Face-to-face with Michelangelo Scandroglio

We are waiting to hear them again when they take the stage at Umbria Jazz Winter (Orvieto, 28 December) and play in some of the most prominent jazz clubs in Italy (see the tour dates here). In the meantime, we had a chat with Michelangelo Scandroglio, leader of the band that bears his name which was the winner the 2019 edition.

Michelangelo, first of all let's talk about you: what’s your background? How was Michelangelo Scandroglio Group born?

When I was 13, I started playing with Maestro Raffaele Toninelli in my home town of Grosseto, and soon after I was attending Stefano Cantini's lessons in group music and improvisation in Follonica. While at high school initially I commuted to Siena to attend courses at Siena Jazz, and then to Pontedera as a student of Ares Tavolazzi. Then I went to the Boccherini Conservatory in Lucca, where I attended the three-year degree course in classical double bass with Maestro Gabriele Ragghianti. I met Nicola, Nico, Paolo and Luca at the summer seminars of Siena Jazz in 2017, and right from the start there was a strong connection between us.

What made you sign up for the Contest?

I'd already performed at Conad Jazz Contest in 2018, not as the leader of a band but with ROOM 1, an Italy/London-based band which also includes Nicola and Luca. We really liked the vibe there, and I decided to present my own project for the following year’s event. Obviously, participating in the Contest is a great way to get the most out of one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world, and consequently really raise the profile of your project and your music. In Italy there are a lot of amazing musicians, especially younger ones, but no one's going to hand it to you on a silver platter, and finding a way to get your music to be heard is not easy: I think that the Contest can help a lot in this regard.

How was it competing with other young talented artists who share the same passion as you?

It’s almost a contradiction to talk about competition in music, especially for jazz, which is a totally personal and subjective genre. The Contest was a huge party right from the start; amongst the ten groups selected for the final, several were composed of musicians with whom I've literally grown up and have always shared a common outlook on music. In my opinion, this edition was not won by an individual band, but rather by young Italian jazz as it showed that it has some cutting-edge musicians (like the trio of Francesca Gaza, Evita Polidoro and Emanuele Filippi, to name just a few). I think that never before have there been so many young people with a 360-degree vision of music along with technical and compositional skills that are unparalleled all over the world. Unfortunately, many of us are leaving Italy because of the lack of opportunities and places to express our music.

How do you rate your experience at Umbria Jazz? What other places did you perform after the Contest?

The experience at Umbria Jazz deserves a score of 10 out of 10: we had a lot of fun and had the opportunity to see friends who live far away. And besides that, there's something unmistakably magical about Perugia... At the places we have played so far, impeccable arrangements have been made for us, both at Umbria Jazz and Conad Jazz Contest and at the festivals that have hosted us.

What happened after you won?

After we won everyone had to return to their own commitments, however we see each other at concerts and we continue to rehearse regularly using Skype.

Would you advise other bands to participate?

I would advise all young people not to be intimidated by the word "contest", which - as I said before - seems to be a contradiction in terms for jazz and music in general. The Conad Jazz Contest is certainly the best opportunity that us young people currently have in Italy to get our music heard and also to receive valuable feedback from musicians who have made history, like Paolo Fresu, and from all the people who gravitate around jazz. The best approach is to take part so you can learn and have the good fortune to get advice from the experts.

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