INTERVIEW: Italian/Swiss pianist Lorenzo De Finti (new album Love Unknown, Losen Records)

Lorenzo De Finti
Photo credit: Francesco Locate

LORENZO DE FINTI is an Italian/Swiss pianist based in Milan who records for the Norwegian label Losen. He explains his story and the background to his new album Love Unknown in this interview with Sebastian:  

LondonJazz News: Where are you from, where did you study and where do you live now?

Lorenzo De Finti: I’m from a small town in the southern part of Switzerland, but have been living in Milan, Italy, since I was three years old.

I attended the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory of Music with a degree in classical piano performance.

I currently live in Milan with my wife and three children

LJN: How long has the piano been part of your life?

LDF: My father played jazz piano in his free time so I have always been attracted by the piano and its sound. I started taking lessons at the age of eight and fell in love.

LJN: Was your first interest in early or late jazz? Did it become a gradual or immediate obsession?

LDF: My first musical love was the Beatles, a great educational experience that helped me abandon my “comfort zone”. I became curious and began to discover ’70s bands: Weather Report, Return to Forever, and fantastic piano players like Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Zawinul. I then explored hard bop, bebop, and become a real jazz fan!

LJN: Were there important influences or significant teachers who paved the way?

LDF: Well, this might sound strange for a jazz pianist, but my teachers at the Milan Conservatory were very significant to me. Remo Gelmini and Alberto Colombo taught me a precise and functional way to approach my daily routine. It became my method covering a precise technique, and most importantly, an intense regimen to obtain the right sound from my instrument. As far as jazz is concerned I was lucky enough to meet some of the world’s best piano players. Sante Palumbo, an Italian musician capable of playing all jazz forms, from Dixieland to free jazz. The crazy thing is that back in the day his versatility was looked down upon! Gil Goldstein, one of the greatest contemporary musicians, helped develop my voicing, connecting jazz and classical harmony.

LJN: Tell us about the other members of your quartet?

LDF: When I began creating the new quartet, I looked for musicians and composers with a North European sound who would be excited to follow me in this new adventure. Drummer Marco Castiglioni fitted clearly into that picture. I wanted to incorporate chamber music into the sound and Stefano Dall’Ora owns the best sound I’ve ever heard on double bass. Cuban trumpet player, Gendrickson Mena has a unique sense of poetry in his phrasing with an explosive sound and technique.

LJN: Are you all based in the same place and able to tour together?

LDF: Yes, we all live around the big city of Milan and tour a lot together.

LJN: I understand you co-write tunes (all the tunes?) with your bassist Stefano. Have you known each other for a long time?

LDF: I have known Stefano since we were very young, and I have always been attracted to his musical talent, as a composer and performer… it’s not a coincidence that both of us started out as huge Beatles fans!

LJN: Is there a particular method in writing the tunes or does each musician come about it in a different way?

LDF: I write the songs, produce a couple of demo versions, then send everything to Stefano. Then I wait… he works on my material, adds things, cuts things, changes melodies or structures. We usually get together and get the job done in a couple of sessions.

LJN: There is a suite on the album called Return To Quarakosh. Where is Quarakosh? Do you have a personal connection to it? What does it mean when you say ‘return’ there?

LDF: Quarakosh is a small town in the northern part of Iraq that was destroyed by the so-called Islamic State a few years ago: I was utterly shocked by what was going on there and couldn’t believe that literally no one seemed to care. I was shocked by the video of a little girl in a refugee camp: she was singing and dancing in such horrible circumstances. She finally returned home with her family in Quarakosh, but her attitude is where I’d like to return to everyday…

We had this hard sounding untitled track, a suite in three movements that we decided to dedicate to the people of such a touching story.

LJN: Black Flag has a free sound… improvisation?

LDF: Yes, we wanted to transmit powerful disorder, so we kept two rhythmical patterns and developed a free improvisation. The final chord on a ff dynamic connects the track to the next one, a reprise of the first movement of the suite.

LJN: Why do you record for a Norwegian label? What’s the story behind that?

LDF: While I was producing the first album by my quartet, We Live Here, a friend of mine, told me about this young Norwegian label, Losen Records. I really liked what I heard and got in touch with the AD, Odd Gjelsnes. He liked my music so we signed the deal… a great deal. Odd takes his work very seriously and soon everybody in the world had my CD. Since then, we have gotten great reviews with the chance to perform around Europe. Odd has helped us establish a great musical reputation in Europe and we’re happy to continue working with him.

LJN: The album was recorded in the famous RSI Studio in Lugano, Switzerland – do you have a special connection with this place?

LDF: All music lovers adore the RSI: concerts, recording sessions with some of the most important musicians in the world: fantastic.

I was also lucky enough to have developed a partnership with the RSI radio network: I help the network choose jazz music to broadcast and frequently meet and interview my colleagues and musicians who perform during the concert season… a fantastic resource. I meet lots of great musicians and listen to terrific new music.

LJN: And you recently launched the new album at the Nasjonal jazzscene – Victoria in Oslo?

LDF: That’s right, the CD release concert took place on 12 October. It was a great honor to perform Love Unknown for the first time at that legendary venue in Oslo. A video of our performance will be released soon.

LJN: Any other plans for the near future?

LDF: We are about to do a long European tour that will start next spring and will take us to Estonia, Lithuania, Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and England. Soon I will start a project with the swiss singer Andreas Schaerer: we will perform with him at the Rosetum Jazz Festival in Milan and see what happens next! New music is on it’s way to Stefano’s desk as we speak…

Love Unknown is released on Losen Records
Lorenzo De Finti’s website

Categories: Features/Interviews

2 replies »

  1. Fantastic, my compliments. I had been able to follow his first steps in Milan and am happy his way got him so far. Hopefully Lorenzo will soon organize a tour with his quartet in Switzerland, so I will be able to attend. Let me know.
    Robert Engeler

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