By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
While studying classical piano in college, Luppi researched the history of jazz in Italy, discovering that the country's premier jazz musicians of the 1960s and '70s were also responsible for many of the memorable movie and TV themes he'd heard as a kid. "The jazz players were hired to do the sessions for the movies, because they worked very quick," he explains. "There were basically 12 people in Italy that could play at this very good, professional level."
The nucleus of this Italian version of the Wrecking Crew was The Marc 4, an astonishingly versatile quartet consisting of bassist Maurizio Majorana (who owns and runs Telecinesound), organist Antonello Vannucchi, percussionist Roberto Podio and guitarist Carlo Pes. Last year, Luppi asked the surviving members (Pes died two years ago) to come out of retirement and record a dozen of his compositions.
Surprised that someone less than half their age was actually familiar with their work, the musicians didn't need a whole lot of encouraging. "It started out a bit formal," Luppi remembers, "but after a half an hour, these guys were totally happy, because I was asking them about all these weird movies they'd done. And when I showed them the scores I'd written, Antonello said, 'Oh, Maurizio, this is the kind of bass line that you were doing!'"
Several dozen transatlantic telephone calls later, Luppi and Majorana managed to assemble a dream team of old-school sessioneers, including Alessandro "The Whistler" Alessandroni, whose mournful trills embellished many of Morricone's early soundtracks. Far more challenging was the task of rounding up the proper gear. "In Los Angeles, it is the easiest thing to find vintage instruments," says Luppi. "But in Rome, there's no place to rent them. You have to go to friends to borrow them." And once found, there was no guarantee that the stuff would actually work. "The fuzz pedal was so rusty, almost no sound came out of it. We were there polishing the connections, trying to get some sound out of it. It was like, 'Okay, the sound's coming out -- quick, let's record!'"
Many of the musicians hadn't played together in nearly a decade, and the joyfulness of their reunion is almost palpable in such exuberant tracks as "Nightclub" and "Telecinebeat." Their ability to nail a number on the first take also left ample time for swapping old stories over pasta and wine, much to Luppi's delight. Unfortunately, he failed to photograph either the recording or the repasting sessions. "I was so busy producing the thing," he says. "And if I were to say, 'Okay, let's stop now and take a picture,' I would lose all the respect from these guys. Yes, I'm a fan, but we are doing a serious job, because I want to get out of there with music!"
Luppi got the music, and that turns out to have been the easy part. Now he's talking with several different labels about releasing An Italian Story. "It's not about the money," he says, "it's about finding people who can understand the project. It may have been recorded with a funny and charming atmosphere, but this is jazz from that era, not elevator or lounge music." In the near future, he hopes, he'll be flying the musicians to the U.S. to play a few shows coinciding with the record's release. "For that," he says, "I would definitely bring a camera."
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