Interviewing Marco Molendini for the 10th anniversary of the Conad Jazz Contest
10 years of Conad Jazz Contest, time to take stock.
We interviewed Marco Molendini, historical member of the Artistic Jury of the Contest.
Journalist, music critic, for many years leading author of Il Messaggero, artistic consultant of Umbria jazz, president of the Jazz Italian Platform festival association, television writer with Renzo Arbore (the program The less we are, the better we are), for ten years a radio host Rai of broadcasts on jazz, author and presenter of the Rai Amici mia program, a journey through the neighborhoods told by famous Romans (Baglioni, Proietti, Venditti).
He has written three books: a biography of Frank Sinatra, Fratelli Brasile, a story on the life of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, and The streets of cinema lead to Rome, a journey to the places that have been the backdrop for film sets. He teaches at the Silvio D’ Amico Academy of Dramatic Arts and at the Saint Louis Music School.
What was the initial motivation that led you to accept being one of the judges of the Conad Jazz Contest? What does Jazz represent for you and what does this Jazz Contest represent for you?
The importance of contests in jazz is linked above all to the disproportion that exists between the many kids who are passionate about and study this music and the possibility of getting noticed, being known, becoming professionals. This is extremely difficult, as well as due to the disproportion between supply and demand, due to the fact that jazz is music that does not allow for compromises. The contest makes it possible to identify and draw attention to those with talent and creativity. Above all if it is conducted in the way this Conad competition was conceived and carried forward from the outset, with a wide possibility of registering and a selection, in which a popular jury also participates, which pays attention exclusively to merit. Furthermore, the winners are offered the opportunity to perform in already established events in addition to Umbria jazz and Umbriajazz winter, with the opportunity to immediately undertake a real confrontation with the public.
The Artistic Jury has the task of evaluating the 10 finalists live, so as to identify the overall winner. What are the fundamental judging criteria during the performances of the participants?
What are the main elements that an expert of your caliber looks for in young jazz musicians? What advice would you like to convey to the participants of this year’s Contest?
The essential qualities that a young jazz musician must possess are varied. Of course there is a natural gift which is talent. Then there must be a disposition for creativity, not being satisfied with having achieved technical preparation but seeking originality and, above all, sincerity. Jazz has a rule that has been observed by all its great protagonists: play what you like, not what others would like. These are simple rules that the kids participating in the Contest should follow, not only for the contest but for their future as musicians.
How have you seen the jazz music scene change in recent years and how has the artistic quality of the contest participants changed in these 10 years?
The quality of the students who enroll is generally very high. Jazz music education is very widespread and widespread and can be heard from how the kids play and how, year after year, their proposals are able to be structured. Sometimes it is difficult to escape market suggestions, thinking that this is the way to get noticed. With the other judges we are always careful to keep this danger in mind, also because it is not a shortcut but very often it translates into the risk of ending up in a dead end.
How has the Contest contributed to the discovery of new talents in the jazz scene? Who were the most memorable participants of past editions of the competition? Did you continue to follow anyone in particular?
Throughout its history, the contest has brought out various talents who then built their own careers. Above all I would point out the story of Michelangelo Scandroglio double bass band leader who immediately had a strong response after winning the Contest and the violinist Anais Drago, an original violinist who immediately found the interest of historical protagonists of Italian jazz such as Enrico Rava, Enrico Pieranunzi , Maria Pia De Vito and then won the Top jazz, the national referendum organized by the magazine Musica jazz, as a new talent. And she was also hired by the singer-songwriter Ultimo.
Jazz and women: we have seen the participation of women in the Contest evolve, last year there were several women among the finalists and a band “led” by a woman also obtained the prize of the artistic jury. How do you encourage the participation of young women in your initiative?
There is no criterion for identifying a difference between male and female jazz. The important thing is talent and the doors are open, or rather wide open. Throughout its history, jazz has been fundamentally masculine, but in the course of its evolution, female talents have managed to establish themselves, even with arrogance. The same thing happens with the Contest. The story of Anais Drago is exemplary, but so is that of Olivia.
Is jazz for everyone or not? What advice would you like to give to those who have not yet approached jazz as a musician or as a listener?
Jazz is for everyone, but not for everyone. It is music that requires participation and passion also from the listener. It is not to be consumed, but to be listened to and experienced. It can be difficult to get into its language, but once you pay attention, you can hardly escape the contagion. Jazz demands attention. This is the only advice I can give.
On Wikipedia we read that you are the creator of neologisms, some of which are reported in the Treccani dictionary: “lasetteizzazione”, “babytalent”, “gieffino”, “celentanesco”. Can you suggest a neologism dedicated to the 10 years of the Conad Jazz Contest?
Contextisation, search for talent in the context of a contest.
Thank you very much, then good context for this Conad Jazz Contest 2023!