Gorizia & Jazz
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An excerpt from a writing by Giuliano Almerigogna

The epic of jazz in Gorizia was born with the last flashes of the Second World War, at a time when the city was trying to turn one of the most tragic pages of its history. The arrival of the American troops, friends and harbingers of freedom from 1945 to I947 accompany this long sigh of relief, accompanied by the new and exciting notes of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, Ellington. Benny Goodman's swing came like a wind of change and novelty.

Like lifeblood, that music crept between Central European waltzes and local songs, creating humus that generated a generation of fans. Before it was almost nothing, or, better. a few syncopated tracks coming out of the croaking radios or heavy but fragile 78 rpm. The thumbtack came down, and the voices of Rabagliati and other singers of the time, intent on swindling timeless songs that were included in the repertoire of the orchestra conducted by the composer Edy de Leitenburg from Gorizia, who until a few years ago witnessed in person the blossoming of a musical scene that exploded pleasantly like an artificial fire. 

At the maestro's house, there were many V-disc, the 78 rpm pucks - before the frying pans - that in America were printed ad hoc for the armed forces, with songs by the greats, including a Frank Sinatra still in his early days, Ella Fitgerald and other "legendary" vocalists. Those records were played on gramophones with the longer arm than normal: historical recordings that, by higher orders, were not to remain in circulation after the war was over. In fact, in '45 (and by us in '47) hundreds of them were destroyed, even if many saved themselves for the passion of US jazzophiles, who hid them for good, and locals, who did the same. At that time there were no clubs where jazz was played by us Goritians, but only the "Off-limits" bars, the meeting point of the "black and white" boys who met to listen and play their music, watering with a few beers and a few shots of whiskey: the only people from Gorizia who had access to the American orchestras were guitarist Tullio Devetag, bassist "Piffio" Rosolen, especially pianist Erminio Bombi, who became part of the US jazz "tour" and played with various orchestras; in particular he did so in various radio sessions broadcast in half of Europe from a radio station that was located in the building that houses the Ursuline Mothers; from Gorizia jazz, at certain hours, in programs that lasted an hour or so, reached southern Europe.

There were no known musicians among the troops, as far as we know, but the quality and the desire to play was stellar: in the radio studio, on arrangements by Miller, Basie, Tommy Dorsey, once a week and strictly live a big band of sixteen elements directed by the master and marshal mister Hams, a musician by profession, made young people dance. The radio station was directed by a Hawaiian captain and was running at full speed: in '47, with the return of Gorizia to Italy, it was dismantled in a very short time and i1 record material was destroyed. Some people from Gorizia who knew the US musicians well managed to get precious V-disc as a gift that they still save with care today: recordings in particular by Lionel Hampton who, at the time, was perhaps one of the most beloved musicians (the great Italian public knew him in Sanremo '68, when, with his magic vibraphone, he played all the songs in the competition in a jazz key).


In the '50s, despite the economic and cultural growth, jazz was always the prerogative of a rather small circle of fans: it was the Italy of "Poppies and ducks", "Fly dove", "Old boot" and the only remnants of jazz with national diffusion came from the music of Gorni Kramer. The fans, also in Gorizia, began to frequent more and more vinyl, the 78 rounds arrived at the shops packed in wooden boxes. Then came the advent of microgroove and phonovaligies, in many houses in Gorizia, echoed the notes of Django Reinhardt, boppers Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, the Modern Jazz Quartet and many others. They opened some venues where they used to hold jams now and then: the only one still open of them is the Lanterna D'Oro, in the castle; other meeting places have been erased from time and even the memory of the frequenters of the time struggles to remember their names. Chet Baker, the unreachable trumpeter born in Oklahoma, arrived in Gorizia in the early sixties, in full "boom": he had also ended up in films not exactly of the A series in which he appeared together with the stars Celentano, Mina, Dallara and others. He arrived in Gorizia a bit battered: his health was no longer what it used to be. A "reckless" life was undermining him more and more; in our town, Chet held the concert at UGG, and it was a first memorable event. The evening started late because the train on which the great trumpeter was travelling arrived at the last moment, but the concert was a fairy tale, even if the artist had already experienced a messy life. A few days later, he was arrested in Lucca for possession of heavy drugs. In any case, the arrival of Chet opened the doors to new proposals, which began after '68 on the initiative of a group of enlightened fans of the club "Gaetano Salvemini", young people led by the president (and good guitarist) Gianluigi Devetag, who found help in the Emac, still active today, led then as now by Giuseppe Agati, one of the "boys" who had discovered jazz directly from the U.S. troops and then had approached the world of theater.


