10th April 2016 Translation into English of Giorgio Cùscito’s interview with Jazz Agenda about Swing, classic Jazz and their inter-dependence

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In this post, I am putting my own translation in English (from Italian) of the interview which my friend, musician and maestro Giorgio Cùscito – a pillar of classic Jazz and Swing in Italy – did a few days ago with journalist Carlo Cammarella of Italy’s Jazz Agenda.

I feel what Giorgio has to say is very important and reflects an ever-growing reality, not just in Italy, but worldwide. This is why I asked for permission to translate and publish the interview.
I also appreciate that Jazz Agenda is aware of what’s happening, and how Classic Jazz and dance are really helping  to develop a new kind of awareness about what Jazz is.
Please feel free to share…
(At the bottom is the link to the original interview)

— start —-

JAZZ AGENDA: An unprecedented success with the active participation of musicians, DJs, organizers and an increasingly attentive and knowledgeable audience. A few years ago, probably, no one would have expected that Swing would experience a new “golden age”, returning to ride the crest of a wave. But what are the reasons for this popularity? Why has this genre succeeded in emerging in such an explosive manner? We asked ambassador of Swing and musician Giorgio Cùscito who is very active on the national scene.

Giorgio, in Rome and in Italy we know you under the title Ambassador of Swing: a few years ago would you have expected such a big success for this genre that perhaps originally was part of a smaller niche?


GIORGIO CÙSCITO: “Yes, I expected it and wanted it. Already in the early 2000s I clearly saw the basis for a “reconciliation” between music and dance, in Italy. The movement had already started at an international level, and it appeared in Italy through three different and inter-communicating doors: the most talented and knowledgeable dancers who had attended workshops abroad, the growing success of the Summer Jamboree in Senigallia, and the ability of some musicians to understand the needs of those who dance. The coordinated efforts of these three realities, to which were later added DJs and swing social night organizers, led to the exponential growth of the number of swing dance schools, with everything that came from that: the public, media and institutional attention, new spaces, exchanges and interactions with parallel realities of other nations. When I speak of the public, of course, I speak of an “active” and participatory public. The dancers make music together with the band, enjoying the music while at the same time giving it an incredible boost.

Incidentally, with this question you also give me the opportunity to clear up a misconception: Swing (if that’s what you mean by “this kind”) was not at all “niche”. On the contrary, it was pop music for everyone. It was the music of soundtracks, commercials, and television themes. It could be heard in elevators and department stores, and people listened to it customarily. And above all, people danced to it. This applies to all jazz from the 1910s to the 1960s. Only after this did jazz become niche, for listening, gradually losing all appeal to the general public. Today, thanks to the swing movement, jazz has come back to be enjoyed and experienced by everyone as “normal” music and not for the elite.


JA: What are the reasons behind the success of the swing movement in Rome and in Italy?

GC: “In Rome we are recognized and appreciated for excellent and very “dancers-oriented” bands. Here the swing music scene has always existed, but it had a completely different audience, made up of enthusiasts, nostalgic types and purists. Now the swing and traditional jazz public is made up of people of all ages, from all walks, and every musical culture, and today, in Rome alone, there is something like 20 swing dance schools. We can finally play for a live audience!

The national scene is equally incredible: there are really thriving swing communities from the north to the south to the islands without interruption! To give just one example, in recent years I have been invited to play “jazz that you dance to” in Savona , Genoa, Milan, Como, Bologna , Parma, Brescia , Bologna, Senigallia , Florence , Terni ,  L’ Aquila , Pescara, Rome, Naples , Salerno , Policoro, and Catania . In each of these cities I have found venues packed with excited, happy and most especially “dancing” people, and I know that there are fantastic scenes in Turin, Pistoia, Rimini, Perugia, Palermo, Salento and  Sardinia … in short, Italy has more and more swing! And it has less and less to envy the international scene, both in terms of music quality and the level of the dancers!”


JA: And how much does the fact that it is music that you can dance to influence all this?

GC:“Obviously a great deal, indeed therein lies the secret: discovering that jazz can also be danced to was a pleasant surprise for everybody, musicians and audience alike. Today – and this too is just an example – the jazz fan can finally also involve his wife, and find in her an ally that, without the dance, he would never have had! And someone who had never heard a note of jazz before, today, is  “exposed” to the great masterpieces of African-American music thanks to dance. Maybe they do not know if they’re listening to Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, but they dance to it with great satisfaction ! ”


JA: How much does the fact that there is a very strong community of musicians and dancers help this movement?


GC: “The swing community is not only made ​​up of dancers and musicians. One must also consider the DJs, organizers of swing evening events, the owners of venues, those who focus on clothing, those interested in hairstyling, barbering, and in general, those who spread vintage style and culture. The “meeting” between jazz and dance has many protagonists and many advocates. Let’s say that in general we all try to create an environment of a certain type, and live inside it as best as possible. It must be said that all this is thanks to the internet: we coordinate using Facebook. ”


JA: What are the innovations that we can find in swing played today?


GC: “That’s a very interesting question. Swing musicians today are essentially one of two types: the first is the philologist musician who tries to recreate the sounds and styles of music just like in the old records; the second type instead is a musician who takes on and retains many innovations of modern jazz, because he has studied it and knows it well, but also tries to keep all the danceability and expressivity of pre-war jazz. Obviously both approaches are interesting and give excellent results – also because even the world of dance is a bit undecided whether to be philological or be open to movements and ideas from other cultures and other dances. I would say though that if you are talking about musical innovations, I feel these come from musicians of the second type. ”


JA: Talking about you instead, what prompted you to love this kind of music?


GC: “The subliminal work of my parents, who set me off to sleep as a baby with jazz records, was crucial. And then when I was awake I did nothing but continue to listen to those records. Subsequently, when I came of age, I began to go around looking for them in the shops of Rome, and then Italy, and then Europe and the world. Meanwhile I played what I could understand: at eleven years of age with the clarinet I tried to reproduce solos by Benny Goodman or other great clarinettists, when I was 13 with the piano I wanted to find out all about Earl Hines and Count Basie. For me jazz was only pre-war, because I listened only to that to and understood only that. Then studying,  I really took advantage of everything, to give just one example, I was crazy about McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane’s pianist. And then when I got the chance to really talk with him, Tyner stunned me saying that for him the greatest was Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong’s great pianist … and the circle was closed. I realized that at the heart of it all, there is only one jazz, that even the most “modern” is very danceable, and conversely, that the most archaic form was actually very modern. ”


JA: As for the future, in your opinion will swing continue on the crest of the wave that it is on now?

GC: “Another interesting question. The first thing that comes to me to say is – of course – I hope so, I think so. But then putting aside egoism and personal taste, I think that it will be what it will be. Maybe who knows … something which can no longer be defined as “riding the crest of the wave”, realistically I suppose it will become something stable and established like tango – which however has less live music. In the meantime, think about the impact this movement will have on the children of those who today are dancing and listening to music of unparalleled artistic value! And let’s hope for a better future also thanks to our drive towards quality. I’d love to discover, before I die, that I have truly contributed in some way to a more beautiful world. ”


Original link : http://www.jazzagenda.it/index.php/interviste/item/890-swing-giorgio-cuscito


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