Interview with Santi Costanzo
Dear Santi, in 2016 you released your first album Deeprint, how did start the idea of making this record and how you formed the group that played its music?
Hello Andrea, I start thanking you for this opportunity. I think it’s important that someone gives voice, as you do,to musicians who, like me, try to investigate in a not exactly conventional musical reality.
Deeprint stems from several needs: the desire to get involved and the need to realize my own ideas first. The need to give voice to my own way of perceiving music, the acquired language and its own sensibility, but also and above all, the desire to experiment with different musical forms and architectures, I consider it the cornerstone and the driving force element of the entire project. Beginning with the decision, perhaps seemingly atypical (but not so much if you look at some discography), dictated by the absence of the bass in this formation, this is the result of careful reflection and a well-targeted aesthetic choice. I needed, in fact, a well known team both humanely, both musically, and also who could use all the tonal and functional potentials of the compositions on this album. This explains the choice of the musicians who played in Deeprint. I decided to undertake this journey with them because, as I imagined, they would have contributed significantly and without interpretation reserves to the success of this work. Starting with the multi-instrumentalist Carlo Cattano that, with his experience, has always been able to advise adequately, contributing fundamentally. In this sense I consider myself honored to have played with him. Alessandro Borgia and Fabio Tiralongo for their part have been an almost natural choice. Despite their young age, they possess technical skills and evident mastery about their instruments. In addition, they have demonstrated the right spirit and attitude towards the path that I have proposed them.
When did you start to play guitar and why?
As I happen to most guitarists, I started at a very young age, when I was about eleven years old. The first guitar that I got into my arms was an old classical guitar found unattended in a basement at the home of some relatives. After some time I discovered that it was built by a luthier in Catania many decades before,but I never knew his name. At that age, you have enough time to be able to strum and try to figure out how to dig out something sensible from an instrument. The funny thing was that the worst I played…. the more I struggled manfully. Practically I started playing well by… obstinacy. Reflecting, in hindsight, this is a process which over time has never left me, that stubbornness thankfully remained.
With what guitars do you play and with what have you played?
You named it, Andrea. As you wrote in the review, I use a Gibson 335. A custom guitar that I own from about ten years. Even if I’m an electric guitar player, from time to time I like to play an acoustic Ibanez, now no more in production. Nothing qualitatively special, it’s a mid-range guitar, but it immediately proved to be a real positive surprise. By doing a little research I found out what I suspected for some time: the presence of a design flaw. This guitar features an electric guitar’s neck! So the dynamics are outstanding, with a truly remarkable natural sound. Most likely I will record something with this instrument in the future.
Excluding these two guitars, over the years I have owned different ones. Mainly an Ephifone dot archtop and two Ibanez, a AG75 and excellent Ibanez AKJV90. All resold after a certain period of time. Today I’m projected towards the purchase of a Fender Telecaster Thinline (really fascinating timbre), to be attached to Gibson 335. With the latter I still found the right balance in terms of flexibility and ease of handling. I do not think I will detach easily. Tomorrow, perhaps, only with a similar model, maybe a luthier made.
