Your big breakthrough was in 2006 when your song “This is What You Are” and the album "A Handful of Soul" launched all over Europe and became a huge success. What do you think made it so successful?
Is there a particular Italian band, singer, or music genre that was most influential to you and your music?
Music has always been part of my life, my dad was a singer too. The first time I was on stage it was with him, even my grandmother was a singer. I grew up being exposed to every kind of music from the Italian pop to jazz, to Italian songwriters to Incognito. You have to consider that the American soldiers brought to Sicily a lot of new music at the end world war II, I have been exposed since my childhood to that ‘American’ sound, it’s part of my music upbringing.
You grew up in North Italy, but your roots are from Sicily does it affect your music?
Sicily, like all the South, is a nest of love and at the same time a place that helps you to form your own character. There is a richness that can’t be emulated: the way we tend to socialize, the sense of community and passion, things that can’t be easily found somewhere else. I think all these elements are reflected in my music, the idea of being together sharing emotions. When you are on stage singing for an audience that’s exactly what you are doing: sharing emotions and stories with the people In front of you
A lot of your songs are about love. Do you imagine singing it to someone in particular? Do you have a favorite love song?
It’s hard to pick one, in particular, every song is linked to different memories and you can’t choose among emotions. “Gratitude”, one of the songs included on my last album, is my love declaration to my audience that follows me from 10 years, some of them even before I became “Mario Biondi”.
In many productions that you have created throughout the years, you hired jazz musicians to play your music. Nevertheless, there’s been a lot of controversy in the jazz community about jazz being downgrading music genre. What do you think about this claim?
I think the main problem is too many people are trying to categorize music in an easy formula they can recognize. Music and art, in general, are always evolving, adapting to the mood and changes of the society and times. I don’t think Jazz is dying, young people are more curious than what we think, they listen without prejudices, there are a lot of young talented artists that are exploring a new way of playing jazz.
Do you think that jazz artists have certain obligations?
I don’t think so. Of course, there is a tradition, there are standards, rules, and codes but I also believe that Jazz is an attitude a way of looking at the different colors of music. Like Truman Capote said “The only obligation any artist can have is to himself. His works mean nothing, otherwise. It has no meaning”
Is it possible to bring jazz to the mainstream audience?
Indeed, I managed to gain people’s attention with a genre that was not considered ‘popular’ in Italy. Pino Daniele before me was able to introduce jazz into the mainstream culture and he did that in such a gracious way. It’s not only the genre but the singer that can make a difference if has the ability to strike people’s emotion.
You are a very versatile artist. You’ve played a variety of music, from singing in a church choir to a brief stint in disco, and you’ve collaborated with many artists like Burt Bacharach, the London Telefilmonic Orchestra, Ray Charles, and many others. You’ve even done voiceovers for Disney characters. Tell me a little bit about how do you select your projects. How do you sort through it all? What makes you say, “I’m gonna do this one"?
I was lucky enough to work with so many artists I love and respect and that I was a fan of before I started my journey as a singer. With many of then, it was not even a matter of choice, I loved them so much I said yes immediately. Today I choose following and to respect my taste. If I like something I do it. Maybe I just have to stop playing the ‘bad guy’ role in Disney movies. My kids don’t like it.
When we started Made In New York Jazz Competition one of our first interviews was published in Jazzit. Our first winner was from Sicily. I personally feel a very special connection with Italy and hope our partnership will grow. Italy has many world known jazz festivals and great artists! Having said that, what do you think jazz community in Italy still has to achieve?
It’s hard to say, but I believe in quality and perseverance. If you believe in what you do and the quality is there and you never give up I think you will somehow succeed
What piece of advice would you give to participants of Madeinnyjazz?
Have fun!! Music is a reflection of your own mood and soul. If you will be happy ‘she’ (music) will come out in the best way.
by M. Brovkin