Clarinetist, saxophonist and composer

1977 Foundation of his trio with the purpose of exploring the possible integration between the Italian musical tradition and jazz improvisation
1978 First Prize in the National Competition for Saxophone and Clarinet; enters in the Milan Radio Big Band as First Alto and First Clarinet; first record as leader, “Baghèt”, first prize of the Italian Record Critics
1983 Radio Uno Jazz Praize (RAI, National Italian Broadcasting Company)
1985 “Dances” (by the Trovesi Trio) is voted Best Record of the Year in the Musica Jazz Italian Top Jazz Poll, and in the Musica e Dischi magazine poll
1988 Best Italian Jazz Musician in the Musica Jazz Italian Top Jazz Poll
1991 Foundation of his Octet, full international affirmation as leader and composer, development of an original language mixing jazz with memories of European learned and popular musics, participation to major international jazz festivals
1992 “From G To G” (Trovesi Octet) is voted Best Record of the Year and Gianluigi Trovesi Best Musician in the Musica Jazz Italian Top Jazz Poll; “From G To G” voted best Italian Jazz Record in the Musica e Dischi magazine poll
1993 “From G To G” awarded 5 stars by Down Beat and Trovesi Octet voted best Italian Jazz Group in the Musica Jazz Italian Top Jazz Poll
1994 Musica Jazz features Trovesi in the central supplement and in a specially realized Cd
1996 “Les Hommes Armés” (Trovesi Octet) is voted Best Record of the Year and and Trovesi Octet best Italian Jazz Group in the Musica Jazz Italian Top Jazz Poll
1998 Gianluigi Trovesi voted Best Musician in the Musica Jazz Italian Top Jazz Poll
1999 “Django d’or” as best Italian Jazz musician
2000 Gianluigi Trovesi voted Best Musician in the Musica Jazz Italian Top Jazz Poll
2001 The Chairman of the Italian Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, confers to Gianluigi Trovesi the title of “Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana”, one of the top honorific titles of the Italian state, for his artistic achievements; “Django d’or” as best Italian Jazz musician
2003 “Dedalo” (WDR Big Band, compositions and conduction Gianluigi Trovesi) is voted best record of the year by the German Association of Record Critics


Gianluigi Trovesi has accomplished that most difficult of feats, not only for a jazzman, or a musician even, but for any artist. He managed to create a musical world that is instantly recognizable and completely original at the same time. Drawing upon an unlikely and personal combination of sources, and having undergone a growth process in which the usual steps in the development of a musical career were reversed, Trovesi bloomed relatively late as an artist. Yet today his voice as a composer and improviser ranks among those who created the notion of a “European Jazz” inspired by the American tradition, but not an imitation of it. Michel Portal, Misha Mengelberg, Evan Parker and John Surman are others who help define its range. Born in 1944 into a working-class family in Nembro, a small village in an Alpine valley not far from Bergamo in northern Italy, the young Trovesi found music around him. It was played in the common spaces of his neighborhood: the chorus for traditional mountain singing or the church choir, the guitar-accordion-clarinet trio that accompanied dances, and later the rare record and the communal listening to opera and light classical music on the first radio sets. Music was so intertwined with everyday life Trovesi didn’t realize it could be a separate profession until a music teacher told him about the Bergamo Conservatory, a time-honored institution situated in the city of Donizetti just a few kilometers away, where people – to his amazement – could go to learn and play music all day. He gained there his diploma in clarinet in 1966, having also studied harmony, counterpoint and fugue with Maestro Vittorio Fellegara, a relevant personality in the history of Italian music of ‘900. But at the same time his musical curiosity, and the chance to earn some well deserved fees, brought him to play in dance hall, where the American dance tunes were added to the European traditional music for walzer and polka, mixed with the ever-popular tango. Swing of the Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman denomination was then the prevailing element in jazz, even if quickly Charlie Parker’s bop, Mulligan’s and Konitz’s cool and the first recordings by Ornette Coleman were added to the heady mix. The young musician was indeed listening avidly to the “new thing” coming from the USA. Especially relevant was the chance to listen live to Mingus’ group with Eric Dolphy at the Milano festival in 1964. Dolphy’salto phrasing was rooted into bebop but his point of arrival was completely different, and the way he used the bass clarinet was another world if compared to what was studied in the Conservatory for classical and contemporary music.
Thanks to his different experiences and to his widely acknowledged talent, Trovesi first begins to teach and then in 1978 wins the first prize in the national competition for saxophone and clarinet, landing a permanent job in the Milan Radio Big band as first alto and first clarinet.
