On the evening of December 5, 2018, Paolo Peruzzi led a jazz trio at Nardis Jazz Club, including bassist Enver Muhamedi, and drummer Burak Cihangirli. His set encompassed his legendary predecessors of jazz at its bebop roots, from the performance mastery of Clifford Brown, with a take on “Joy Spring”, to the interpretive arrangements of Dave Samuels, with his rendition of “Caravan” by Duke Ellington. Peruzzi is as methodical as he is vigilant over the vibes, airing the sonic taste of a mind at work, a serious student of the craft, modest behind the instrument of his vocation and passion. The virtuosic Muhamedi accompanied with flying fingers as he stretched the heart strings of all listeners on that drizzling night in the shadow of seven centuries of Istanbul’s colorful Italian connection under the Galata Tower of Genoese heritage. And Cihangirli excited the rhytmic potential of the moment with his unique stride, conveying a finesse for percussive call-and-response behind Peruzzi, his meditative and willfully spacious vibraphonist bandleader.
Take us on a venture of yours, from arrangement to composition. You played the great Dave Samuels arrangement of “Caravan”, what does this arrangement mean for you technically or in your expression?
Dave Samuels and his music are very important for me. I love the style of Samuels, and I find his ideas always great. He is simple and effective. You must listen to Double Image, his group with Friedman, and the incredible sound of the Caribbean Jazz Project. Greats! I played “Tango With A Crocodile”, an old piece that I wrote for a friend, an Italian actor. It is a very slow and very repetitive tango. With my music I research the effect, the colors. That is a dark piece.
Which composition(s) of yours did you play at Nardis Jazz Club? What inspires your approach to composition? What is the difference between composing percussion music and composing melody-based tunes. How have you uniquely combined these as a vibraphone player?
For me composing percussion music and composing melody-based tunes are more or less the same. I only change the way I write the music on the score. I start from the idea, I work an it and on the voices and the harmony, and then I try to condense the entire work in a melody-based tune. Sometimes some things get lost, but there I find the ideas of the musicians I work with.
How did you feel about your performance dynamics between you and Enver Muhamedi and Burak Cihangirli and the Nardis Jazz Club acoustics and atmosphere?
Nardis Club is a really really cool place. I was in Istanbul for the first time and I’ve just made my self at home in this fantastic club. Enver and Burak are two very good musicians, I like the way they play and their feeling during the music creation. They have close eyes for details, and that’s for me the most important thing in music. I always choose the pieces first of all listening to my feeling. I hear a piece from a record, I become curious and I start to study that. Listening to lot of music is another important thing.
I understand you work with the Jazzset Orchestra Big Band in Verona and in electronic music with Silicon Veronica. What, for you, is special about the art of the trio? How did you come together with Enver and Burak?
Less minds, like in a trio, are working at the same time, more way you can choose: in a big band the role of the musicians are well-defined. In a trio you have thousands of possibilities. That is what I love of the trio.
As a vibraphonist, how do you see the unique opportunities for musical growth in the bass and drums trio format? For example, the vibraphone’s “harmonic” relationship to bass lines and percussion is very different than a piano or a horn of course, but it seems to me somehow in the middle, perhaps more similar to a guitar. Whereas the piano can cover major bass arrangements, the vibraphone is more limited. And where a horn can bend notes, does the vibraphone’s sustain have a related effect? I wonder how this reflects in jazz composition. How do you play with these dynamics? How did pioneers like Gary Burton and Milt Jackson push this instrument into the limelight?
The vibraphone is an uncommon instrument. Nowadays this condition is changing and all over the world more and more musicians choose the vibraphone. The vibraphone is peculiar in many ways. It has different “effects”, like the dampening, can be used to reproduce the sound of a sax or a trumpet. I don’t think that vibraphone is more limited than a piano. I think it is different. And we shouldn’t compare vibes and piano to guitar, but just try to discover more and more about this incredible instrument. I’m just about writing a thesis about that, analyzing some records of Gary Burton and David Friedman, two great masters of vibraphone.
As a jazz artist, and percussionist, where do you see the role of vibraphone jazz music in relation to the “new” classical music of Reich and Cage, for example, who said, to paraphrase, that percussion music is the “all-sound music of the future”?
Like vibraphone in new classical music, roles are changing, because composers always search for new ways to create music. They have two possibilities: start to change the own nature of well-known instruments, like the prepared piano of John Cage’s works, or explore the nature of the newer instruments (the vibraphone was born in 1921, the oldest pianos we have date from the 1720s). So the role of the vibraphone, and and of many other percussion instruments, is more and more important.
How would you compare the jazz scene in Istanbul and Turkey versus Verona and Italy in your experience? What excites you about what’s going on musically in Turkey, in terms of composition or players, compared to what’s happening in Italy or elsewhere?
It is impossible for me to compare two realities like Verona and Istanbul. I don’t know the musical reality of Istanbul enough, because I didn’t spend enough time there. But I hope to come back soon! Verona is a small town in the north of Italy. And at this moment attention to all of the arts in Italy could be better… Let’s wait and see.