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Special feature Marco Pacassoni by Ravi V. Chhabra


An {newsFORsoul} EXCLUSIVE Interview

Marco: Masterful Macro Marimba Man

His Excellency Ravi V Chhabra-fnbworldBy Ravi V. Chhabra

Marco Pacassoni-fnbworld

Marco Pacassoni graduated at cum laude at "G. Rossini" conservatory and in Professional Music at Berklee College of Music of Boston cum laude and studied with Gary Burton, Ed Saindon, Victor Mendoza, Daniele Di Gregorio, Eguie Castrillo, John Ramsey and Steve Wilkes. In 2005, Marco won the award for the best jazz Italian talent at 'Chicco Bettinardi Competition' organized by Piacenza Jazz Festival.


Marco quintet-fnbworld

Frank-Ruth tribute-fnbworld

He has been performing with Michel Camilo, Alex Acuna, Horacio "el negro" Hernandez, Steve Smith, John Beck, Amik Guerra, Trent Austin, Greg Hutchinson, Chihiro Yamanaka, Bungaro, Malika Ayane, Petra Magoni, Raphael Gualazzi, Luca Barbarossa, Francesco Cafiso, Massimo Manzi, Massimo Moriconi, Filippo Lattanzi, Daniele Di Gregorio, Paolo Belli, Luca Colombo, Cesare Chiodo and with the finest of them.

Along with his quartet, Marco released Finally (Groovemaster Edition 2011), Happiness (AlfaMusic 2014), Grazie (Nasswetter Music Group 2017) and Frank & Ruth (Esordisco 2018)

Marco is percussion faculty at Liceo Musicale Marconi in Pesaro and at Urbino University for Italian semsters of University of Texas San Antonio. He has taught masterclasses of vibraphone at prestigious American colleges such as Oberlin Conservatory (Ohio), University of Minneapolis (Minnesota), Eastman School of Music (Rochester), Columbus University (Ohio), Cleveland University (Ohio), University of Texas San Antonio (Texas) and Washington University St. Louis (Missouri).

"I have a new trio CD with two Grammy Winners  - John Patitucci, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter and Antonio Sanchez on drums (Pat Metheny, Chick Corea). I’m going to record it in New York as soon as I can travel there after the Covid restrictions end. Another great project is my Vibraphone/Marimba Concert with an orchestra that I just finished composing in three Movements. Next year, I will perform at the World Premier. Last but not least, a new duo CD with my pianist Enzo Bocciero would be released soon. For live music, after a wonderful 2019 where I toured Japan, China, USA and Europe, I would love to start again traveling all around the world playing my music."

In April 2014, Marco released a harmony and composition book "Quasi quasi scrivo una canzone..." Rodaviva Edizioni. He has been invited to prestigious International and Italian Festivals and Clubs such as Estival Jazz Lugano (Swiss), Roccella Jonica Jazz Festival, Fano Jazz Festival, Locomotive Jazz Festival, Sant' Elpidio Jazz Festival, Festival International de la Musica in Gandia (Spain), Adams Percussion Festival (Holland), DrumWorld Festival (Holland), Amsterdam Marimba Festival (Holland), SummerJazz Festival Casa del Jazz in Rome, Blue Note Milan, Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, Bimhuis Jazz in Amsterdam (Holland), Bravo Caffè in Bologna, EastShore Jazz Club (Pechino, Cina), La Plantation (Pechino, Cina), Salon 10 (Hong Kong, Cina), Peel Fresco (Hong Kong, Cina), Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Pechino, Osaka (Giappone) in Hong Kong among many others.





It's an honour to have spoken with Marco on phone and to have received the finer insights via emails:

Ravi V. Chhabra: As soon as I saw your tribute to Frank Zappa's supreme vibraphonist/percussionist Ruth Underwood, I rushed to bring out my Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) collection to revist it after many months. Honestly, your mastery touched me instantaneously. The colourful vibraphone was one of the many toys I treasured and played to enjoy the varied sounds it has always held a great fascination for my ears. 

Ravi V. Chhabra: What are your early memories/initiation related to it and the progression?

Marco Pacassoni: I was 12-years-old at 3rd year of Conservatory when I started to study the xylophone and vibraphone; starting from the technique and then working on classical and contemporary works. After that I discovered Gary Burton, Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson and I was introduced to Jazz by my teacher Daniele Di Gregorio! I started to listen to many records and practiced a lot, then, after I graduated from the Conservatory, I joined Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA, where I had the chance to study with Ed Saindon, Dave Samuels and sometimes with Gary Burton (who had retired from teaching but he was the vice president at Berklee and I could meet him every month).

