Lucia Ianniello, the lady and the trumpet

Lucia Ianniello. Photo by Cristiano Mazzoli
Lucia Ianniello. Photo by Cristiano Mazzoli

Being a woman and a jazz composer is not a matter of everyday, but Lucia Ianniello found her way through the music thanks to her passion and her faithful trumpet.
The Italian artist has recently published her first album ‘Maintenant’, produced by the British music label SLAM, becoming one of the first women trumpeter in Italy.

Born close to the Costiera Amalfitana, she moved to Siena and Rome where she is actually living and finding inspiration for her music.

The album is her first work as a bandleader and it follows the visionary atmospheres and soundscapes created with the help of her music companions: Diana Torti (voice), Giuseppe La Spina (guitars) and Paolo Tombolesi (keyboards, acoustic bass and percussion).
The quartet explores in the eight-tracks album the infinite possibilities of improvisation, beyond stylistic and formal aspects, in order to find in the human interplay the quintessence of their art.

How does your passion for jazz music come out?
My passion for music has always been there since I was a teenager. After a serious eye disease, when I had to reconsider some aspects of my life, it has become an expressive urgency. I like to think that my passion is a kind of rejection of rational Western culture. I personally reject a culture that cannot accept the unfinished work, the mistake, the continuous movement of the improvisation, the ultimate freedom of the performer, the collective performance which rises up from the relationship with the public and the environment, the variety of timbres. That’s what jazz is basically for me. As a composer, I can see the music as a succession of sound landscapes, with light and shades, lines and colors that change in close relationship with the humanity that surrounds me. I started playing the trumpet only when I was an adult, but this instrument literally kidnapped me with its charm.

The trumpet is generally considered a masculine instrument and associated to great male musicians, such as Louis Armstrong. What does it means for you to be woman trumpeter in a jazz environment? What  do you think is  the role of women in jazz?
The jazz world is known to be male dominated, more than other artistic domains. However we must remember that in the Western culture women are mostly covering the role of singers and performers, as it is in classical music, but the creative role of the composition has historically been the prerogative of men. In jazz the roles of performer and composer are fused together. The jazz musician is a composer in real time. Then perhaps it is the creative capacity that is denied to women and by consequence in jazz there is less space for women.
Many people are still surprised to see me playing the trumpet, it is true that there are historically musical instruments considered more masculine or more feminine, but not only in jazz.
Luckily things  are changing and the number of women trumpeter in Italy is increasing. However they still remain confined in the ranks of a band or orchestral sections  and the originality still requires a higher dose of resistance. Looking abroad, the dynamism of women jazz musicians, who are increasing in the rest of Europe and the US, is a breath of fresh air that positively affects the entire industry and will contribute to accelerate the change.

One of the most famous woman trumpeter is Valaida Snow, back in ‘30s called “Little Louis” in assonance with the master Armstrong. Who are your music models?
You mentioned a figure of great importance, which has certainly granted his career on the fact of being a woman. Another great model for me is Clora Bryant, an extraordinary solo trumpeter in the ’50s and’ 60s, or the contemporary Ingrid Jensen.
However, I must confess that the trumpet player who has had some influence on me was the British Alison Balsom, a classical musician, for the quality of her sound. Stylistically my favorite ones are: Jon Hassell, Nils Petter Molvær and Tomasz Stanko.

Let’s speak about your debut album as a bandleader. How did you manage to produce your cd with the British label SLAM?
Maintenant” was published by SLAM Productions last September and the experience with George Haslam, musician and founder of the label in 1989, was undoubtedly very positive. The SLAM catalog boasts artists such as Max Roach, Mal Waldron, Steve Lacy, Jaki Byard, Roswell Rudd and his catalog in the 90s aimed at the scene of free jazz in UK highlighting lesser-known musicians from various parts of the country and opening up to women artists. The interest was mutual and it’s all happened very quickly, with the utmost professionalism and we can say with a “feeling” that just another musician can show in these circumstances.

Why did you chose this French word Maintenant (Now) as title for your album?
This is the first track, lasting 11 minutes. ”Maintenant” is a composition written several years ago, in a late summer day, when I had the inner certainty that it was the right time for important achievements.  I have arranged this song also for the ‘Orchestra del 41esimo parallelo’,  an all-women band lead by Rita Marcotulli as a guest at the piano, for a special concert at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome.  The same summer I proposed to my splendid musicians with whom I collaborated in a quartet, Diana Torti, Paolo Tombolesi and Giuseppe La Spina, to record it and we ended up with the full album.
The album includes also an original song ‘Sicily’,  written by Giuseppe and recorded in his memory. Three tracks are instead a personal tribute to Horace Tapscott  and to the Pan Afrikan Peoples Orkestra.

What is music for you?
It’s a hard question. Well, I think that for me music is not only aesthetic but also ethics. From an aesthetic point of view, at the moment I am working as a painter, creating particular soundscapes, using a melodic simplicity and the contrasts of timbres.
From an ethical point of view, instead, I like to present my song ‘Other’ as a different way of living the music. Then I quote El System of Antonio Abreu in Venezuela, the thought and work of Claudio Abbado and the life and work of Horace Tapscott in the African-American ghetto of Los Angeles. Music is a kind of antidote to live more consciously and contribute to the improvement of society.

As an Italian woman musician what is Italy for you? How would you describe your country to someone who is not Italian?
Italy is a beautiful country made of contradictions. Full of scenic wonders and historical and archaeological sites, it is the home of vibrant local cultures and culinary variety, but she is apparently stuck in an economical crisis, crushed by corruption and the inefficiency of public administration.
I have recently been in UK and I noticed how much our country is loosing the creativity and the sense of hope in the future. I guess that is the reason why many of our young professionals are leaving to find their own path abroad.

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