(Photo by Flavia Trachsel)
Brilliant musician, Antonello Messina is an accordionist, pianist and composer known and appreciated throughout the world. Deep knowledge of the jazz tradition, his pervasive playing is refined and with ethno jazz and Mediterranean influences. Author of a new album entitled Polyfemo, through this interview, he talks about his human and artistic experience.
You are a very versatile musician. When and why did you decide to focus your attention on the accordion?
The accordion is like a balloon, you can inflate the air and traveling. The sense and the instinct of freedom have prevailed on that for me which represents a great and static monument: the piano.
You are also the protagonist in such prestigious productions. How were these prolific collaborations?
As it happens in all important things: by chance and not by chance. In recent years I have worked with the “Theatre of the City of Berne”, but also with that of Zurich. They were looking for someone who could quickly transpose from the piano to the accordion and play on stage alone, a single musician in the midst of hundreds of other workers. I also just attended a movie, Gotthard, a sort of European blockbuster, where I play the accordion. Someone, in Poland, has made my name and I have sought me. Sometimes it is only lucky.
Often, in addition to Europe, you perform in Japan always receiving acclaim from the audience. What kind of establishing relationship with the Japanese audience?
It is a polite and interested audience. At the end of the concert there is not a single spectator who does not buy the disc. Could you want more?
What consideration has the Japanese public of the Italian musicians and, specifically, of our own jazz musicians?
Over the past 30 years all wanted to play in Japan, destination especially of American jazz musicians. Today there is more selection as a result of so much, too much supply. There is much enthusiasm for all that is Italy, as in every part of the world. The few Italian jazz musicians who play today in Japan are those who still enjoy the visibility to other latitudes. They are musicians who, over the years, and have built up relationships of collaboration on many fronts. Generally they have strong shoulders and efficient marketing.
What are the main similarities and the main differences between the European and Asian audiences?
Maybe a tiny dose of composure. Asians people, at the end of the concert, approach with timidity and reverence, they pull off a hyper smartphone and you grant a photo and signature on the drive, but then disappear. Europeans, however, they give up a pat on the shoulder and waiting for you at the bar. I like them both.
Among the various cooperation appearing in your rich “palmares” there is one with the Israeli percussionist Zohar Fresco. How did you meet him? How is the artistic association with this musician born?
Zohar is a musician out of the ordinary. I know a few musicians who spend a lot of time in concentration, reverence and study. Our collaboration starts with a video on Youtube. A mutual friend had contacted him to invite him to play as a guest, sending him a movie where I played myself. He has re-contact my friend and asked for my phone number. Then, during my tour in Israel, I have participated in the recording of his new album. We made a wonderful series of concerts together. Personally I think it’s one of the best drummers in the world. It was a huge pleasure to play with him.
There is a particular musician, with whom you have shared the stage, to which you are deeply attached from the human point of view?
I have no doubt: Paul McCandless. With Paul there is always something to learn on and off the stage, such as unconditional respect he shows for his fellow musicians. Before, during and after the concert.
You are not just an accordion player, but also a pianist and a composer.
What is the role of piano and composition in your life?
I compose almost exclusively on the piano and then, eventually, I transpose for accordion. If I did otherwise I would feel strictly conditioned by the accordion literature. Composing the obligation piano accordion playing outside preconceived.
Considering your boundless experience especially as accordionist, what advices could you give to a young man who wants to experiment with this instrument?
Generally I don’t like giving advice. I think we should go wrong on your own and from there, empirically, share and grow. If I had to hazard a few suggestions I would say to learn different languages, because in the future you will have to travel even further than today and to give up the circus competitiveness that plagues this instrument. Is there a world champion sax? There are hundreds of accordion samples and often I wonder how many worlds exist. I recommend it to a young accordion player to listen to the “old”, Gumina, Fleming, Sash and many others. These have all been said before, 40 years ago and better than anyone else. I would advise him to love life, because between this and the accordion is not far.
Have you in mind to achieve new recording projects?
I just recorded a new album, in a trio, in which I play only the piano.
This article is available also in: Italian