I think it important for a musician who wants to say something to tell a story, to use his own background," says composer, arranger and saxophonist Gianluigi Trovesi. That is precisely what he does on his latest album, Fugace (ECM). Just one listen to the track "Blues and West" reveals a highly personal approach to jazz that is fascinating and absorbing. It's a fantasia on Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues" that becomes a journey through the whole history of jazz as seen through the eyes of a native Neapolitan. "I see the history of jazz through the crystal glass, and you hear the history of jazz in a different way."
In the same way Louis Armstrong's music reflected New Orleans or Duke Ellington's music Harlem, Trovesi reflects the influence of his hometown of Bergamo in Italy. He's a visionary spirit and a conceptualizer who reimagines jazz in vivid Mediterranean hues, dancing folkloric themes and bursts of vivid color. Three years ago his unique music inspired Umberto Eco, professor of semiotics, philosophy and literature at the University of Bologna and one of Italy's foremost novelists and essayists, to supply liner notes for Trovesi's album In Cerca di Cibo (ECM)-a measure of the high regard this remarkable musician is held in his native country.
Trovesi has found the magic key to unlock a dialogue between European and African-American cultures, creating a stunning example of how American jazz can be taken as a basis of a European correlate. "I always use European elements," he says. "Sometimes the dodecaphonic, sometimes from folk, from movies. For me jazz is color and rhythm! Jazz is a very big river, and when you arrive close to the sea the river becomes delta. The delta is where European musicians install themselves. They use the water from the jazz river and from the sea; they use jazz and the traditional, historic music of their own country."
Born in 1944 near Bergamo in Northern Italy, Trovesi studied at Bergamo Conservatory. In 1978 he became first alto of Milan's RAI TV Big Band, where he remained for 15 years. By 1988 he was topping the Italian polls as best jazz musician, and in 1991 he formed his Octet, which marked the beginning of what he calls his "mature" period.
A charter member of the Italian Instabile Orchestra, he has attracted commissions from across Europe for his brilliantly conceived compositions-the recent album Charmediterranéen (ECM) by the Orchestre National de Jazz of France opens with a Trovesi suite, for example. In 2001 he was awarded the top civilian honor, "Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana," by the Italian state.