Interview with C'ammafunk: let's discover the band selected by the Popular Jury

The public jury in 2019 selected the C'ammafunk, with 14,342 votes, as the 10th finalist of the Conad Jazz Contest. The quintet from Salerno, with Roberto Santoro on guitar, Matteo De Vito on drums, Antonio Paolillo on alto sax, Alessandro Criscuolo on electric bass and Enrico Erriquez on clarinet, has now become a sextet, with the confirmation of Matteo De Vito and Roberto Santoro, joined by Federico Milone on alto sax, Michele Vassallo on tenor sax, Gianmarco Capece on keyboards and Alessandro Criscuolo on bass. With an average age of 20 at the time of the Conad Jazz Contest, and with an explosive and energetic sound, C'ammafunk were able to win a place among the ten finalist groups and were awarded the opportunity to perform on the stage of Umbria Jazz together with the 9 other finalist bands selected by the technical jury.

After the Contest, the instrumental band from Campania southern Italy - began a tour in Italy and Europe, host of successful events and concerts. "Our goal is always to communicate and give the public the right 'vibes'. We love moments of inspiration, of freedom, jazz moments, as they allow us to experiment in real time and to dialogue with the audience, thus elevating the atmosphere. Our music certainly harks back to modern overseas trends. At the base there is always contamination, just think of the use of synths, drum machines, effected / processed winds and 'crunchy' sounding guitars. Obviously, groove and bounce are the first things we aim for!", says Matteo. We interviewed them and a great enthusiasm shines through their words. We are sure that this is the right attitude to be able to assert itself in the music scene!

Tell us your story! When did you start playing together?

"First of all, we want to thank you for offering us this opportunity, and therefore for the opportunity to be able to talk about us and the project we have put together. Having said that, our path - albeit still short - begins in the summer of 2018. It all stems from the need of our guitarist Roberto and our bassist Alessandro to form an "occasional" funk quartet for an event scheduled in the summer in Baronissi. To complete the group, the members decided to involve me on drums and Antonio Paolillo on alto sax. Everything started very casually and there was immediately a great synergy (we were already old friends) and therefore it goes without saying that the start ... let's say ... it was immediate! In any case - with the passage of time and with the emergence of new needs - the quartet group has expanded into a sextet, implementing various organic and instrumental changes. In doing so, to date in 2022, we have reached a "square" - apparently definitive! - as pleased by the stylistic and sound possibilities available and by the understanding and way of working that is in the air; essential aspects for a fruitful path. Therefore, the result of this understanding and desire to grow, is our first album - entitled “Bouncing” - which will be released shortly with IRMA Records in Bologna”.

What is your artistic background?

“Speaking of the artistic background, we draw from influences and styles varied between them, arising precisely from the individual training paths of each one. However, we all demonstrate a strong passion, I would say "love" for jazz and for what it meant and still means today. It goes without saying, considering the name of the group, the strong passion we have in common for funk music! Returning to the differences of path and stylistic differences between us, personally I believe that this aspect is actually a strong point, especially in the compositional and improvisational field. This is because it is possible to obtain, in addition to the characteristics and "timbric" conditions typical of funk (I would say not negligible musical presuppositions), a varied and personal character, which apparently (external feedback), has an impact!”.

What is the recognition that so far has most gratified you, both as a band and as individual musicians?

“After these last two years of pandemic and complete lockdown, especially here in Italy, I would say that the greatest recognition is without a shadow of a doubt the possibility that we have had to have our music heard abroad as well. As if to say, we could not think of a better recovery! Being able to leave, for the first time in March 2022, for a ten-day tour abroad (entirely organized by us) and return to Italy with positive feedback, and new "followers", was certainly a great satisfaction. I think this is one of the most satisfying things for a project that is still "emerging", such as ours and for us musicians who are part of it.

How was your passion for jazz music born?

“I believe that any artist or aspiring artist must sooner or later "pass" through jazz, grasping its formal and aesthetic aspects as it poses itself as the "mother" of all the music of the twentieth century. As for me, before thinking about the passion for jazz, I would say that what prompted me to it was the "free" concept of impromptu improvisation with musicians with whom I had never shared the stage, or simply, the rehearsal room, this during the high school period. So, I can say that I was perhaps pushed by an "inner urge" that brought me ever closer to this music, whose deeply characteristic aesthetic concepts fascinated me right away.

