Ruggiero Mascellino is an accordionist, pianist and composer with a rich musical culture, who has racked up countless and prestigious experience not only specifically concert, but also linked to theatre, television and film. Through this interview he tells some of the most significant events that have marked his artistic life.
You fell in love with music at the piano, your first instrument. Then you have moved your attention on the study of the accordion. Whence sprang this choice?
Really, I fell in love before the accordion. I started playing it when I was three years, because my father gave it to me like a present. I bought a 24-bass, but later I decided to study piano and I graduated, because at the time there wasn’t accordion professor at the Conservatory in Palermo. I started to practice this self-taught instrument.
You are also very prolific as a composer and teacher. When did you start to dedicate yourself to these two noble activities?
I compose all along, but my nature is coming off when, in 2007, I wrote Il Terzo Fuochista for Tosca, a song that the singer showed up at the Festival di Sanremo. From that moment I realized that the composition would be my world, I could take this path, so deciding to pursue my passion.
I dedicate myself to nine years teaching accordion at the Conservatory “V. Bellini “of Palermo.
Speaking of composition, your name appears in many prestigious theatre productions. What can you tell us about this experience?
The theatrical experience is born in 2000 with the Free Theatre of Palermo. I slowly started doing the scene musician, I defined myself as well. I realized that the theatre was a place suited my needs. Later I worked in other productions related to the Teatro Biondo, at the Teatro Massimo, Massimo Venturiello and Tosca. So I officially became a composer for theatre works, exhibiting me throughout Italy.
You also performed for TV, taking part in some famous RAI broadcasts. What does it mean for a jazz musician, very rarely present on television, enjoy an important showcase?
My TV appearances are not particularly related to jazz, but with more difficulty, to popular music. I was one of the first to enter in a world that did not belong to the accordion. When you perform in some broadcasts where there is the possibility to introduce the accordion to its characteristics, such as the Sanremo Festival, this instrument can be found almost anywhere. This aspect was shared with me and highlighted both by Pippo Baudo that by Peppe Vessicchio on the occasion of Sanremo. The TV has served to spread the accordion out of certain royalties.
Your playing is based on a fascinating stylistic syncretism that includes classical, jazz, world music, folk and pop music. How does this mix of genres come from?
It is born from various experiences of listening and practice of several musical genres. When I was 16 I heard from progressive rock to pop music, from classical music (usually where I come from) to folk. By the time I discovered many jazz musicians and pop singers that I have re-evaluated at a later time. As a child I listened Lucio Battisti and today I understood the real importance of all these genres. Now I find myself 43 years to have assimilated a myriad of influences, so it becomes easier. I consider myself lucky, because not all of the new generations have had the opportunity to listen to different genres.
You had the honour to work with sensational musicians, including Ennio Morricone and Sting. How and when have you started working with these two giants of world music?
I was called by Morricone, as an accordionist, to record the soundtrack he composed for the film Baaria by Giuseppe Tornatore. I played with Sting in a memorable concert in 2011, at the Castello a Mare of Palermo, because he used to be accompanied by orchestras of the place and the live orchestra was recorded, because it included some of the most representative elements of Palermo.
Your concert activity does not take place only in Italy but also abroad, in countries such as Germany, England, Korea, Japan, Denmark, Holland, Canada. What have the public feedback and criticism been that you have gotten beyond national borders?
The response from the public has always been there, everywhere. Clearly the international one has a way of understanding the music in a different way. In Italy there is the appreciation, but here you give almost anything for granted. Especially in Japan and Korea it is something incredible, crazy for the European musician. I also noticed when I proposed to my music. Similarly in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands are very open musically. The same applies for Canada, even if there were the Italian community. In our country it is easier to find beautiful location, however, the audience is a bit more reluctant, because they are perfectly familiar with the dynamics of the success of Italian music.
You are more present in Italian and foreign festivals such as accordion player or a pianist?
I was born accordionist, but I never have been 100%, because I’ve always played all that are able to play in all the productions, from accordion to piano, from guitar to bass, drums, especially today as a composer. I performed better with the accordion, because I have an international trio (violin, accordion and bass) with whom I have travelled around the world. Surely the accordion prevails, but wherever I played I have always tried to exploit all that I have inside of me.
There is, to date, artistic experience that has you gratified most of all?
Despite the many experiences like the Sanremo Festival, in collaboration with Sting, The Carosone Festival, the Festival Gaber, all superb holdings, one in all, one of the most beautiful of my life, I lived in Macau, in southern China. Here I went with my Sicilian ensemble consists of eighteen elements, two Italian-Chinese singers with whom we played in an unforgettable tour, including places to dream and beautiful scenery. The audience was literally delirious, either because they were very famous (their popularity can be compared, for example, that of Claudio Baglioni here in Italy), but also for the admixture of European music that made people crazy, anyway we had a blast.
Are you thinking towards new recording projects?
On 14th June it released my new album called The Waiting. Until I realized thirty discs today. Lately I have published one every two years. The next album will be only with the accordion, which will surely produce Tosca. We do not do it for this year, because I want to run with my project, but next year I will go to the studio to record the new album.
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