The Modern Jazz Quartet, one of the greatest expressions of jazz of all time, because it was able to combine Negritude with the chamber music of European music: its concerts are pillars of Gorizia's jazz history. The first one was held, on the initiative of the Gorizia cultural circle "Salvemini" and Emac, in the main hall of the Ugg, on the first of March 1969. The hall was packed in every order of seats. John Lewis, masterful pianist, Milt Jackson, master of the vibraphone, Percy Heath, double bass giant and Connie Kay, exceptional drummer, gave a superlative performance. The tracks were Lewis' "The visitor from Mars", Lewis' "Dido's lament" from Purcell's "Didona and Aeneas", "Three little feelings" and Lewis' "A cold wind blowing" from the soundtrack of the movie "Odds against tomorrow" with Harry Belafonte, 1' "Adagio dal Concerto di Aranjez" by Joaquin Rodrigo and, at the end of the first set, "The Jasmin Tree" by Lewis (to listen to the track in a very rare recording of 1969 click here above). In the second half, dedicated to Blues, the audience got intoxicated with "Dilemma" by the Yugoslav composer Miljenko Prohaska, "True blues" by Jackson, "Exposure" by Lewis, "The Cylinder" by Jackson, "Piramid" by the great double bass player Ray Brown, "Monterey mist" by Jackson, "The blue necklace" by Lewis (blues with oriental hyper tones) and the classic "Bags grove" by Milt Jackson (to listen to the track in a very rare recording of 1969 click below). After the concert, the MJQ ended at the Lanterna d'Oro and here, in an atmosphere of joviality, the pianist Erminio Bombi started playing, soon accompanied by Heath and then by Kay. The MJQ returned to Gorizia, but Verdi, again on the initiative of the "Salvemini" club and Emac, on November 12, 1970. The price of the entrance ticket for the first section of the stalls was, just think about it, two thousand lire (reduced to a thousand for young people, workers and students). It was not much if compared to the cost of an lp, which at the time was about 2700-3000 lire, but the money was not as easily available to young people today. The Verdi theatre, full of jazz lovers from all over the Region and beyond, vibrated for the performance of the four of them, which included such classics as "Summertime", "It ain't necessarily so", "My man's gone now" by Gershwin, "Confirmation" by Parker, " 'Round Midnight" by Monk and "Night in Tunisia" by Gillesìie in the first part; (in addition to the original compositions), while the second is remembered for an exquisite "I'll remember April" by de Paul, Raye and Johnson and many "battle horses" signed by Lewis and Jackson.