Is jazz your only genre or do you listen to something else? And if so, what?

“In addition to jazz, the other focus I would say is undoubtedly funk. A multi-faceted musical style that has influenced a myriad of other styles up to the birth of infinite sub-genres over the last 50 years. One of the things that most fascinates us, beyond the musical characters, is the "good vibe" or "feel-good" energy that derives from it, and that is why it has been a genre that has depopulated and had millions of followers throughout the world”.

Today it is very difficult to say something new in the crowded expressive world of jazz. How do you differentiate yourself from other bands? What is your research and artistic experimentation moving towards?

“Well, certainly, the subject of this question carries with it a lot of truth. With the changing of society and styles / customs, not considering the development of new technologies, the world has become increasingly "crowded" and faster! This should not be seen as a negative factor, on the contrary ... but certainly the space to emerge and above all the originality are less and less. Speaking about us, C’ammafunk, I would say that research and experimentation are daily - in addition to the by now assumed assumption of making everyone's contribution to this project. It is also important to know how to read reality and therefore the feedback of those who move the market, or the public! This does not mean "commercial". Being able to find a key through experimentation, but at the same time a meeting point between the band (us) and the public, I think is a difficult victory to conquer and to last. Starting from this concept, we therefore worked primarily on ourselves and consequently on the new music that merged into Bouncing, music that you will soon be able to listen to”.

What are your stylistic references in the jazz field and which are the musicians of the contemporary scene to which you feel most inspired?

“There are many references, just think of the myriad of musicians who left their mark on this music during the twentieth century. Certainly, considering the history of funk, we draw a lot from the historical American Big Bands such as Ellington and Basie up to the overwhelming organic of JB's, Tower of Power or later Earth, Wind & Fire. I would say stratospheric ensembles, made up of virtuoso musicians of their instrument and profound connoisseurs of music. Coming to today, the main groups we refer to are Lettuce and Ghost-Note, bands made up of musicians from the international scene with dozens of productions and tours all over the world behind them”.

The album that you liked the most of 2021?

“Resonate – Lettuce”.

How does an independent musician or band survive today?

“In today's world, an emerging band is faced with a fleeting, wasteful reality. Certainly, the times of productions and investments by record companies or producers are over. Today, establishing yourself on the market out of thin air is quite difficult. But with the desire to do and the right dedication, the mountain becomes less steep! Very important then, is also the economic possibility, the much-quoted "cash fund", as it allows you to always be productive in record terms, which, today, is essential. Obviously, this answer is the result of our experience so far acquired in the music market and therefore certainly does not have an absolute "truthfulness". I repeat, what makes everything less steep is certainly the spirit of enterprise and the ability to "sell", as well as the ability to be able to "communicate" with the public not only from a musical point of view”.

Is there space and interest in Italy for your musical genre? And how is the situation abroad instead?

“After the experience in March abroad, I would say that perhaps this project would seem more suitable outside, rather than here in Italy. The fact remains that I still believe it is only right and essential to establish yourself first in your country of origin in order to have an extra boost once you have decided to embark on a new path elsewhere.

What led you to sign up for the Conad Jazz Contest and what was it like competing with other guys who share your same passion?

“Having the opportunity to deal with as many national realities pushed us in 2019 to enroll in the Conad Jazz Contest at Umbria Jazz. From the Contest and in general from the whole UJ environment, we have drawn many things that have led us to grow and mature on different aspects. It was exciting as HEALTHY competition is important to me in life. So, being able to hear and meet new bands and musicians was a great growth opportunity.

How do you evaluate your experience at Umbria Jazz and what happened after the victory?

“Ultimately, we rate our experience at Umbria Jazz 2019 with full marks! And as you can imagine, on our return to Salerno, we were welcomed and acclaimed by all our supporters and fellow musicians for the result obtained”.

Would you recommend other bands to participate?

“Absolutely yes! It’s an amazing experience”.

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