A very keen music fan, record collector and DJ, Gerardo Frisina, together with the founders of Ishtar, Luciano Cantone and Davide Rosa, sketched the guidelines of the artistic evolution in this record company. His figure is of fundamental importance for Ishtar’s history and is a point of reference that the entire Italian jazz scene cannot disregard.
His first contributions to Ishtar saw Gerardo in the role of producer. His very first project was the production of “Neos” in ‘97, conceived with Bruno Bolla and Gianni Bedori, and stemming from the desire to re-propose the works of famous artists deeply rooted in the Latin/Brazilian and jazz sound, trying to reveal the most obscure aspects of those sounds. In the same year also the series “Up” and “Metti Una Bossa A Cena” came out, becoming of cult status among the collectors of the genre: while the first set of productions has brought back to light some “forgotten” reinterpretations of artists such as The Paris Studio Group, Edda Dell’Orso and Expo 80, instead the two editions of “Metti Una Bossa A Cena” have introduced some Brazilian pieces by Italian artists of the calibre of Piero Piccioni, Ennio Morricone, Armando Trovajoli, Alessando Alessandroni, Franco Micalizzi, Romano Mussolini. This is a homage to Bossa Nova by the greatest Italian composers of from the past.
In 1998 while still in his activity as producer for Ishtar, Gerardo Frisina coordinated the reissues of “Crossfire” and “Yuxtaposición” by The Cabildo’s Three. These two productions, blended with psychedelic, samba and Afro Cuban rhythms, were aimed at exploring the world of the library music and of the soundtracks. Until that time, this music had only been heard in office backgrounds, TV commercials and movie soundtracks and it couldn’t be found easily in the record shops. These compositions were finally “set free” thanks to the interest of this passionate intender, collector and music lover. But Gerardo’s main contribution as a producer was the spreading of the international sound by the Clarke-Boland Big Band, one of the most noteworthy jazz big bands formed thanks to the idea of Cologne-based producer Gigi Campi and composed of American and European jazz leaders such as Kenny Clarke, Benny Bailey, Francy Boland, Sahib Shihab, and Ronnie Scott.
From this initial impulse Rearward label was founded, with the purpose of re-releasing the most part of the Campi-Cawoo catalogue. An important space was then given both to the old jazz masterpieces from the Sixties and to the contemporary ones. Besides his involvement with Schema, Gerardo Frisina has always continued his activity as DJ and when he had the need to find new outlets for his creativity he became an artist in his own right with the release of his debut album “Ad Lib”, in 2001. Deriving from the Latin “ad libitum”, this title is a dedication both to the improvisation and the expressive richness of the jazz-men featuring in the album, whom melted the Latin jazz and easy listening sound with the music influences of the bossa nova. Among the musicians in question we mention the vibraphonist Andrea Dulbecco, the pianist Fabrizio Bernasconi, the rhythm section of the Lo Greco Bros and the singer Barbara Casini. With this album, Frisina finally crossed the local boundaries and made himself a name as international point of reference, with enthusiastic reviews from the critics. The single “Descarga” fascinated the legendary dj Danny Krivit so much that he decided to spin it weekly on his programme Body & Soul in New York, and moreover to feature it in his collection “Nite:Life” published by the English label Nrk. “Mas Eu Quer Ser” seduced instead the great artist from Detroit Jeff Mills whom chose it for his compiling “Choice – A Collection of Classics” out on Azuli.
After the release of his first album, Gerardo intensified his activity as a DJ and remixer. In particular we mention “Black Forest Stomp” by The Hipnosis, band coming from an area in Central Europe where the nu-jazz scene was really strong, thanks to the contribution of artists such as Rainer Trüby, Jazzanova and Kruder & Dorfmeister; “Bossa 31” by Rosalia De Souza, the Brazilian interpreter grown up in the greenhouse of Schema Records and already famous for her performances in clubs and in the Italian pubs network. This intense activity as a remixer gave to Gerardo (and still gives) the opportunity to also compete abroad and better comprehend the music tendencies of the latest trend. His album “Hi Note”, released in 2003 on the label Schema Records, represents the evolution of the personal Latin jazz sound that makes this artist’s productions so distinguished. In comparison with his previous record, in “Hi Note” there is a larger number of contributions by many jazz musicians, who have marked the progressive dismissal of the easy listening/lounge stylist elements in favor of the recovery of the warmth of Latin jazz. Even if we find the soloists Luigi Bonafede and Marco Brioschi standing out from this record, “Hi Note” also keeps the same strong ensemble of musicians performing in “Ad Lib”, once again led by Gerardo Frisina on a new music adventure which draws inspiration from the productions of Ray Barretto, Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Dave Pike. Thanks to this album, aimed principally at the dance floor, between the bossa nova (Intenso), the Latin jazz (Cubana) and the dance variations (Joyas), Frisina confirms himself as a great interpreter of this music, capable of adding his personal and fresh touch.
