May 2, 2010
At the age of thirty, Antonio Ciacca is one buys man. For most people, raising a large family in Manhattan and writing, recording and playing jazz music would be more than enough. But that’s just his night job. On top of that, Ciacca serves as Director of Programming for Jazz at Lincoln Center, working hand in hand with close friend Wynton Marsalis. He’s got his hands full.
Born in Germany, raised in Italy, Ciacca plays with a distinctive “old school” sound, reflecting his tenure as a student of Barry Harris in Detroit. In the course of our conversation this past week, he repeatedly returned to the theme of needing to swing when playing jazz, leaning to the hard bop stylings of fifty years ago rather than more recent electric jazz.
The pianist of choice for artists from Benny Golson to Steve Lacey, he has released two quintet CDs, the latest of which, Lagos Blues, has his old friend and mentor Steve Grossman (whose recording resume includes Bitches Brew era Miles Davis) rounding out the group on saxophone.
Click here to listen to Podcast 182 which features my conversation with Antonio Ciocca, plus musical selections from his most recent albums, including:
Antonio Ciacca Quintet with Steve Grossman – Title track from Lagos Blues. Ciacca describes being in a small town in Portugal last year when he stumbled upon a building bearing a plaque that identified it as the location as the first Western Slave Market. Struck by the incongruity of the beautiful scenery and the gruesome purpose of the building, he composed this up-tempo number. Joining Ciacca on piano and Grossman on tenor sax are Kengo Nakamura on bass; Ulysses Owens on drums; and Stacy Dillard on tenor sax;
Antonio Ciacca Quintet – “I Remember Clifford” from Rush Life. Ciacca’s next project will be a big band album, which will include this Benny Golson composition, written in memory of the late trumpeter Clifford Brown. The band is Ciacca on piano, Kengo Nakamura on bass; Rodney Green on drums; Joe Magnarielli on trumpet; and Stacy Dillard on sax;
Antonio Ciacca Quintet – “Prince of Newark” from Rush Life. A number dedicated to one of Ciacca’s great influences, legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter. In the interview, he mentions several Shorter tunes, including “Witch Hunt” to which he alludes in the song.
Antonio Ciacca Quintet with Steve Grossman – “Nico’s Song” from Lagos Blues. A re-write of “All the Things You Are” and named for his son, the song came about due to an “assignment” from friend and mentor Lee Konitz to write a song with a certain chord progression.