Alma Gentil: Early Italian Baroque Meets Jazz

Friday, November 11 2016 7:30 p.m.
Landmark Center, St. Paul

Sunday, November 13 2:00 2016 p.m.
Landmark Center, St. Paul

This project was conceived twenty years ago when a concert agency in northern Italy took Consortium Carissimi under management as an experiment, since this agency promoted primarily Jazz ensembles. I had the chance to discuss with the late Kenny Wheeler (jazz flugelhorn) and others about the similarities between an early baroque score and a jazz chart.

We agreed that the common red thread was the simple bass line upon which colors of voices and instruments loosely carved out a harmonic structure. We also agreed that these colors were determined mostly by availability than anything else since these groups must play often together and forge a finely tuned ensemble. Whoever was available played and sang. We agreed that the texts produced the melodic lines (not the other way around) thereby giving great freedom for improvisation by the musician, whether instrumentalist or singer.

The poetic texts for both early baroque and jazz range from the expressions of love and betrayal, to philosophical or religious sentiments of destiny and things unseen. One of the most popular writers of the early Italian baroque was in fact Giambattista Marino (1569 —1625) who was born in Naples and is held to be one of the greatest Italian poets of all time. Accused of plagiarism (among other things) the character of his output is made clear by one of his own statements in regards to his wide range of writing:

Imparai sempre a leggere col rampino, tirando al mio proposito ciò ch’io ritrovava di buono,
notandolo nel mio zibaldone e servendomene a suo tempo.

I soon learned to read with a little grappling hook, taking as my own those ideas I found to be good and write them all down for later use.

La Sampogna, V. De Maldé, Parma, Fondazione Pietro Bembo, 1993, 51.

This project of the six early Italian baroque madrigals and the six newly composed by Jeremy Walker is firmly grounded in poetry of G.B. Marino.

We will slide into this event another world premier performance; a work of Kenny Wheeler composed for the Italian ensemble, which gave birth to the stateside of the same name. ~ Garrick Comeaux, Artistic Director