An artist with many aspects: the accordionist Simone Zanchini

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Simone ZanchiniConsidered one of the most interesting and innovative accordion player on the international scene, his research moves between the boundaries of contemporary music, acoustic and electronic sound experimentation, mixing together experiences and super-refined influences issuing in an absolutely personal approach to improvisation materials. Eclectic musician, performs an intense concert activity with groups of diverse musical backgrounds (improvisation, contemporary music, jazz, classical). Graduated with honors in classical accordion at the Conservatory G. Rossini in Pesaro, with the Master Sergio Scappini. He has performed in several Festivals in Italy (Clusone Jazz, Umbria Jazz, Tivoli Jazz, Jazz in the Time-Berchidda, Sant’Anna Arresi, Barga Jazz, Mara Jazz, Jazz-in’it, Ravenna Festival, Rossini Opera Festival, Siena Jazz, Roccella Jonica etc.) and in themainly international Festivals (France, Austria, Germany, England, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Spain, England,Norway, Russia, Tunisia, Lebanon, India, Venezuela, Japan, etc.). He has collaborated with many internationally renowned musicians from different musical backgrounds such as: Thomas Clausen, Gianluigi Trovesi, Javier Girotto, Marco Tamburini, Massimo Manzi, Tamara Obrovac, Krunoslav Levacic, Vasko Atanasovski, Paul Fresu, Antonello Salis, Han Bennink, ArtVan Damme, Bruno Tommaso, Ettore Fioravanti, Mario Marzi, Michele Rabbia, Andrea Dulbecco, Giovanni Tommaso, Gabriele Mirabassi, Frank Marocco, Bill Evans, Adam Nussbaum, Jim Black. Since 1999 he collaborates with the Soloists of the Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala in Milan, with this group he toured regularly. Aside from musical performances and reasearch, Zanchini leads also accordion’s workshops and collective impro. In 2006 he published Be-bop Buffet (Wide Sound) a duet with Frank Marocco, a model of the Bebop language expressed with the accordion. In 2009 Better Alone…! (Silta Records) a solo project where prove all tone colours of his instrument through the use of a particular midi accordion, live electronics and laptop, in the same year he published also Fuga per Art Jazz 5et (DodiciLune Records), the unique tribute work of Zanchini, a tribute to his great Master and one of the greatest exponents of the jazz accordion: Art Van Damme. In 2010 he published a new Project with Ratko Zjaca – guitar, Martin Gjaconovski – dbass and Adam Nussbaum – drums: The way we talk (In&Out Records). In May 2012 has been released the latest Zanchini’s project: MY ACCORDION’S CONCEPT (Silta Records) a project built up on radical improvisation with the acoustic accordion and live electronics, a brave attempt to subvert the common code of expression through the accordion.



A wide musical universe into one only musician. How do you let live together in your music so much different influences? Is the one that prevail over the others? 

My training was very heterogeneous. When I was 7 years old I came close to the accordion following my grandfather and uncle’s passion, that was linked to folk music. So I undertook a long and thick path into this style, but at the age of 14 I‘ve fallen in love with jazz. Unfortunately in that period it was very rare listen accordion plays jazz, so I couldn’t study in deep as I wanted. So I decided to start an important path in classical music, enrolling me in the Conservatory and getting my degree in the 1997 (among the first internal graduates in Italy).

After the will to find my own original music way has come, the will of a my own sound so all my previous experiences have joined together  and influenced each other, linked to curiosity and open mind that are the bases of everything.

My principal passion is the improvised music and the experimentation, not only contemporary, but also mixed music world very far each other, like in my last quartet inspired to the Secondo Casadei’s music, giving to the folk of Romagna a jazz shades.

A lot of sonorities mean also a will (need?) to break barriers between different styles and the schemes that govern them; this creates in your music sound “games” sometimes also irreverent and never banal or obvious. What’s the reason, because of you live music in this way? What do you expect from the audience when they listen so visceral freedom?

I’ve never believed in the music fences, rather they have annoyed me. I don’t mind about the codes intended like languages, but obviously I like study them. For example, I’ll be forever grateful to the BePop (like my last Cd with Marocco), but to find a personal music direction musical fences can’t exist or they have to be brittle and destructible in every moment. So I always preferred not to follow them but break them!

