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Take Five with Jacopo Penzo

Jacopo Penzo By

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Still one of my favorite records ever. With a stellar personnel including Chick Corea, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, Terri Lyne Carrington, James Carter, Stanley Clarke, and many other incredible musicians. You could call it a concept album, featuring Ira and George Gershwin's songs rendered in brilliant arrangements that showcase the past, present and future of what we call jazz, from orchestral pieces and African percussions, to classic standards, funk and fusion. I was 11 when it came out in 1998 and I remember being particularly blown away by Blueberry Rhyme, a two-piano duet with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.

Music you are listening to now:

Adam Ben Ezra: Pin Drop (Ropeadope)
Harold Budd: The Room (Atlantic Records)
Queen: A Night at the Opera (EMI, Elektra)
Miles Davis: Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud (Fontana)
Franco Battiato: La Voce del Padrone (EMI)

Desert Island picks:

The Beatles: The Beatles (Apple)
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (Columbia)
Keith Jarrett: The Köln Concert (ECM)
Johann Sebastian Bach, Glenn Gould: The Well-Tempered Clavier (Columbia)
Ludwig van Beethoven, Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karayan: Symphony No. 9 (Deutsche Grammophon)

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

I think that jazz is alive and well. Music schools like Berklee, Juilliard and many others seem to be thriving, with growing numbers of students, excellent programs and great professors. There's always an interesting live show to catch or new record to discover, and audiences are listening. Especially in big cities like New York, jazz benefits from the mix of different cultures that keeps on fueling creativity and new ideas. It may not ever be a big genre commercially speaking, but jazz keeps providing genuine creativity and spontaneity that people crave for in our hyper-commercialized and hyper-produced society.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

As long as jazz will be a source of genuine creativity and spontaneity, people will be drawn to it. I believe that should be the main "mission" that a jazz musician should keep in mind. Jazz has always had an incomparable capacity to address social and political issues in a way that is direct and graceful at the same time. This is especially true today: jazz has grown to become a term that identifies a really broad variety of musical expressions. Maybe purists don't like that, but I think that cross-contamination with other genres and expressions from other cultures and parts fo the world is essential to keep jazz alive and growing, and it is at the same time its greatest social and artistic strength.

By Day:

My day job is also related to audio: I work as a sound editor on movies, documentaries and TV shows. I work on many projects with a great studio in Brooklyn called Red Hook Post. They do many of the movies that end up going to Sundance Film Festival, so the higher end of independent films. I love working on this type of projects, that have both a great production quality and deep, artistic content.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Probably a chef! After all, it still has to do with harmony and balance.


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