Paolo Rustichelli: Mystic Man

Katrina-Kasey Wheeler By

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I feel that Miles, Carlos and I are kindred spirits. Like Miles, Carlos and I speak the same mystical language.
Paolo Rusticelli Paolo Rustichelli is a futuristic visionary whose music is highly distinctive. Miles Davis, when he collaborated with Rustichelli near the end of his life, called the keyboardist's music "Total Music. Carlos Santana, having signed Paolo to his Guts and Grace label, has said: "Paolo Rustichelli's music is hauntingly beautiful...a romantic, mysterious soundtrack for life. Rustichelli recently reached the first position on the Nu Jazz MySpace artist list.

Rustichelli is not a jazz artist in the conventional sense of the term. He believes in making music that does not fit neatly into any one category. His creative objective entails the exploration of various genres in order to conceive something uniquely acroamatic and true to his vision.

Katrina-Kasey Wheeler caught up with Rustichelli to discuss his upcoming projects and to get the bona fide facts behind his work with Miles Davis and Carlos Santana.

All About Jazz: At the age of sixteen, you released Opera Prima (RCA Italy, 1973). Having accomplished so much at an early age, what was it like to experience such success so early on in your career?

Paolo Rustichelli: I started playing piano at the age of four while I studied classical guitar. At the age of ten, I started playing bass guitar with bands. I randomly watched my father working on movies, learning the process to compose a score. My career in the pop/rock world started with playing the C3 Hammond organ at the age of fourteen and at fifteen I owned my first monophonic synthesizer called the ARP 2400. At age sixteen, I made my first album of baroque rock, Opera Prima, and then started to work as a session man at RCA Italy in Rome; which was the most important label in Europe at that time.

AAJ: Your father, having been so successful and garnering Oscar nominations for his scoring, must have been a tremendous source of inspiration for you. Growing up around that, was that something that you wanted to emulate and achieve for yourself?

PR: I am very eclectic in my style. I like to have fun with music so I like to challenge myself by trying different styles of music. My father was influential, but I feel that I have my own peculiar style.

After two years at age eighteen, I started to work on soundtracks that were completely made with the synthesizer; perhaps someone else earlier on experimented with this, but I believe I was the first. My inner unreachable musical satisfaction research of perfection made me always jump from one style to another, from one genre to another—that's why I left my career as a "rock star," newborn to make soundtracks.

AAJ: You have scored over one hundred soundtracks for Italy's large and small screens. Why did you stop?

PR: Due to the lack of freedom in the musical context due to the tyranny of directors and producers, I decided to stop scoring. Next followed a period of intense spiritual research and I stopped playing for years.

Paolo AAJ: You pay careful attention to melody and synthesizers. You have said that those are things that you feel are sorely missing with many film composers. Why do you think that is? Is it simply a difference in artistic vision?

PR: With film scores, there are sometimes differences among the artist, the director, and the producer, etc...in terms of what each would like to see in the film. Some composers are really good at finding harmonic clusters and then there are some that are not good at finding simple melodies, it all depends. My goal is always to attain a good melody with those harmonic clusters and good orchestral patches.

In the United States I am known in the smooth jazz arena, especially in the Nu Jazz movement. I don't strictly define my music as that; my music tends to be many different styles. I don't like to restrict myself to just one genre.

AAJ: It should be all about the craft and making the music that is in one's heart. Is the jazz scene much different from that in the United States?

PR: In my opinion, Italy has a lot of what I would call the form of a song; from the pagan chants to the Gregorian chants. Since the time of Claudio Monteverdi to Arcangelo Corelli, all of the big composers in Italy have learned how to develop melody, which is like a legacy. It is very common for Italian composers to have these types of peculiarities. The music in Italy is really just about Italy and there are really good musicians with the tools to express themselves for a universal audience.

AAJ: So do you mean to say that the musicians in Italy are in a way, submerged within their culture, or cultural heritage?

PR: Yes. In ancient times the language to know was Latin and through time it has become English. Many Italians have a problem with speaking English. Another funny thing that I like to underline is that rap music as it is was made taking many elements from the Italian mafia, which is one of our exploitations.

AAJ: Some rap stars idolize that type of persona.

PR: Yes, characters like Al Capone, Michael Corleone, etc...


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