Student Days in Rome and Massachusetts
Stefano Torossi was born in Rome on 6 January 1938 and spent much of his childhood in and around the Italian capital. Drawn to classical music from an early age, Torossi comments on some of his most important influences:
“All the Baroque composers, then Mozart … [and] … the 19th century symphonists,” he continued, “the modern (Stravinsky, Ravel, the French) … [and] Bach, where I still am.”
In 1954, Stefano Torossi was granted admission to the prestigious Conservatory of Rome where he studied classical bass. Two years later, Torossi earned a chance to study abroad as part of the Goodwill scholarship program. He left his native Italy for America in 1957. The destination was Williams College, a small liberal arts school located in northwestern Massachusetts.
In the spring semester the following year, Stefano Torossi joined Art Bearon, James K. “Hap” Snow, and Harry Lewis to form a rock and roll band, Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds. Initially based at Williams, they performed at college fraternities, student centers, and other venues around the Boston and New England area.
The band, which focused primarily on rock instrumentals and standards featured Torossi on drums (and piano upon occasion), Bearon on piano, Lewis on saxophone, and Snow on lead guitar and vocals. In addition, a number of part-time guitarists and other musicians frequently sat in with the band. The band did some of its own material, as well, including “Macabre” co-written by Art Bearon, Hap Snow, and Stefano Torossi. The title was changed to “Banshee” just before the band recorded it at Ace Recording Studios in Boston, Massachusetts in 1959. “Banshee” was released by Fleetwood Records the same year.
An early version of “Macabre”/”Banshee” with Art Bearon on piano, Harry Lewis on saxophone, Hap Snow on guitar, and Stefano Torossi on drums was either recorded in a home studio in Weston, Massachusetts in 1958 or possibly in the studio in Boston the following year:
At the end of the semester in 1958, it appeared Stefano Torossi’s brief run as an original Whirlwind were over as his studies at Williams concluded. Yet, after a short return to Italy, he came back to America to enroll in graduate school at Brandeis University that same fall. According to band leader Hap Snow:
“Stefano once confided in me that the main reason he was returning was to continue making music with the band.”
The decision to return to America may indicate prescience on the part of Torossi as to just how central music would be in his future.
Whatever the case, the next 12 months ended up being the busiest in band history as the bulk of the recorded output for their entire 9-year run was done at home and in professional recording sessions in Boston. At the end of the spring 1959 semester, Stefano Torossi returned to Italy for good.
About a dozen of the unreleased recordings Stefano “Steve” Torossi made with Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds his last year in the United States are on YouTube and SoundCloud including “Where’s Harry?,” written by Harry Lewis and featuring Art Bearon on piano, Lewis on saxophone, Snow on lead guitar and vocals, and Torossi on drums:
From Whirlwind To Flipper
Upon return to his home country, Stefano Torossi was uncertain of his next step:
When I came back from the U.S.A. in June 1959, I had no plans about becoming an active musician and had no knowledge even of the existence of “The Flippers.” A school friend, Romolo Forlai, their vibraphonist, called me because they needed a bass player, as their previous one, Maurizio Catalano had been called for service in the army (in those days service lasted 18 months). So I went, started with them a (short) life of fun, money and girls, but decided to save a serious side to it, and enrolled in the Conservatory of Music Santa Cecilia in Rome.
However, Stefano Torossi was asked to leave the Conservatory. He explains:
I was playing bass with The Flippers. It was not jazz, but commercial dance music. [Unlike friend Vito Tommaso who was also threatened with expulsion from a conservatory] Nevertheless, the head of the conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome, Maestro Fasano, called me up to the front and gave me the choice between school and the group. I was having a lot of fun and making good money in the group, so, without a second thought, I went.
And that was the end of my academic career. Never regretted it.
Stefano Torossi was a member of The Flippers for a year and a half–until Maurizio Catalano returned to the 60’s Italian pop band once his army stint was up. Torossi played double bass on “Baci Cha Cha Cha” and “Happy Cha Cha” on their debut album on RCA records in 1960, The Flipper’s Way. The album also features Franco Bracard on piano, Maurizio Catalano on double bass, Max Catalano on trumpet, Jimmy Polosa on piano, and Fabrizio Zampa on drums.
