Photo credit: Brian London
Drummer and singer DAVIDE GIOVANNINI, born in Trieste, and has been a Londonresident since 1991. He has played with a wide variety of famous names, including Paul McCartney, Steve Winwood, Bjork, Lisa Stansfield, Snowboy and the Latin Section and Roy Ayers. But Latin music has always been a major part of his musical lexicon. On 16 June he will be performing with his Minas Project band at Ziggy’s in Enfield. Peter Jones asked him about the gig and its background:
London Jazz News: People may not know what the Minas Project is. Can you fill us in?
Davide Giovannini: My musical life is heavily influenced by Brazilian and Cuban music. I’m particularly fond of the music that comes from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, north of the states of Rio De Janeiro and São Paulo. Most people, when they think of Brazilian music, think of the Rio sound, the bossa and the samba. But Minas music is different. The kind I’m talking about stems from a famous movement called Clube da Esquina (‘Corner Club’) that started in the Sixties.
LJN: Is it possible to describe this music?
DG: It’s like the Beatles and Bill Evans brought together. In other words, like a singer-songwriter using jazz harmony. Minas is the place where Milton Nascimento comes from, who wrote songs like Canção do Sal, Vera Cruz, Outubro (October), Travessia (Bridges), Nothing Will Be As It Was Tomorrow – all amazing songs. Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny fell in love with the Minas sound – Metheny even lived in Brazil in the late Eighties/early Nineties – and I’ve loved Metheny since I was a kid, so when I first heard Minas music, it all made sense.
LJN: How did you get involved with it?
DG: In 2000 I got a gig with Marcos Valle, who wrote Summer Samba. I toured with him for five years. Then at a gig in Vienna a violin player called Rudi Berger gave me an album featuring the guitarist Toninho Horta, and it really floored me – everything about it was so beautiful. Later I did a tour of Europe with Rudi, and the great Minas Gerais bass player Yuri Popoff was also on the gig.
Yuri is also a phenomenal composer. I got to know him, and this music with a Minas flavour, and I fell in love with the sound.
LJN: Did you work with Toninho Horta?
DG: Yes. I did some recording with him after I went to Rio to record with a London band called Zeep. The band went home but I stayed behind and went up to Minas. Toninho became a sort of uncle to me. When I came back to London I was so inspired – I had all these sounds in my head. I only play the piano by ear, so it’s not easy, but I wrote two songs at that time that ended up on the album [Minas Project]. One was Espelho D’Agua – that was like giving birth to a cow, man, because it was so difficult to finish, and the other was Ainda, a ballad which I wrote in about 30 minutes. I kept writing, and eventually I had enough for an album. By this time I knew the great lyricist Fernando Brant, who was part of Clube de Esquina and wrote lyrics for Milton and many others. He wrote two for me – Espelho d’Agua and Por Amor.
LJN: Who’s on the Ziggy’s gig?
DG: Usually I have Guille Hill on guitars, Neil Angilley, keyboards, Davide Mantovani, bass, and Paul Booth on saxes, flute and keys. At Ziggy’s though we’ll have Chris Dodd on bass and Dave Bitelli on clarinet and saxes.
Minas Project at Ziggy’s in the Dugdale Centre