An event took place in June in Paris, a pre-eminently multi-cultural city, in which music and solidarity were closely linked, and this event was not alien from Calabria. The pianist and composer Nicola Sergio actively participated in it. Born in Polistena and for some time a resident of Galatro, a town in the heart of the Province of Reggio Calabria, he moved to France in 2008, where he has found the most congenial ambience to cultivate his favorite genre: jazz.
Nine international jazz players were present at “Jazz pour le Népal”, a concert which took place in Paris and whose funds were raised by association “Partage dans le Monde” with a view to bringing humanitarian assistance to some Nepalese villages. The already precarious situation in that country deteriorated after the earthquake, and the villages of the area, inured though they are to dealing with difficulties, now seem to be on their last legs.
Nicola Sergio did not have any doubts about joining the initiative, and he even involved some of his fellow musicians in it. Besides talking about “Jazz pour le Nepal”, we were given the chance to discuss other topics with him, such as the musical experience of an Italian jazz player in Paris.
Nicola, what is it that sets jazz apart from other musical genres?
There surely is differences galore within the genre. The beauty in it lies in the possibility it gives us musicians to deal with different esthetic forms, mix them together and find the benefits entailed for us in these same differences.
You have lived abroad for quite a few years now. What led you to choose Paris?
One of the reasons why I have picked France is that Paris is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, just like New York. The French capital is particularly so when it comes to jazz. I am convinced of the fact that cultural identity shapes itself above all through confrontation with different influences from all corners of the world.
In what direction is jazz heading nowadays?
I am more inclined to the melodic tendency, which is akin to the classical frame of mind, rather than to the rhythmic and harmonic ones. Meeting many different musicians however enables me to take stock of a wide range of nuances which are essential for me to define my uniqueness. The peculiarity of jazz is indeed a continuous fusion and interrelationship with other genres. The newer generations may turn their minds to rock and electronic music more than their predecessors; depending on the location, ethnic music is often mingled with jazz too. Anyways, I am sure that the melodic aspect is what sticks most with the audience without falling prey to the passing of time. When it comes to the cross with classical music, the contribution provided by string quartets, cellos and violins is crucial. But the characteristic that is never missing in this genre is improvisation. A lot of good German, French and Swedish jazz players are in Paris, so many Italian ones choose to move to this city. It can certainly be a good stepping-stone, even though there isn’t enough room for everyone, so it takes a lot of determination to succeed.
Like we said at the beginning, jazz has always been related to social issues. In this respect the title of your last album, “Migrants”, seem to take this link into account. Does it refer to migrants from the Mediterranean area?
The album is addressed to all migrants in the world, no distinction is intended. I have attempted to give a stylistically accurate musical rendering of the sensations experienced by whoever moves country, and above all of the difficulties they initially encounter. So in a way, my personal experience is in it too.
To sum up, jazz becomes a life-style: with a cosmopolitan turn of mind, it opens up to the world, its plights and many facets. Directness and a degree of improvisation which is related to it stand often out as the underlying qualities of this genre, in music as well as in its general attitude to life. And we are proud to notice that a little bit of Calabria is part of this style too.