Besides playing bass for The Flippers on their LP, Stefano Torossi was also involved in four singles. He co-wrote “Non gridar bambina” with Prosaico (Sergio Jacquier) on The Flipper’s 1960 single of the same name. Torossi is also given co-writing credit for the A-side of “Santa notte e Cha Cha Cha” and arranging credit for “Bianco Natale Cha Cha (White Christmas)” on the B-side of the The Flippers’ 1960 holiday release.
The Flippers’ “Non gridar bambina” featuring Massimo “Max” Catalano on trumpet, Maurizio Catalano on double bass, Romolo Forlai on vibraphone and vocals, Jimmy Polosa on piano, and Fabrizio Zampa on drums is on SoundCloud:
Stefano Torossi’s last two records with The Flippers, two singles on RCA records, both included him playing double bass on “Baci Cha Cha Cha.”
Torossi did some acting and translating before focusing on music. He comments about finding a path after the return to Italy from the States:
“I sort of moved blindly for a while searching for a real profession (which is what most young people do after finishing school, unless they have a family business already on the way, or a devouring passion, which was not my case). So I did some acting (nothing special), some professional translating from English into Italian, until I definitely settled for a musical career.”
Among the works Stefano Torossi translated from Italian to English were liner notes on jazz albums by RCA Italiana and a number of volumes of the science fiction series Urania from Italian publisher Mondadori. Torossi also worked for a while as a literature translator from English to Italian. He translated several full-length books including the autobiography of Charles Mingus.
A Slew of Sixties’ Soundtracks
In the early 60s, Stefano Torossi began to shift focus from performing and writing pop music to composing, arranging, and producing original music for film soundtracks. In 1963, Torossi composed music for his first two films, Giorgio Simonelli’s I Due Mafiosi (The Two Mobsters), based on a story by Sergio Corbucci and Giovanni Grimaldi, and Giuseppe Veggezzi’s Katarsis (Catharsis), starring Christopher Lee.
After working with director Amasis Damiani in 1966’s Un brivido sulla pelle (A Chill On The Skin), Torossi created one his most popular and enduring works for director Vittorio Sindoni’s 1967 thriller Omicidio per vocazione (Deadly Inheritance).
Stefano Torossi’s title track used in the film trailer is on YouTube:
This fruitful relationship led Stefano to score his next film in 1969, Italiani! è severamente proibito servirsi della toilette durante le fermate (Italian! It is Strictly Forbidden To Use The Toilet During The Stops!). Besides doing the soundtrack, the comedy is remembered for Torossi’s turn in front of the cameras as Garibaldi.
Between 1967 and 1968, Stefano Torossi composed soundtracks for five movies, in addition to Omicido per vocazione, including Adimaro Sala’s È stato bello amarti (It Was Good To Love You) in 1967.
A trio of soundtracks highlighted 1968: director Sandro Franchina’s Morire gratis (Dying For Free), Warren Kiefer’s Scacco alla mafia (Defeat of the Mafia), and Giuliano Biagetti’s L’età del malessere (The Age of Malaise), the latter which featured Eleonora Rossi Drago, Gabriele Ferzetti, Haydée Politoff, and Jean Sorel.One of Torossi’s most memorable works, the title track was made with a choir featuring the legendary singer Edda Dell’Orso.
“L’età del Malessere (Shakes Medley)” from Stefano Torossi’s L’età del malessere (The Age of Malaise), reissued in 2010 by Verita Note, is online:
In 1969, Stefano Torossi composed the music for the soundtrack to Adimaro Sala‘s La Pelle A Scacchi (The Skin Of Chess) as well Fabio Piccioni’s Si può fare molto con sette donne (You Can Do A Lot With Seven Women) two years later, with Franco De Gemini.
Torossi did original soundtracks for two more films that decade, Umberto Silva’s Difficile morire (Difficult Death) in 1977 and Filippo Ottoni’s Questo sì che è amore (The Day Santa Claus Died) in 1978, with Christopher George, Gay Hamilton, and Laura Trotter. Torossi’s last two full scores were done in the Nineties, for Franco Brogi Taviani’s Modì (Modi) in 1990, with Richard Barry, Elide Melli and Trudie Styler, and Renata Amato’s Mi manca marcella (I Miss Marcella) in 1994, with Cochi Ponzoni and Duilio del Prete.