Ravi V. Chhabra: Who are your most favourite players among let's say the great Miilt Jackson (MJQ), Gary Burton, Ruth Underwood and others. Reasons?

Marco Pacassoni: Gary Burton is the 'god' of the vibraphone on musicality, technique, musicianship and I was fascinated by his musical journey. We became good friends and he is a fine person.  My best vibraphonist was my teacher at Berklee - Ed Saindon (ex-pupil of Gary's) because he developed a technique where you can play vibraphone like a pianist with many new ideas of compiling and improvisation with just 4 mallets. Ed is a hero for me and we are great friends now. Whenever I go to Boston I  spend some time with him and he also comes to Italy to play, teach and spends time with me and our families.

Ravi V. Chhabra: I guess it's a lesser known musical instrument used in genres of rock and blues, what makes it so, despite such a variety in tonal range and kinds of marimba?

Marco Pacassoni: Marimba is very musical and rhythmical and I love to play it. I love to find the right sound with different mallets developing many styles such as Latin Jazz, Contemporary Jazz but also Pop music where I often use it with the Italian famous singer songwriter Bungaro.

Ravi V. Chhabra: How would you tell our larger audience about the difference between the marimba, vibraphone and xylophone or are they simply different names for sizes and materials used?

Marco Pacassoni: Those three instruments take part of the percussions on defined sound where every bar it makes a note. The difference between those instruments are from the material, octaves and pedals. Marimba is made in rosewood (even though there are also marimbas made in padouk, cheaper and for students) with a warm sound and they are usualy 4 octaves and 1/3 or 5 octaves (much used for classical and contemporary performers that produce original music, say Bach for example). The xylophone is also made in rosewood or paduk but had smaller bars with an high sound (used in orchestra for classical and contemporary music as well). The vibraphone is a tuned metal bars instrument with sustain pedal similar to piano usually in 3 octaves. All of those instruments as resonators down to the bars to get the acoustic sound out from the instrument. In the vibraphone, inside the resonators, you have also valves connected to a motor to produce a vibrato in different speed. 

Ravi V. Chhabra: What is your quintet's oeuvre?

Marco Pacassoni: My quartet released 3 CDs (Finally, Happiness and Grazie) where I performed original music composed by me and my pianist Enzo Bocciero. All the music I’ve composed is related to the music I listen to. I define my music as 'Contemporary Jazz' so you can  pure jazz but also Latin, Pop, Rock, Fusion, Classical and the beauty of the CDs is that you have 8/9 songs for CDs - all different but with a common acoustic warm sound where vibraphone and marimba are the leading actors.

Ravi V. Chhabra: You have performed at prestigious places, which is the most memorable one? By the way, I loved your show with the superb Gregory did that happen? How many compositional tributes have you guys done for Frank Zappa (including vocals by Petra Magoni?).

Marco Pacassoni: The best place I ever played was at Estival Jazz Festival in Lugano, Switzerland in 2015, where 3 months after the death of my father, I had the chance to perform at the most important European Festival in front of 8,500 people before the great Chucho Valdes.That day on that stage I felt home and I saw my father in each person of the audience, a unique experience. Then of course, I did many other great concerts but that one was so deep. Greg Hutchinson and Petra Magoni where part of the band of “Frank & Ruth”. 

They are two wonderful artists. Unfortunately, my producer Pierre Ruiz passed away August, 2020. Such an honor and privilege to share music and friendship with them. Their talent brought the CD on the top level. “Frank & Ruth” it has been a great work of arranging and practicing that  took 2 years before going to the studio to record it but I’m very satisfied as the entire “Zappa World Fans Club” loved our work receiving great reviews and many people attended our concerts plus almost 3000 CDs sold all over the world so far. 

Ravi V. Chhabra: Have you performed at the Zappanale?

Marco Pacassoni: We were invited last summer also at the most important Zappa festival 'ZAPPANALE' in Germany but, of course, it was moved to next year for Covid reasons. “Frank & Ruth” had the chance to be performed in great places in Italy such as Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, Blue Note in Milan, Ancona Jazz Festival, Fano Jazz Festival, Viggiano Jazz Festival, Zoagli Jazz Festival among many others.

Ravi V. Chhabra: Have you met Ruth Underwood? How come that special and wonderful tribute for her? 