It’s guitar player Franco Cerri to invite him first regularly for concerts and recordings, while Giorgio Gaslini makes him a permanent member of his sextet. With the Milanese piano player, in the politically and culturally heated atmosphere of the 70’s, Trovesi makes important experiences internationally, and his voice strikes immediately some of the more relevant personalities of the contemporary free improvised european music, who invite him to participate in their projects. So he tours the then East Germany with Peter Kowald and Manfred Schoof, meeting musicians like Gunter “Baby” Sommer and Connie Bauer, recording later with them in Stockholm (Secret Point, Dragon); he’s also invited for the improvisation workshop convened by Kowald in Wuppertal in 1980 and documented on the FMP Lp “The Family”. After a concert in Bergamo with Gaslini’s Sextet, Joachim Berendt calls him for the Clarinet Summit, an all-star group that recorded “You Better Fly Away” for MPS: among the soloists, John Carter, Perry Robinson, Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky.
Confronted in one of these occasions with the problem of playing a solo after Evan Parker, Trovesi reached back in his memories of learned classical musician, of dance hall player and jazz improvisor, coming up with the idea to play a “saltarello” from the Florentine Renaissance shool of Ars Nova, dveloping it into an improvisation inspired at the same time by serial techniques and open Dolphyesque harmonies. The concert was a great success and at the same time a major turning point in his career, and in his work as a group leader he elaborated on this idea, drawing on the wide range of material he had heard or played over the years. The Italian classic tradition, the contemporary music of the XX Century, the brass bands, dance and night-club tunes, the folk music of his valley, the beloved jazz establish in his music a fruitful dialogue, happily connected by his multi-faceted talent of instrumentalist improvisor and highly original composer. It’s after this concert in Imola that trombonist Eje Thelin invites him, together with Enrico Rava, to teach at the Sockholm Conservatory in 1979.
To work in the Milan Radio Big Band means also the chance to experience first-hand the extraordinary concert season of the orchestra, which is in turn lead by musicians like John Lewis, Kenny Clarke and Francy Boland, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Smith – who obviously features Trovesi as soloist, Kai Winding, Manfred Schoof, with a very wide range of styles and approaches. It’s in this series that Adriano Mazzoletti presents him with his trio, and then sends him as a Italy’s representative for the European Radio Big Band at St. Gerold: there his solo on the blues, reinterpred along the lesson of Eric Dolphy, is one of the highlights of the evening. Many radio producers begin to invite Trovesi’s trio, that for Radio France plays in Paris opposite the Anthony Braxton Quartet.
His first record as a leader, “Bagh�t”, is in trio, and is published in 1978, with Paolo Damiani on bass and Gianni Cazzola on drums. In it the learned classical and contemporary music, from Ars Nova to serialism, meet the Italian folk, from the Sardinian launeddas to the “baghet”, a bagpipe from the Bergamo area, in a context of jazz improvisation. The record is extremely well received, and the Italian Critics Associations votes it Best Record of the Year. All alongthe 80’s Trovesi works in Europe with his trio, which rapidly becomes one of the most popular jazz groups in Italin and then Europe. They play all the major festivals, including Le Mans and Willisau. The trio records three Lps; the last, “Dances” (Red Records), with Ettore Fioravanti instead of Gianni Cazzola on drums, wins the Musica Jazz Italian Top Jazz poll as best record for 1985. With Paolo Damiani on cello an bass Trovesi leads a group originally created for the Roccella Ionica festival (“Roccellanea”, Ismez/Polis) and plays with percussionist Andrea Centazzo, as a duo (“Shock!”, Ictus/Felmay) and in Centazzo’s Mitteleuropa Orchestra (“Cjant”, Ictus/Felmay). At the same time he conceived his own solo project, “Les Boites a Musique”, a live performance using prerecorded tapes and electronic processing by Luciano Mirto, and to which he later on added Tiziano Tononi on percussion: the project is documented on record by Splasc(h) in 1985.
During the 80’s he leaves any permanent teaching job in Conseravtory and schools, limiting his commitment in education to his long-standing participation to the Siena Summer Jazz Workshop; in 1993 also the Radio Big Band is disbanded, and Trovesi can dedicate himself full time to his own projects and to selected invitations by other musicians.