In 2004, contemporaneously with his more and more numerous djing performances, Gerardo Frisina started working on the pre-production of a new album to be released the following year. After a Japanese tour that allowed him to personally fathom the level of popularity that he has achieved on that market, Gerardo Frisina was scheduled to release in the fall of 2005 on Schema “The Latin Kick”. This album was born from a concept of continuity with the singles Descarga and Cubana, respectively found on “Ad lib” the first and on “Hi Note” the latter. An album conceived for the club environment. Club is meant as in a place where people get together to share music, manifesting through dance the sensations caused by it. Keeping in mind that Jazz has been for many years “The” music for dancing, the new album by Frisina fits perfectly the perspective of bringing back Jazz music on dance-floors. Gerardo Frisina precisely chose Latin Jazz colours and shades for the production of this album. The ‘kick’ coming out of it is a pure injection of energy; a blast of intense excitement over the notes of exotic sounds and rhythms. This feeling is immediate from listening to the album. Of the 12 tracks in the album for the first time we find three covers, researched with accuracy and reworked with quality: “The Gods Of The Yoruba” is the single released before the album, and the original composition is by Horace Silver; “The 7th Day”, originally composed by Freddie Hubbard, in this version the sax and trumpet’s dialogue elevates the theme, which is always supported by an incessant rhythm lead by the piano. The third cover is “Gosto Do Que E’ Bom”, a Brazilian Samba/Bossa track composed by the Brazilians Ademir Carvalho and Shirley Sandala in the ’60s and revisited on this occasion with ‘contemporary clubs’ sound effects. Among the other pieces of the album we find another Samba composition, “Batucafro”, a Batucada with light Afro hints, perceptible from the flute; “Cortante” introduces a wind section led by the Cuban trumpeter Hendrixon Mena. Surprisingly enough in this track, he gives his best on piano in typical Salsa style, dragging the whole band to a relentless performance; “Cohete” instead, is transparently an Afrocaribbean piece, based on the Puertorican rhythms typical of the Bomba and the Plena. To these styles also belong “African Seeds” and “Latin Seeds”, inspired to the jazz of the great Clarke Boland Big Band, especially at the time of Sabu Martinez.
This last work marked a crucial turning point in Gerardo Frisina’s artistic career: his modern vision of the Latin sound really impressed the Impulse label staff which commissioned him for the remix of the famous Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac by Dizzy Gillespie. The remix in question has been later released on the album “Impulse – Revolutionary Jazz Reworked”, an homage to the mythical jazz catalogue owned by the American label, and Gerardo Frisina, the only Italian involved, is in the company of names of the calibre of Sa-Ra, Rza from Wu Tang Clan, Telefon Tel-Aviv, Mark De Clive Low, Boozoo Bajou and many others. Another small yet strong label to notice Gerardo Frisina is Soundway, concentrated on the traditional music from Nigeria, Colombia, and Panama. To Gerardo the label proposed the re-elaboration of “Dis-Ka-ndombe” by the Uruguayan drummer Jorge Graf, originally recorded in ’80 in our Country. In the same year he also recorded a single with two new tracks for the British label Afro Art owned by Paul Murphy and Ashley Beedle. Among the two pieces Alborado becomes one of the most air played on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide programme (BBC Radio 1). At last we also mention the remix Stardust From Tomorrow by the eclectic jazzman Sun Ra, published by the Italian Déjà vu.