What did you study and what is your musical background? I know you’ve been a Paolo Sorge’s student…
Until I was twenty years old I have always studied alone, being interested and playing what pleased me no continuity whatsoever. My musical background, before studying jazz, was made from a certain type of rock, Zappa among all! But I have always had ears pricked towards listening jazz and growing even towards a certain type of contemporary music. In parallel to higher education (I graduated in Literature), I will have had little more than twenty years, I attended a hearing at an academy of music and there I met Paolo Sorge and I began my course of study. It’s been fourteen years since that meeting and I must say that my luck was twofold in that, I not only had the opportunity to study with a great teacher like Paolo, who always showed me willingness and patience, but I had also the opportunity to have a fairly complete student education, playing with several big bands, some directed by Sorge, the others by Charles Cattano, up to orchestral experience with Keith Tippett and Mathias Rüegg. Although, being part of one or more big band, for personal character, was a little bit “tight”to me, even if I can say I am grateful to that type of experience, it was vital for my training . At the end of my course of study at the academy, initially led by Paolo, who was and still remains for me a fundamental point of reference, I began a targeted survey to certain forms of music that interested me deepen and currently so I continued to study in total autonomy. Deeprint was precisely the first fruit of these studies
In Paolo Sorge’s description of your record he talks about curiosity … curiosity about musical languages ..in your record you like to merge togheter different things …
Absolutely. In such a heterogeneous society, so influenced by many art forms that mutually enriching dialogue between them, it’s essential to open our minds to new advances. I think it’s also absolutely necessary to wade in the past, otherwise you would not have self-awareness, but we must not take refuge in it. We have to be curious, to takerisk whenever possible, to experience, to use new forms and languages. Stagnation occurs only when we are “accommodating” to the already known or to a well-coded repertoire. This is true not only for classical music, contemporary or jazz, but also for all other art forms. Since its genesis, in Deeprint, in fact, I felt the need to make a selection with respect to what to use, what to combine and what to discard in stylistic and aesthetic terms. I tried, for example through the use of serial music, using some elements borrowed from the past, in a way, in my opinion, more current as possible, sometimes even remouving them. The same disc tissue is permeated by other musical genres, not just jazz matrix, derived from rock guitar sounds (although I would not call it fusion); improvisational techniques derived from contemporary music; improvisational gimmicks matrix free jazz and beyond; frequent use of polyrhythms. The goal was basically groped to get continuity and variety between a song and another, I hope I succeeded.
What is the difference between extemporaneous composition and extemporary improvisation ?
Extemporary improvisation is the extemporaneous act or practice in creating a form of musical improvisation which can be idiopathic (linked to the specific language of music) or less. There are various types of improvisation: tonal, modal or atonal, etc .. What I call extemporaneous composition, is the desire to structure the extemporaneously atonal improvisation, thinking of a certain architecture to give an impromptu song. A compositional practice that doesn’t have anything written on paper, any type of notation or graphic indication. In that case, for me, one can speak of extemporaneous composition. The prologue of my record is an example: I have given shape to a totally improvised composition at the very moment in which I performed, with an idiomatic form of type jazz and atonal precisely. This practice involves the necessity to remember and at the appropriate time to recall what has been previously exposed so you can run it at a later time. Of course, you can also improvise extemporaneously, without following a structure or a specific language, creating a seamless and viscerally flow of sounds. Also this is an absolutely noble and inspiring practice in my opinion.
What does improvisation in your music research? Can we go back to talk about of improvisation in a so encoded repertoire as the classic or we are forced to leave and turn to other repertoires, jazz, contemporary, etc?
For my research improvisation it’s absolutely crucial, but not only. Writing is also. From my point of view one does not exclude the other. To answer your second question: I believe strongly that free improvisation in music may be the saving element that avoids a resulting stagnation, even in repertoires encoded as the classical one. Quoting Derek Bailey “Every improvisation takes place in relation to the already known, being it traditional or newly acquired. The only real difference lies in the opportunity that free improvisation to renew or change the already known. ” We all should seize this opportunity, classicists and not.
Please tell us your five essential records, to always have with you .. the classic five discs for the desert island ..
This is the really difficult question … Well, five discs are very few. Making an effort and sacrificing at least four times that of the fundamental, immediately began with appointing Very Very Circus Henry Thredgill, one of my favorite musicians ever. The same applies to Misterioso by Thelonius Monk, which I have worn the vinyl. Another disk that has left an indelible mark on me, I still remember the shock at first hearing, it was Solo by Cecil Taylor, outstanding! I would continue with Fred Frith and his The Technology of Tears, must-have, and conclude with Uncle Meat by Frank Zappa, needless to say why, Zappa speaks for himself.
What are your next projects? What are you working on?
I started to work on a project I had in mind even before the Deeprint’s realization. It’s a solo guitar project consists only of my original compositions and improvisations, I do not want to anticipate anything because it’s still in the planning stage and it could be changed. It will definitely be a project that will look not only to contemporary jazz but also to avant-garde and minimalism music. In parallel with this project, however, I am continuing to write for various formations. I hope as soon as possible to play with the musicians you listened in Deeprint, perhaps with an expanded workforce.