Establishing Italian Jazz on the International Scene 1960-1980

Four Case Studies: Nunzio Rotondo, Giorgio Gaslini, Enrico Rava, Perigeo

  • Francesco Martinelli Siena Jazz Archive


This paper sheds new light on the developments in Italian jazz in the two decades 1960-1980. It opens by touching on context and antecedents: the relationships with Italian musical traditions in early American jazz, the acceptance and refusal of jazz by Italian cultural institutions and movements before 1960, and the late '50s key developments both in jazz and arts/media. In the early '60s, Italian jazz was characterized by two small scenes with marked differences in Rome and Milan and with a few further relevant events. An active and well rooted specialist magazine (Musica Jazz) provides relatively good documentation on these beginnings, quite detached from other general movements in music. By the end of the decade several ideological, cultural, political ruptures will have changed this panorama, and while Italian jazz was active in these changes, its exponents also had to deal with the complex situation they created from the point of view of artistic challenges, working conditions, and relationships with the recording industry. In order to discuss these changes and the different strategies adopted by musicians, four case studies will be examined to gain a better understanding of the process. Nunzio Rotondo, while almost unknown outside of Italy, was one of the first Italian musicians to successfully perform internationally after the war. He subsequently worked within the Rome jazz scene, with limited exposure both live and on record. Giorgio Gaslini's ground-breaking work of the late 50s, his training in ‘classical' music, and his unflagging commitment to exploration made him a personality similar to Portal and Gulda. However, his artistic successes did not close the chasm between ‘serious' music and jazz in Italy. Enrico Rava took the opposite road to Rotondo, widely performing abroad and paying dues in Buenos Aires, New York, and Paris before gaining acceptance worldwide and in his own country. He has been instrumental in the creation of an international image of Italian jazz and even of an Italian sound, opening the doors to many others. Perigeo was a ‘jazz-rock' group of the early 70s. Their recordings are still extremely popular. The reaction to their music by the jazz establishment and then their curt dismissal by the industry led to their disbanding, after which the single members—Franco D'Andrea, Claudio Fasoli, Giovanni Tommaso—produced and still produce some of the most exciting Italian jazz.

Author Biography

Francesco Martinelli, Siena Jazz Archive
Born in Pisa (Italy) in 1954, Francesco Martinelli has organized and promoted concerts, festivals, and records since 1975, among them the International Pisa Jazz Festival (1976-1983), festivals in cooperation with the Italian Instabile Orchestra, two books, and several LP records. He is actively involved in the preservation and organization of jazz history in Europe, the information of the public about the different jazz-derived music, and in joint projects involving musicians, institutions, and festivals all over Europe. As the director of the Siena Jazz Archive, the main resource of its kind in Italy, he is responsible for acquisition and organization of collections, editing of publications, and using his scientific background in chemistry and computer usage to work in information retrieval and preservation/digital restoration of sound artefacts. He is the curator of two series of Italian translations of jazz books with a total of eight titles published up to now, two more in preparation. Furthermore, he gives courses and lectures about the history of jazz, philology, and preservation of recorded sound at Siena Jazz University, EJM, vol. 16/1 (2017) - ISSN 2504-1916 Mascagni Conservatory in Livorno, and university-festivals around the world. Martinelli developed an active interest in Turkish musical traditions after regularly teaching and working in Turkey. For the Rough Guide to World Music, he updated the ‘Turkey' entry.
How to Cite
Martinelli, F. (2017). Establishing Italian Jazz on the International Scene 1960-1980: Four Case Studies: Nunzio Rotondo, Giorgio Gaslini, Enrico Rava, Perigeo. European Journal of Musicology, 16(1), 136–157.