Marco Pacassoni: I haven’t met Ruth yet but I’ve sent the CD to her and she appreciated it a lot. I have dedicated all the compositions to Ruth. She seems a shy and private person.

Ravi V. Chhabra: These days of computer tutorials, can one learn the vibraphone?

Marco Pacassoni: There are many online tutorials but of course, I always recommend to find a nice teacher to start a great learning course, it makes the foundation strong. Sometimes people ask me to do some online lessons but I don’t really like them and I induce them to travel to my studio and attend real lessons. It’s important to establish a rapport with the student and I’m sure that won’t happen with a camera and a laptop.

Ravi V. Chhabra: Which brands and size(s) would you recommend for the beginner, taking note of the price/affordability factor.

Marco Pacassoni: I am international endorser of Adams percussion instruments that I consider the best in the world on sound and professional parameters. They produce many level of instruments in different prices so starting from 2500€ until 20000€ you can have the best marimba, xylphone and vibraphone that you love and is good for any level.

Ravi V. Chhabra: Your favourite marimba players/groups from other countries and specially for the fact that the marimba originated in Africa.

Marco Pacassoni: My best marimba player in classical music is an Italian artist from Bari, Filippo Lattanzi. He performs all around the world playing classical and contemporary music with orchestras or solo. On the jazz side, I love Mike Manieri on Steps Ahead and Dave Samuels that brought marimba and vibraphone on the top level on fusion and latin jazz music.

Ravi V. Chhabra: Have you experimented with jazz or let's say 'inducted' some Indian classical percussions and the wide instruments like jaltarang, santoor, dholak, dafli etc?

Marco Pacassoni: Actually not, I had the chance to play jazz with Indian friends where I was a student at Berklee but not on those instruments. So it’s your 'homework' to teach me those new instruments and, if I will come to India to play, to organize a concert with also those great performers. Music is an exchange of cultures and experiences and I love to make new musical experience all the time I can. I am a great fan of guru Trilok Gurtu that I had the chance to see many times in festivals here in Europe…I really would love one day to do a concert with him…may be marimba/percussions.

Ravi V. Chhabra: So do I want to meet him, even though I have interviewed Zakir Hussain but I feel Gurtu's range is simply way ahead. Oh, yeah. I will do my best Marco. Trilok is one of my favourite percussionists and his work with Joe Zawinul (Orient Express) is timeless. As you know, he lives in Germany, so you can reach out fast. Any plans in the better times for performing in Asia and as you might know India has an international jazz festival (outdoors) once a year but I think your performance can be best done in an indoor setting. What's your take on this?

Marco Pacassoni: I was touring Asia last July 2019, where I performed in Bejing, China; Osaka, Japan and Hong Kong for 9 concerts with my pianist Enzo Bocciero for a duo piano/vibraphone in many theatres and jazz clubs. I would love to come next year to India to perform my music and share new experiences. My music is good indoors but also in open air festivals (as you can see at Estival Jazz in Lugano video) because my music is for everyone on every style. 

Ravi V. Chhabra: There are many questions to ask but few last ones I must. Your future plans/projects?

Marco Pacassoni: In the near future, I have a new trio CD with two Grammy Winners  - John Patitucci on bass (Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter) and Antonio Sanchez on drums (Pat Metheny and Chick Corea). I’m going to record it in New York as soon as I can travel there after the Covid restrictions. Another great project is my Vibraphone/Marimba Concert with an orchestra that I just finished composed in three Movements. Next year, I will perform the World Premier. Last but not least, a new duo CD with my pianist Enzo Bocciero that would be released soon. For live music, after a wonderful 2019 where I toured on Japan, China, USA and Europe, I would love to start again traveling all around the world playing my music.

Ravi V. Chhabra: These days, it's quite easy to get all kinds of sounds on computers and electronics-wares and it is reasonably-priced....what's the scope for the real xylophone/marimba?

Marco Pacassoni: I own a Malletstation which I consider my wonderful 'toy' to create new sounds with the vibraphone/marimba musical approach…but it is nothing compared to the acoustic instruments.

Ravi V. Chhabra: Did you guys get to jam with the excellent  crooner/trumpeter Andrea Motis? 

Marco Pacassoni: No….but I love her playing! Wonderful voice and musicianship. I hope one day to have the chance to perform with her.

Ravi V. Chhabra: You know Marco, Italians always stand out!

Marco Pacassoni: Bursts into laughter...


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