Strong, Lush Debut by Daniele Germani with “A Congregation of Folks”

Releasing this month on the Italian label GleAM Records, the new CD “A Congregation of Folks” by front man/sax player Daniele Germani presents some top-notch material.

On the track “The Capitalist Creed,” his sax strolls and peeks into the corners, braced by morphing chord blocks on piano and the soft swell of cymbal crashes and dings. Lovely, lonely and lyrical, “Eres Luz” punctuates with pauses and pulls in the bass to make its lament. “Farewell” finds sax and piano working out a textured unison (the former, light and breathy; the latter, sweet and sure). As a composer, Germani has a vision, keeps on task and adds some surprises. As an instrumentalist, his tone is true and unselfconscious. A very beautiful compilation of fresh new music.

Why did you first pick up the alto sax?

When I was three, I watched “The Blues Brothers” and I immediately fell in love with music and the saxophone in particular. It was one of those things…something clicked, my family supported me and I’ve been studying saxophone and piano ever since. 

I started with piano at first at the age of four and then moved on the saxophone at the age of 11 playing for the marching band of my hometown (Arce).

When you think about or hear any music is it always through the filter of “how would I play this on sax?” 

I try to absorb it as pure as it comes. I don’t only think in terms of how the sax will sound, but more often how it will sound with a band.

I picture it more as a collective. I think in terms of trio, quartet, or quintet.

What was the most impactful about your education at Berklee?

The community of people that I met during my journey. Because I feel really connected to my generation, growing up together and building our sound and learning tunes together. Going down to Wally’s to play every night; that’s where I learned how to play and be in the moment. Wally’s played a vital role in my musical and personal development, and much of the club’s vibrant and inspiring spirit is captured on my recorded debut. 

The community just expands and you end up connecting to friends of friends. Berklee played a vital role in my journey. I met incredible people, teachers, mentors, friends that really changed my life. That’s what made me the person and musician I am today. 

What is your favorite “feeling” on the sax?  

The buzzing vibration of the reeds and to just sing with it. 

What was it like to play at the Umbria Jazz Festival and what music did you perform?

I used to dream as a kid that I’d play at Umbria Jazz and when it happened, it was incredible. We won first prize that year (2015). I played with Fluid Collective, a band formed in my Berklee years consisting of Giuseppe Campisi on bass and Alessio Pignorio on the guitar. It was an incredible experience that reinforced my dream and my work.

Why the name “A Congregation of Folks” for your newest CD? 

I believe that cooperation in our society is very important. Since life arrived on the planet Earth, all the species have cooperated among themselves to arrive where we are today. This came about not only from individuals but from a whole community of people, together. The record, as you can see from the cover, is an homage to the concept of community and to those who have formed mine. 

What inspired this CD? 

The songs described my life. I wrote every day and put my day into the song. Even if I was unmotivated, I just put that feeling into the song. They were based on my daily life. 

How did you choose the players in your ensemble and what was it like to create this album with them?

They are the closest people to me. The music was really personal. I lived with them. They heard me develop every song every day. I played them all 400 songs.

It felt really intimate to play with them. I don’t have to say much. They know how I perceive and hear the music; they understand the compositions. They are the closest people around me and they know the sound I’m going for. They know my fears and what makes me happy. They basically know every bit about me.  

Name the personnel and their strengths. 

Justin Salisbury, piano: invincible, exuberant

Giuseppe Cucchiara, bass: smart, reflective and solid 

Jongkuk “JK” Kim, drums: jolly, fluidity, elasticity 

What was the biggest challenge of production? What was the most rewarding?

Challenge was my mental state. By the time we recorded, we had spent three months in quarantine without being able to play sessions and rehearsals.

The most rewarding part was to hear the music alive when played by the band, to have my best friends record my original music, and to hear my music taking form. 

How does the result match your initial vision?

I had an overall vision of the final product and an idea in my mind of how the compositions would sound but I didn’t want to create any expectation of the performance in the studio, and that kept me more focused and in the moment.

What do you have planned for this year and how will you release this new music?

I might have a few more surprises for this year. I’ve been lucky to have my record be released by a great record company called GleAM who are releasing and promoting it. I’m glad I’ve met them, the label is fresh and Angelo Mastronardi does incredible work (also he is an incredible pianist).

What has jazz taught you about life?

To always be in the moment. When difficulties arrive take them as they come. There are no mistakes. Everything can be improvised and modified. There are no wrong actions, there are good or bad, but not wrong because every action will lead you in a new direction. Just like solos and improvised music, where you’re fully present following the flow of things. 

Other comments?

I’m thrilled to unleash “A Congregation of Folks” into the world and bring people together during this ever-perilous time. With the release of my debut, I welcome you into this congregation of folks.

For more information visit https://soundcloud.com/daniele-germani-1.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.

(c) 2021 Debbie Burke

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