garde Improvvisatore Involontario Art Collective, he released the acclaimed album The Fourth Door with the trio Tan T’Ien. In 2013, it was chosen as the third best album of the year by the prestigious Japanese jazz magazine, Jazz Critiques. Tracks from The Fourth Door and his first album as a leader, Mana (2013), were included on Japanese samplers of the best of jazz chosen by the critic Yasukuni Terashima. Jazz Critiques also included his second album as a leader, Symbiont, among the best jazz of 2015, surpassing albums by pianists Fred Hersch and Vijay Iyer.