The reason, why I do it, it’s my sense freedom in a high meaning, my anarchic sense of the life with a lot of curiosity and courage, that are indispensable to be pioneers of a instrument.

From the audience I expect availability, a word I love a lot.

When you go to a concert with no label music, but full of facets and different influences what it’s necessary is the availability; be available to understand what there is behind the artist’s choices to realize his own reasons.

Mostly I found it, but it happens also no because sometimes there are concerts not properly “enjoyable”, of easy fruition, but take efforts also to the audience.

Of course when it happen, everything become a party!

The constant research of a “new” sound leads often you to play accordion with electronics. Do you think is it fundamental to find it? What features of the instrument can be expanded and developed in this way?

Surely there was a moment when I felt the need; acoustic sound didn’t satisfy me no more and I needed new motivations.

So I spent a period to explore new sonorities through “machines” both put them directly on the instrument, starting from the acoustic sound, and use totally artificial synthesized sounds, with that ones of the accordion.

From this good path my 2 Solo Cd’s were born BETTER ALONE and MY ACCORDION CONCERT, opening me new musical world.

I don’t think it’s the only way, in fact now I’ve come back a little bit. Also now I use electronics applied directly on the instrument but I had the need of my own sound, acoustic, mine, personal, because that one of standard instruments wasn’t enough for me.

After different attempts I could auto-plan an instrument in the sound’s aspect, aesthetic and mechanic. It’s called Z Double 16.

In a video on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tdz-hgUdkjA) I explain the reasons why I made this choice, starting from my personal needs and the principal will to create my own way, not tracing that one covered from others.

Its sound is easy to recognize and represents also my way of playing, a little bit aggressive.

Of course, everything is a work in progress, the sound changes continually and some modifies were made from when it was born.

What were your examples when you were young?

About accordionist not a lot, because I loved moreover jazz music and in that period wasn’t very easy listen to accordion in it. Art van Damme and Frank Marocco were 2 more relevant jazz accordionists of the “old school”.

I had the opportunity to play a couple of times together with Art van Damme, but he was already quite old so we couldn’t go on for a lot; I dedicated him a CD FUGA PER ART  to express all my estimate and gratitude to a big swinger, a guru, an accordionist with a overseas sound that it has never been in Europe, except few cases.

After this CD he wrote me 2 letters (that I maintain like a relic)  in where, in addition to the congratulations, invited me to play very soon together. An emotion that I’ll bring forever in my earth.

With Marocco I could also record a CD, BEPOP BUFFET, feeling like grandfather and the nephew, having estimate mutual. They were my idols when I was a child, I didn’t care a lot about the rest; it was the time while Galliano, Azzola and other “musettari” came out, but I didn’t mind of them.

About musicians in general Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie have rapt me. I remember I listened the first time Parker in a musicassette: it was a shock listen what was happening, but I loved it.

After that arrived the avant-garde with Guy Glacius, Kimmo Pohjonen, Teodoro Anzellotti and other musicians that have explored new sonorities with the accordion and not.Simone Zanchini

Very often some accordionists that play American blues/swing ‘30/’40 are confused as jazz musicians, losing the essence of this attribute, that push to a constant evolution and continue research. What’s the jazz situation in Italy, in particular in accordion world? Do you think it would be possible have an Italian jazz “school”?

It’s already enough if they play blues/swing! Sometimes worse accordionist are considered jazzman, who play jazz tango, or jazz musette, o varietè. Jazz, of course, can mean a lot of things, but I think that as all the others instruments that makes their own mess tin studying the various jazz styles that take the lead, also the accordionists should do it.

Unluckly, there is this virus that I call “Tanghite” that obviously is very near to the instrument’s sound so it’s easier, being sound steeped in the instrument, but it isn’t real jazz. It would be nice have a jazz school, at least in Europe, because in America there is one.