A giant of the piano, again on the initiative of "Salvemini" and Emac, arrived in Gorizia on November 21, 1974, again at Verdi: the great piano-man Earl Hines, with the presence of the good singer Marva Josie, proposed a unique recital that, like those of MJQ, fortunately, someone managed to record "clandestinely": for MJQ Gianluigi Devetag himself had thought of it, commissioning his friend Urizio, while for Hines the document was "fixed" by the then very young Mauro Radigna. The writer, a novice reporter and then correspondent of "Il Piccolo", met Earl Hines in the restaurant of the Palace around 3:00 p.m.: the Master was finishing lunch, he was alone, struggling with a chicken leg. "Now he sends us to the devil", we thought mindful of the tantrums of the Italian rock bands of the time like the Orme and Pfm. Instead, Hines, who was seventy years old at the time, welcomed us with great sympathy and in that open and sincere smile, we realized that jazz was a modus vivendi, an intimate relationship with the world and with the human race and not only an epochal kind of music. The concert was amazing, and the entrance of Josie, beautiful, was the icing on the cake already tasty. Still, in the following years, the "Salvemini" club and Emac proposed to Verdi Franco Cerri and his group (with Hugo Heredia) and, in '77, at Ugg the groups of Enrico Intra (with Tullio De Piscopo on drums) and Giorgio Gaslini. After the concert, we remember, in the living room of the house of a family of jazzophiles from Gorizia, Erminio Bombi and Gaslini took turns at the piano in a sort of "tacit" duel and, we can say, ours prevailed.


In 1974 also the legendary Area arrived in Valletta del Corno: it was not pure jazz, but "open" music created by jazz musicians: the concert was held in the afternoon and the performance of Demetrio Stratos, mythical singer, Ares Tavolazzi (bass), Giulio Capiozzo (drums), Patrizio Fariselli (keyboards) and Paolo Tofani (guitars) was amazing, followed by hundreds of young people. The Area stayed at the hotel Posta and, in the evening, some of them (Demetro and Tofani) with the writer and other friends went to the cinema "Modernissimo" where the program was "California Poker". A new season of concerts began at the end of the Seventies on the initiative of the Armenian brothers Khatchikian from Gorizia (their little import record shop also attracted customers from Maribor and beyond), and, at the same time, Arci. Memorable was the concert of Anthony Braxton, hosted in the main hall of the Ugg in the middle of 1979 (with him there were good musicians, including the great trombonist Ray Anderson). The lack of concerts for some years had caused a super-rush at that time: in 1700, including many friends who had come from faraway parts of Yugoslavia, attended that concert. A curious anecdote concerns Anthony, who before the performance, in a pizzeria-restaurant in the centre, ordered a plate of spaghetti. He was served immediately, but when the waiter arrived with boiled fish, those present were amazed to see Braxton who, with the utmost naturalness, spilt the second dish on the pasta, mixed it, minced and chopped and ate with taste, unquestionably American.


On the initiative of Old Swan, the Eighties opened with two mega-concerts at the Palasport: in 1981 Jaco Pastorius arrived, the late and brilliant bass player already with Weather Report, who held a pure jazz concert, displacing the fans of the group. The fear was a lot, because in Milan, a few nights before, Jaco had started jumping from one instrument to another, causing the anger of those present: but in Gorizia everything was okay. Always the Old Swan brought George Duke and Stanley Clarke, but it was a funky concert. The two were almost unreachable, in particular, Clarke: anyway, the audience crowded the Palasport. In the meantime the first jazz appointments began at the auditorium in Via Roma; in '78 the "Salvemini" club brought the great Valtellina pianist Guido Manusardi for a solo concert, and the same year Micron C organized the performance, still discussed, of the duo Andrea Centazzo-Eugene Chadbourne, "crazy" US guitarist then with Zorn, who continued to explode balloons on stage and afterwards, with the electric guitar, began to scratch with the pick near the pick-up. Micron C again organized the 0.M.C.I. concert of Toni Rusconi's "free" drummer, who also dabbled in beating the chairs in the auditorium. Then the Emac, in the early '80s, proposed at the Auditorium the great saxman Gianni Basso (on drums was the good Giancarlo Pillot) and, twice, the Milan Jazz Quartet, with public success; at Kulturni Dom, later, in the late '80s, Giulio Capuozzo, ex-Area proposed the duo concerts with guitarist Bruce Forman, trumpeter Jimmy Owens, Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu, recognized genius, and again, the performance in trio with George Cabless. Also in the '80s, the Agorà (with Ares Tavolazzi) arrived in Gorizia for "Gorizia All Show" in 1986 and Irio De Paula at the Castello.


