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Paolo Fresu’s Princely Appeal

The Italian horn master finds a royal blend of mysticism and politics

Paolo Fresu. (photo: Andrea Rotili

Paolo Fresu has the air of a prince. Given to scarves, he dresses with casual cool and speaks English with a disarming Italian accent. Playing the trumpet is hard, but Fresu makes it look easy. He can lift a flugelhorn to his lips with one hand, appear to simply breathe into it, and fill a large auditorium with the golden aura of his sound.

But few princes work so hard. He plays around 200 concerts a year, records prolifically, leads over 20 different current bands, and operates both a festival (Time in Jazz, in his native Sardinia) and a record label (Tuk). Just one example of his work ethic is how he chose to celebrate his 50th birthday in 2011: He played 50 concerts in 50 days with 50 different ensembles. That the American and European jazz scenes are separate worlds is proven by Fresu’s relative anonymity in the United States and his fame in Europe.

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