The success gained and the interest shown in this kind of rebirth of the Latin sound are proved by his international appearances: in 2006 he also conquered Porto Rico, one of the mother countries of this genre, being invited to the prestigious Festival in Candela. During is staying in this Country he met with the Candela AllStars team with whom produced a new track, Calle De Candela, dedicated to the street of San Juan where the famous kermesse takes place. Together with other compositions the above mentioned tracks were included in Gerardo’s new album out in 2007, “Note Book, A Journey In Sound”. This record expresses love for the different kind of music Gerardo has dedicated his life to; the Brazilian music, thanks to the revisitation of Guarapiranga by the Brazilian songwriter Toco; the Italian jazz of Windly Coast, originally composed by the Italian band idea 6 belonging to Dino Piana and Gianni Basso; the trendy influences of the electronic music, expressed in the broken (Latin) beat of Es Diferente and in the brand new version of Tokyo’s Dream, previously published in the Japanese edition of “The Latin Kick”.
The beginning of 2008 is in the sign of the acclaimed single “Donke De”. In this 12” the title track is a mix of salsa, samba and Latin jazz; “African Nite Life” could be considered as a classic played among the DJ-sets of well-known artists (Osunlade, Joe Claussell, Little Louie Vega) and in famous clubs (Cielo in New York, Dingwalls in London, Panorama Bar in Berlin); Batucadas is embellished by the live percussions of Mitoka Samba, a Milan-based Brazilian collective and the first samba school of our Country.
In 2009, while at work on a new album, Gerardo has been producing both new remixes and unreleased material. “Samba Skindim” EP gives off a pure exotic energy, featuring two new pieces and two covers. The title track, originally composed by Luiz Enrique in the early sixties, here meets the warming voice of the Brazilian singer Andréa Maia, also performing in E.J. Estou Aqui, one of the unreleased tracks; For My Mother is exactly a dedication to the memory of Gerardo’s mother, while Solo brings the signature of João Mereilles, fundamental samba jazz saxophonist and arranger of the famous Mas Que Nada by Jorge Ben. Regarding the international collaborations we mention the new version of Samba Temporado for the TV series “Lupin” and the arrangements and production of Brighter Bossa, included in the bran new album “Jazz et Jazz” by the famous dj Tatsuo Sunaga from Tokyo.
2010 is the year of “Join The Dance”. From the title of this album and the up-tempo productions proposed, one might immediately assume that this is a release aimed at the dance floor. This however, is not strictly an invitation to dance, rather a proposal to come together and celebrate the instinctive movement that is inspired by listening, and responding to music. Simply put, this is a jazz album, but still containing the strong Afro-Cuban influences that are distinctive to all of Gerardo productions, here largely expressed in “Joy Shout” and “Titoro”. With this album, he has also experimented with new sounds and influences, such as the Asian-inspired track “Mille e Una Notte”. Gerardo has also made two songs in 3/4 time, “Waltz for Emily” and “Another Waltz”. “Join The Dance” is a good work of modern Latin music, arranged by Gerardo Frisina in collaboration with Luca Mannutza. Twelve pieces, nine of which are unreleased and three are covers. Two of the three re-interpretations are the only songs featuring in the album: “Will You Walk a Little Faster?” is a new version of the beautiful 1971 Neil Ardley track, featured in the album “A Symphony of Amaranths” and here interpreted again by the original singer, the British Jazz legend Norma Winstone. “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’” instead is sung by Francesca Sortino, well-known Italian singer who collaborated with several national and international jazz artists (Enrico Pieranunzi, Paolo Fresu, Stefano Di Battista, Eddie Henderson, Pierre Michelot, Eliot Zigmund). It is also a cover of a jazz tune taken from the 1959 film “Anatomy of a Murder” and written by Duke Ellington and Peggy Lee. The third and last cover of the album is “Titoro”, written by Billy Taylor and originally recorded in trio in 1957. Gerardo here offers a rework with a delectable Afro-Cuban taste. Among the artists whom gave life to “Join The Dance” stand out artists from the contemporary jazz scene such as the Italian-Canadian Robert Bonisolo (alto sax), Luigi Bonafede (piano), Pasquale Bardaro (vibes), Alfonso Deidda (baritone sax and flute), the Lo Greco bros (double bass, drums), Roberto Rossi (trombone), Gianluca Carollo (trumpet), Ermanno Principe (drums) and the Brazilian percussionist Gilson Silveira. Thanks to the big international promotion of the single “Will you Walk a Little Faster?”, previewed by Gilles Peterson on Worldwide programme (BBC Radio 1), “Join the Dance” will bring back on the European club scene one of the most valued Latin jazz producers.
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