Trovesi has been a key protagonist of the blooming contemporary Italian jazz scene: he worked with trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini and percussionist Fulvio Maras (“Let”, Splasc(h)), with Paolo Damianiagain (“Flashback”, Ismez/Polis, “Eso” and “Poor Memory” Splasc(h)), with Nexus, a Milan-based group led by Daniele Cavallanti and Tiziano Tononi (“Going For The Magic”, “The Preacher and the Ghost”, “Free Spirits”, all on Splasc(h)) , with Tiziana Ghiglioni (SONB, Splasc(h)), with pianist Guido Manusardi, and with his old big band colleagues like Emilio Soana and Rudy Migliardi.
In 1982 he plays in a short time with some of the most important contemporary jazzmen: Michel Portal ( Le Mans festival), Albert Mangelsdorff and Anthony Braxton. He’s been invited a s guest soloist by the two most successful, both nationally and abroad, Italian trumpet players, Paolo Fresu and Enrico Rava; he’s on “Ossi di Seppia” and “Ensalada Mistica” (Splasc(h)) by the quintet led by the Sardinian Jazz trumpet player, and on “Electric Five” (Soul Note) by the “electric” quintet created by Rava, who also wants Trovesi aboard for one of his recordings of operatic arias (“Rava Carmen”, Label Bleu).
Several European leaders sought his contribution for their bands: among them Misha Mengelberg for the “italian” ICP, a rdaio project that recorded “Live in Soncino” (ICP) and Keith Tippett for his Tapestry. His collaborations with French saxophonist and clarinetist Louis Sclavis, a close friend and likely-minded musician, have been very successful but have not found yet adequate record production, only excepetion a fragment on “Dances and Variations” the Cd that Musica Jazz dedicated to Trovesi on his 50th birthday.
His “mature” period begins with the formation of his Octet, an original line-up with Pino Minafra on trumpet, Rudy Migliardi on trombone, the twin basses of Roberto Bonati and Marco Micheli, Marco Remondini on cello and sax, and the percussive sction of Fulvio Maras and Vittorio Marinoni. The first Cd of the group (“From G To G”, 1992) wins the Italian Top Jazz poll again, and the following year the group wins as best Italian jazz band (Trovesi already won in 1988 as best musician). The prestigious music magazine Musica e Dischi also awards the record the prize as best cd of the year, while Down Beat gives it the maximum – 5 stars. But all the jazz magazines in the world welcome the Cd with great warmth, and the group quickly climbs to the top of the global jazz scene, playing not only in all the major European festivals but in Canada and China as well.
In 1996 the second record by the Octet, “Les Hommes Armés” is published. The project was originally a commission from a festival in Blegium, and it’s based on a melody from a popular – most probably obscene – song, upon which for over three centuries composers based sacred pieces, beginning with those of the celebrated Flamish polyphonic school. A sort of hidden key stone of the European musical tradition meeting jazz, improvisation, and contemporary harmonic concepts. The record wins the Italian Top Jazz poll in 1996, while at the same time the Octet is voted the Best Italian Group; in 1998 and 2000 Trovesi wins again the most important of the country jazz polls, as best musician.
Since 1991 he is a member of the Italian Instabile Orchestra, the aggregation of the best “advanced” Italian jazz players; with the Instabile he performed in the most prestigious European festivals, as well as in USA, Canada and Japan, recording for Leo, ECM and ENJA, giving a major contribution as a composer – his piece “Scarlattina” is one of the mainstays of the orchestra book – and a s a soloist.
The strength of his roots in his hometown is showcased in the “Around Small Fairy Tales” cd (Soul Note) with the Nembro String Orchestra, reinforced by some Octet member and under the leadership of Bruno Tommaso, performs a selection of Trovesi compositions.
On a commission by three French festivals (Le Mans, Paris La Villette, Coutances) Trovesi composes in 1999 “Around a midsummer’s night dream”, a suite whose inspiration comes from a mention, in Shakespeare, of the “Bergamasque” dance, which inspired also Bach and Frescobaldi among others. To perform the music, yet another original idea is conceived by Trovesi, who gathers a Nonet based on three Trios: a jazz trio with sax, bass and drums, a classical string trio, and a folk trio with accordeon and “tamburello”, the Italian frame drum. Among the musicians, Carlo Rizzo on tamburello, Jean-Louis Matinier on accordeon, Renaud Garcia-Fons on bass, Stefania Trovesi and Stefano Montanari on violin. Cd recording and production are German (SWR and ENJA) rounding up an extraordinary, fully European project- French festivals, Italian group, German production.