In the nineties, for the pressing of the jazzophile Pietro Paron in synergy with the will of the Councillor for Culture Ubaldo Agati who contacted the promoter Giancarlo Velliscig of Kappa Vu, the "Jazz Meetings" began in the auditorium, which opened with a concert by the Italian-English singer Lilian Terry and other musicians of the jazz school of Bassano del Grappa. The path of the "Incontri" was supported with conviction, up to the present day, by Agati's successors, namely Rodolfo Ziberna and, since 1994, Antonio Devetag, who had breathed jazz in his family from a very young age. The "Incontri" became in '99 "Gorizia Jazz", with a double season by Kappa Vu and the active club Controtempo, which takes care of the review in this 2001, after experiences in Romans, Monfalcone and, at the moment, also in Cormons, without forgetting some concerts organized at the bar Balù in Piazza Cavour with names such as the duo Fresu-Di Castri, the guitarist Armando Corsi, the trio Marangolo-Tavolazzi-K? and others. The meetings are all printed in the mind of who writes that, for professional needs, only that of Rava and Galliano was missed in '95 at Kulturni Dom and, later, in '97, for health reasons, that of Michel Petrucciani with his group. The "Incontri" were hosted in '90 at the auditorium of Via Roma, in '91, '92 and '93 at the Verdi Theatre, in '94 in the main hall of the Ugg, in '95 at the Kulturni Dom, in '96 and '97 at the cinema Corso (and in some appointments at the Kulturni Dom), and, from '98, again at the auditorium of Via Roma: among the many, we remember in '90 Massimo Urbani, who was able to play despite being very sick on a psychophysical level. 91 was the year of the magic of Lester Bowie, Chico Freeman, Kenny Wheeler, Manfred Schoof and others: The following year saw piano giants like Kenny Werner, Cedar Walton, Paul Bley and others like Randy Brecker, Eddie Gomez, Billy Higgins and Gary Peacock, while '93 was the year of saxmen Steve Coleman (famous for his initial "no cameras, no tapes, no nothing"), Steve Goodman, Steve Lacy and Bobby Watson. The '94 was great guitar-men Mick Goodrock, Mike Stern and John Scofield and, with them, Tom Harrell and Palle Danielsson: in '95 great performances were those of the trio Carla Bley-Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow, of the duo Galliano-Rava, Don Byron and Scott Henderson (for fusion fans).

The '96 saw the scene of John Surman (already in Gorizia for "All frontiers" at Fogar, an exhibition organized by More Music, in '91) Miroslav Vitous and the legendary Michel Petrucciani, who moved the whole room with his art and turned out to be an exquisite artist and absolutely at hand (remember his "forays" in the Café "Al Corso" and then, in the evening, at the Rosenbar. The '97 saw again Michel with a supergroup, Airto Morcira with Flira Purim, David Murray with Aki Takase (at Kulturni Dom, memorable), and Tom Jobim's sons. In '98 was the year of Lew Soloff, Galliano and Michel Portal, Bill Bruford and others. In '99 "Gorizia Jazz" proposed, among others, Bill Frisell and, again, Steve Kuhn and Franco Cerri in Piazza Sant'Antonio and the prodigious Brad Mehldau at Kulturni Dom in the trio: the concerts of 2000 by Mehldau solo, Maria Joao, Aires Tango, and other Masters are recent memories. In the meantime, the Lipizer Association has also begun to organize, while the tireless work of Glauco Venier at the Institute of Music as a teacher has also led to the creation of the Free Music Association. The story continues, thanks to Controtempo and the Municipal Department of Culture: Gorizia, a city of encounters, brotherhood and cultural cross-over, has in music lovers the "sapientia cordis" that has allowed to realize initiatives that are envied by many other cities

Ermi Bombi

Glauco Venier