TV and Production Music
Beginning in the early 1970s, Stefano Torossi devoted more time to television projects and also became a major contributor to a related, more specialized field: production music. Otherwise known as stock or library music, this is the music used in the background on TV, radio, film, video games, and the Internet, among other places. It can be commercial or non-commercial and typically involves the licensing of an individual song for the particular project.
Torossi elaborates on the decision to go into production music:
“One of the reasons why I didn’t pursue the career of film composer lies in the fact that in those days working for the movies or for TV were totally separate paths, with different people and situations.”
An example of library music from Stefano Torossi’s 1971’s Qualche Tema Lungo album, “Woodstock,” is on YouTube:
Stefano Torossi ended up moving away from composing for the cinema.
“I decided to favor the TV side.”
One early television project was hosting a TV cartoon, “The Raccontafavole,” in the summer of 1971.
Stefano Torossi has appeared in front of the camera on several other occasions including Vittorio Sindoni’s 1969 film Italiani! è severamente proibito servirsi della toilette durante le fermate (Italian! It is Strictly Forbidden To Use The Toilet During The Stops!), in Luigi Fillipo’s D’amico in 1985, and Sergio Nasca’s D’annunzio in 1986. Torossi also acted, in addition to doing the soundtrack, in a 2010 TV program “Wrinkles.”
An early example of Stefano Torossi’s work in the field of production music is Echoing America, an album made with jazz bassist-composer Giovanni Tommaso in 1970.
Stefano Torossi explains,
“The record was from the very beginning destined for TV and background use.”
Each track is the result of a collaboration between composers Giovanni Tommaso and Stefano Torossi. In addition, Tommaso plays bass and Torossi double bass.
“The selections were partly recorded with studio musicians, no more than seven or eight.”
Giovanni Tommaso and Stefano Torossi’s “Sixth Dimension” is online:
Feelings LP Cements Cult Status
In 1974 Feelings, an album of original music composed by Sandro Brugnolini, Giancarlo Gazzani, Puccio Roelens, and Stefano Torossi was released to great acclaim. Officially recorded under the names Jay Richford and Gary Stevens, the pseudonyms for Roelens and Gazzani, the eclectic mix of funk, pop, Motown, Bossa Nova, psychedelia, and jazz includes classic grooves like “Walking In The Dark” and “Running Fast.”
Stefano Torossi comments,
“The album used the finest studio musicians available at the time, and the results show.”
Forty years later, this album is still viewed as a masterwork of the library music genre. It’s so popular, in fact, that it has been re-released on several occasions, most recently as a limited edition vinyl and CD reissue by Schema in 2016. Finally, too, fans don’t have to drop 100 euros or more for a used copy as a legal, reasonably-priced digital download of Feelings can now be found at iTunes, one of dozens of Stefano Torossi’s albums or compilations currently on offer.
The majority of tracks from Feelings are found on YouTube including “Feeling Tense”:
A Prolific, Multifaceted Career in Music
After the release of Feelings, Torossi continued his multifaceted career in composing, arranging, and producing music. It is difficult to determine an accurate count of how many films, TV programs, documentaries, and music albums he has worked on, however, due to the sheer quantity and diversity of his output.
For example, a partial discography in his Italian Wikipedia entry lists 17 film soundtracks between 1963 and 1999 yet several other movies that use his music, such Isaac Florentine’s 2012 flick, Assassin’s Bullet, featuring Christian Slater and Donald Sutherland, are not mentioned.
In addition to the cinema, the compositions of Stefano Torossi are found in a number of American television shows, including episodes of ABC’s teen drama Twisted in 2013, CBS’ comedy The Big Bang Theory in 2014, NBC’s drama Friday Night Lights in 2011, USA Network’s comedy-drama Royal Pains in 2010, Lifetime Network’s reality TV comedy Roseanne’s Nuts in 2011, and two recent HBO series, Big Love in 2011 and three episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2004 and 2005.
A recent video for Stefano Torossi and Federico Ferrandina’s “Make Love Not War,” the opening track on their Fabulous Sixties: Make Love, Not War album from 2011 as well as Flippermusic’s 2016 reissue The 60’s Experience, is online:
Stefano Torossi also finds time to actively pursue his first and greatest love: writing. He maintains a personal blog HERE and has a regular column on culture that appears in the Globalist. For example, a column posted 9 January 2017 is HERE.