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INTERVIEW: Guido Spannocchi

Hi Guido, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you, summer is always a busy time and I am glad to be playing many shows at the moment so I guess the answer is very well thank you!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Urban Jig”?

“Urban Jig” is a melodic motive rooted in Scottish folk which is why the tune is called a Jig, Jig being a traditional dance. When I played this tune to the rest of the band during our days in studio they flipped it around and it was particularly Tony Kofi who made it what it is now suggesting the low pedal note for bass and baritone saxophone, the drummer Filippo Galli loves his uptempo which made us switch to double time halfway through giving it the nervous energy of the urban environment.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I was inspired to write this tune by the ever changing environment of London. Everything here is so fast and in order to survive you have to consistently adapt. It’s not always easy but if one manages to tango with the demands of urban life it can be quite thrilling.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

There are a few live videos from our tour which will be coming out over the course of the next few months. There will also be a video for “Fragmentation” a tune which explores late night club culture. The video is currently in post production and should be out in a week.

The single comes off your new album All The Above – what’s the story behind the title?

“All The Above” is a phrase used in funding applications when you can tick one or several boxes, often it says “all of the above”. So far I have never managed to secure any funding but always seem to release new music and tour nevertheless. On one hand this album title is a little nod to all the funding bodies who refuse to support a young struggling artist despite consistent application but equally it is a statement of gratitude to my audience and especially to the people who around me and on this album. Working with Tony Kofi and Jure Pukl as well as Gina Schwarz, Saleem Raman and my regular rhythm section JJ Stillwell and Filippo Galli during the recording and since then is just such bliss. I am incredibly grateful for the support I am getting from them!

How was the recording and writing process?

Most of the tunes start as whistling or singing sketches on my phone and usually I take a few days off every year and write as much down as I can. In this period a lot of new music is created as well. Last summer a friend in Paris lent me his apartment to write. It was incredibly hot and I hid behind closed curtains during the day writing down all the sketches and scoring them into full tunes. At night time I would go out into the cooler air enjoying the balmy evenings and brooding about the compositions as well as just diving into late bars, coffee houses or parks to find inspiration.

We recorded all of this in two days at Total Refreshment Studios in London end of November, many of the tunes didn’t make it onto the album and might only be published later or in a different way. The recording was particularly challenging as Jure & Gina came from abroad so we had to make sure the flights arrive on time and we had all sorts of issues with hotels, luggage etc which adds immense pressure to the already stressful environment of a tight recording session. Luckily it all worked out really well and I would like to thank Kristian Craig Robinson for his help on this, his engineering skills are phenomenal, I love working with him. Despite the lack of time and all the organization around it he made the environment seem so calm and concentrated that most of what you hear on this album are first takes and we never had to record more than three takes on any tune.

Would you call this a departure from your previous musical work?

The backbone of this album is still a trio without harmony instrument but I do think I am going into a new direction especially by inviting other saxophonists. We horn players are quite competitive and not so used to “cater” for other people’s music except when we are in some sort of horn section. In this recording I tried to particularly introduce this competition and interplay as an extra layer.

What role does London play in your music?

Since I moved to London in 2011 I sometimes have the feeling I have to be careful what I dream of as so far every single idea and concept or artistic work has become reality only sometimes these opportunities happen so quick and are therefore quite demanding. The whole scene is really pushing things forward at the moment and it’s beautiful to be involved in it. There is a great amount of support and respect of each other’s work, it feels a bit like a big family.

You brought some special guests – did you handpick them or how did they come on board? + What did they brought up to the table?

The guests on my album have different backgrounds, I have been meaning to work with Jure Pukl for a year or so before the recording happened but we kept missing each other. When he happened to be in Europe for various gigs we finally managed to hook up in London and recorded this album, his contribution to the overall sound is fantastic, he has got such an incredible way of angular lines within the changes of the tunes.

Tony Kofi is based in London and I have been closely following his career since I moved here. I chatted to him a few times after attending some of his shows and when I first sent him a message he didn’t respond until a few days later, initially I thought he might be too busy and I am not on his radar but when he eventually got back to me and told me he’d be honoured to grace the album with his baritone I was so thrilled I could barely sleep for days.

Gina Schwarz and I had a few shows last year during the Vienna Jazz Festival and after, she got in touch last autumn just asking what I was up to and I said almost jokingly that I am recording a new album in November and if she wanted I would love to have her on it, she confirmed immediately and sent me her availability which determined the whole session, I am lucky to have her on the album.

Saleem Raman is a regular upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s and I consider him one of Europe’s finest drummers, once I had the rest of the group on board I called him if he’d be up for it and he got instantly excited about it. I was so happy to have him on the recording and we have since become quite close friends and play a regular amount of shows together, his playing is plain beautiful!

Do you tend to take a different approach when collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?

As a musician you always work with other people, your band or other bands. When I am a sideman I try to make things work for the leader, be that a singer, trumpet or any other instrument. As a leader I try to give people an image or feeling and leave a lot of freedom for each musician to make the music their own. Apart from a few structural notes here and there and the obvious form I believe music is best if created together and really comes to life through interplay.

What aspect of the Jazz genre did you get to explore on this record?

A lot of my work stems from Ornette Coleman, his way of writing catchy themes and leaving freedom is incredibly inspiring and deeply rooted in folk. Coming from a continental European family I try to explore the lullabies and folk songs I grew up with as well as creating my own. My love for bebop and hardbop is evident though and I guess my music is sometimes very avant-garde yet often quite “straight”

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Most songs come about in striking situations, “Kensington Hanami” is inspired by a cherry tree in the borough of Kensington, the pink blossom of this particular tree is situated in front of a dark green wall and therefore an incredibly beautiful and serene sight. When I discovered this spot I had the idea of an oasis in the B section while the A section of the tune represents more of the hustle and bustle of a nearby intersection. “Majorelle Blue” is dedicated to the colour with the same name and a south London venue called agile rabbit. The booker asked me to play a concert for the opening of the jazz club and they have managed to get their hands on a can of this intriguing colour and painted the wall behind the stage with it. After the first set I sat down and wrote this tune, we played it right away opening the second set.

Any plans to hit the road?

We just got back from an extensive tour across Europe (UK, Germany, Austria, France) but are playing several shows across Europe during the summer. We have a number of shows in London in July as well as a few shows in Austria and Finland in August and we are likely to be in Italy in late August as well as early September. There are quite a few more concerts coming up in the UK from mid October onwards, if you would like to see us play it’s best to check my homepage and yes if you want you can book us 🙂

What else is happening next in Guido Spannocchi’s world?

Last week I recorded an album together with the pianist Rupert Cox produced by Capitol K which explores ballads and hymns and is now in post-production – to be released next year.

In August I will be on an artist residency in the Alps to retreat for ten days to finish new compositions as well as getting my head around Sigfrid Karg-Elert’s theoretical work.

There is quite a bit of touring and production going on in the next few months and I am likely to spend a good amount of time in various countries which I am excited about. A few videos are in the making and the digital release of “All The Above” is happening in September which entails promotion of the album and a run of shows.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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