Of course, I love tango, I think that Piazzolla has been one of the most 900s composers, I play it sometimes, but the problem is that we can’t go away from this quagmire. In Italy and generally in the world there isn’t a jazz “situation” for the accordion. There are some jazzists (they can be counted on the finger of a hand) very good, who carry forward the instrument’s development, that however it’s very young and it didn’t have composers so important and great to have the same prestige of the others. For sure, in the next centuries it will have the same past of the piano, violin, etc.

Moreover, there is an other world only for accordionists, that I call “fisarmonicaro”, that lives in its own world with world championship, obstacle course, etc!

But all this it isn’t the music world, they are parallel dimensions that even skim themselves; there are accordionists of that  fisarmonicaro world that in the music one don’t know and vice versa. An example is Antonello Salis!

We have to say that we are growing up, in the last 20 years there have been an important development!

I really hope that an Italian accordion jazz school will born; I’m sure that in the next 10/15 years it will be in the conservatories like it has happened for classical one.

One of your project is with the soloists of Scala di Milano; How do you feel playing with musicians used to live in “schemes”? What kind of repertoire do you play?

At first it was so hard. When I was called for the first time by Scala di Milano for playing Piazzolla I thought that I’d never be in that theatre, but it was so great that a collaboration was born that there is still today.

There is a story that explains the first difficulties: during my first years of activity, when I was used to experience a lot, I was in tour with the Gruppo Scaligero and I had a trio concert of total improvisation. It was very hard! Musical and human approach is very different so it’s necessary a great adaptability without losing your own identity.

Mostly I play 900s repertoire. Generally, in the first part, they deal with classical one, and when we go to Piazzolla, Gershwin, Bernstein, Rota but also in the classicals where I play; for example a Puccini’s suite in which I play the Musetta soprano ‘s part.

So even if it isn’t the best situation where express my biggest interests, it’s a very nice and prestigious experience!

During your path we found also an accordion’s degree in the “G. Rossini” conservatory in Pesaro. What do you think classical studies have mostly taught you and where have they bring you?

They gave me a lot! I was one of the first Italian graduates, with M° Sergio Scappini. I’ve studied mostly the sound control, issue and others aspects linked to it that for the mechanical instruments, like piano, sometimes are token for granted but they aren’t and also there was a background of transcriptions for our instrument and expressly written for it.

My teacher’s elasticity was fundamental, because I didn’t care so much about this world.

Simone ZanchiniMore than your several engages as concertist, you make also didactic activity. How is possible  teach to be “free”? How do you work with your students?

Really I don’t do didactic activity. Sometimes I make some workshops for ensemble music mostly with different instruments. I’d like to teach a matter near to jazz for my instrument (for a short period I did in Pesaro Conservatory).

I feel a musician now and a person who has a lot to learn, so I prefer using my time for the study and research and not to teach.

It is impossible teaching to be free! Teach means enforcing rigid and strict rules, that are fundamental for the guys, but unluckly I feel very far from that being’s way.

Present and future: What’s new?

A lot of things, as ever! Now I’m busy with my quartet (Stefano Bedetti sax, Stefano Senni Doublebass, Zeno de Rossi Drums) in the “Casadei Secondo… Me” project. A big arrangement work to revival these melodies without being kitch. Also a CD will be released for Stradivarius Records.

I‘ve never been a lover of revival, but if you were born in Romagna some music is part of you for sure.

It has just released a CD in trio with Angelika Niescier, Stefano Senni and we’ll leave for a long tour in Germany during that we’ll play vanguard jazz with original works.

In Aprile it has released a CD with trio “Tango y Algo Mas” by Limen, totally devoted to east Europe music (Ligeti, Bartok and also some populars).

At the end of April I’ve recorded a CD in New York with Stefano Bedetti (Saxophones and American rhythm), John Patitucci (Doublebass), Adam Nussbaum (Drums). Cd has been released by Inandout Records with my name “Simone Zanchini- Brecker in the Bellow”, where Brecker means the name of the great jazz man Michael Vrecker. CD is made up by original works inspired to that style (Hard modern Bepop).

For info


Autore: Samuele Telari

Samuele Telari ha scritto 32 articoli.

Questo post è disponibile anche in: Italian

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