Interview with the winners of Conad Jazz Contest 2019: Michelangelo Scandroglio Group
In 2019 the Tuscan double bass player Michelangelo Scandroglio won the Conad Jazz Contest, accompanied by the musicians Luca Caruso on drums, Nico Tangherlini on piano, Nicola Caminiti on sax and Paolo Petrecca on trumpet.
The panel of Artistic Judges gave their preference to the Michelangelo Scandroglio Group “for the excellent instrument abilities in terms of both technique and the artistic personality of the individual elements, abilities that were widely confirmed in the live performance, which highlighted the cohesion, originality and relevance of the proposal”
With their victory, the band was awarded a cash prize worth € 5,000, the opportunity to play in the months following the victory at “Il Jazz italiano per L’Aquila”, one of the largest jazz events in Italy and, thanks to the collaboration with the “Federazione Nazionale Il Jazz Italiano (Italian National Jazz Federation)”, went on tour in the best jazz clubs in Italy, closing the year with an exhibition at Umbria Jazz Winter # 27.
What happened in the about three years after the victory of the Conad Jazz Contest? In 2020 Michelangelo Scandroglio released, for the AUAND record label, “In the Eyes of the Whale”, his first album as leader and composer. In autumn 2019 the project won the “New Generation jazz” call, launched by I-Jazz and supported by MiBAC (Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities), which was followed by concerts in clubs and festivals in Italian and European cities along with the “Italian Jazz Days” initiative.
Great satisfactions for the young double bass player from Grosseto, which summed up to what he had already achieved before participating in the Conad Jazz Contest. In fact, in 2018, a just twenty years old Michelangelo Scandroglio was one of the winners of the “Riga International Jazz Bass Competition”. During that event, in addition to the award, he got an official invitation to play at the Beijing Jazz Festival. In the same year he received the prestigious “Tomorrow’s Jazz” award as one of the best young talents in the Italian jazz. In 2019 he won “AIR 2020”, the national tender conceived by MIDJ and supported by SIAE, aimed at encouraging the growth of Italian jazz through the creation of a network of residences for young artists in collaboration with the Italian Embassies, the Italian Cultural Institutes and foreign consulates in Europe and around the world.
As a twenty-five years old now Michelangelo is with no doubt one of the names of the new generation to follow. Let’s get to know him better.
Can you tell us the story of your quintet? When did you start playing together?
“All of us have attended the Siena Jazz summer seminars for many years, a unique experience where we came into contact with our musical idols (Ambrose Akimunsire, Enrico Rava, Aaron Parks and many others) and we had the opportunity to play with them. Since we were seventeen we have found each other year after year and we have had the opportunity to play a lot together, we have always had a shared musical vision”.
What is your artistic background?
“The Beatles definitely had a fundamental impact on my life right away. They still surprise me and I rediscover new shades. Before coming into contact with jazz I played a lot of blues and rock”.
What is the recognition that has most gratified you so far?
“The victory of the Conad jazz Contest was a wonderful experience that I will never forget. Last summer we also had another important recognition by winning the Getxo International Jazz Competition in Spain”.
How was your passion for jazz music born? Is jazz your only genre or do you listen to something else too?
“My father, although he is not a musician, has always had a great passion for music and in particular for Bill Evans. I grew up with the version of “How deep is the Ocean” on the Explorations album. And then also meeting the saxophonist Stefano Cantini was fundamental for me, he guided me in the discovery of jazz music. I like to listen to everything and I don’t like the subdivision into genres. My favorite musicians at the moment, excluding those who gravitate into the jazz scene, are Kendrick Lamar, Rachmaninov, Tyler the Creator, Prokofiev and Mahler”.
Today, saying something new in jazz is very difficult. How do you differentiate yourself from other musicians? What is your research and artistic experimentation moving towards?
“I have always felt very close to Massimo Urbani’s famous phrase: ‘The avant-garde lies in the feelings’. I believe that it is important to find a way to communicate one’s vision in a pure way, free from market constraints and always with respect towards the great masters of the past. It is a continuous research and music is the manifestation of this path. Honesty towards oneself and towards what you want to express is the key to originality”.
What are your stylistic references in the jazz field and which are the musicians of the contemporary scene to which you feel most inspired?
“I’m a huge fan of John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Jaco Pastorius but the list could go on and on. In the contemporary scene I really like them: Ambrose Akimunsire, Ben Wendel, Petter Eldh, Enrico Rava, Aaron Parks, Joel Ross, Gerald Clayton, Flying Lotus, Kiefer, Logan Richardson, Pedro Martins and Avishai Cohen”.
The album that you liked the most of 2021?
“Probably ‘Human’ by Shai Maestro, released for ECM”.
Is there space and interest in Italy for this musical genre? And how is the situation abroad instead?
“I believe that interest in Italy for the new proposals is growing slightly year after year. However, the spaces that Italian festivals give to emerging musicians are very few and far below the world average. They often prefer to give space to already established musicians or formations. I often compare myself with foreign friends and musicians and I must say that in other countries there is a whole different concept. In the UK or the Netherlands, for example, the new generations are often made headliners of important festivals and money and time are invested in their growth. Not surprisingly, the new artists and musicians who carry the flag of Europe around the world are almost all from those countries that have invested in them”.
What led you to sign up for the Conad Jazz Contest and what was it like competing with other guys who share your same passion?
“The desire to test myself in a high-level competition. Competition has nothing to do with music. It was very stimulating, however, to listen to and deal with formations from all over Italy”.
Would you recommend other bands to participate?