Together with Tiziana Ghiglioni and Paolo Fresu again, Trovesi played in the group dedicated to the songs by Italian songwriter Luigi Tenco, in numerous concerts all over the country, while singer Maria Pia De Vito invited him for the Cd “Phoné”, recorded for Egea with John Taylor on piano. Paolo Damiani had him as guest soloist and composer in his edition of the French Orchestre National de Jazz which recorded his piece “Sequenze Orfiche” in the CD “Charmediterranean” (ECM). The Ruvo di Puglia Brass Band invited him to take part in the “Banda in Jazz” project, whose sensational double Cd for ENJA brought the band to play in France, Germany and an long English tour, an extraordinary achievement for an Apulian popular brass band. WDR Big Band from Koln, one of the most important European Jazz Big Bands commissioned him new arrangements of his compositions and he led the Band, with Markus Stockhausen and Tom Rainey as guest solists, for acclaimed concerts, including one in Moers. The project was recorded on ENJA, and the resulting Cd, – “Dedalo”, was voted by the German Press as best record of the year in 2002. On the opposite end for group size, there are his “chamber” productions: the irresistible duo with accordionist Gianni Coscia which recorded first for EGEA (“Radici”) and then with ECM (“In Cerca di Cibo”) as well as playing dozens of concerts all over Europe where it’s a favorite of audiences in clubs and theaters; the more “folk-inspired” trio with Riccardo Tesi and Patrick Vaillant, whose Cd “Colline” is out on Silex. With Coscia, Remondini and Simone Guiducci Trovesi recently created the Modernariato quartet.
Interestingly, even the academia gave some attention to his music: at the Bologna University 1989/99 Luigi Sforza, under the guidance of Prof. Giampiero Cane, presented his doctoral dissertation with the title ‘Gianluigi Trovesi : identity, creativity and jazz by one of the key figures on Italian music today’.
At the beginning of June 2001 the Chairman of the Italian Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, conferred to the Italian clarinet and saxophone player Gianluigi Trovesi the title of “Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana”, one of the top honorific titles of the Italian state. This high acknowledgment goes to the whole Italian jazz, which Trovesi represents in a prestigious list of names from different fields, arts, medicine, business and culture (among others, the title has been given to film directors Ermanno Olmi and the Taviani brothers, to singer Mina, and to composer Nicola Piovani). In the same year the Italian Instabile Orchestra, of which Trovesi is a charter member, was voted Best Italian Jazz Group in the Musica Jazz Poll.
To celebrate the historical recording “Free Jazz” by Ornette Coleman the Italian magazine Musica Jazz co-produced with National Radio III Channel a special project: a double quartet, jointly led by Trovesi and Elton Dean, was recorded live in Rome in a tribute to the Free Jazz manifesto. The Cd was covermounted with the magazine July 2001 issue.
Twice Trovesi was also given in Rome, within the French-Italian festival “Una striscia di terra feconda” the “Golden Django”: another sought-after prize demonstrating how highly is Trovesi considered by the critics, promoters and producers of jazz in Italy. The Barga Jazz Festival, an event dedicated to big band arrangement and composition, featured Gianluigi Trovesi’s compositions as its main theme in August 2001, and participants presented their own arrangements of Trovesi’s themes or original compositions with the clarinetist as soloist.
The Octet went through important changes in the lineup, and Trovesi’s latest project for it is “Blues And West” dedicated to Louis Armstrong’s music as one of the Anerican myths that charmed and inspired Europe; the concert was produced by the Orléans and Vicenza jazz festival, while its discographica realization is scehduled for 2003, in a specially conceived structure, for ECM.
When possible in his full schedule, Trovesi likes to meet in a freely improvised context the musicians that inspired and welcomed him in the 70’s: in 2003 he played with trumpetist Manfred Schoof, bassist Barre Phillips, and percussionist Gunter Baby Sommer in Köln. In a deliberately divergent move, he’s working with pianist Umberto Petrin, and Fulvio Maras on percussion and electronics, to a project dedicated to Italian melodies, which will alternate tunes by the Bergamo composer Alfredo Piatti with ancient music pieces.
Trovesi’s many and different achievements still precisely dovetail with each other to form a complex, fascinating mosaic where styles, colors and themes entwine to form an ever-expanding tapestry, unified by his talent, imagination and unswerving dedication to creating a music without adjectives, qualifications or boundaries whose only criterion is that it be sincere and made for the pleasure of providing a new, meaningful experience. Trovesi’s music may please audiences, but this is not a commercial ploy. He simply has the magical ability to share with us his own joy in making it.
[by Francesco Martinelli]