Interview: Composer-Saxophonist Sandro Brugnolini on Working with Stefano Torossi Including their Inspired Approach to Making Music
Born and raised in Rome, composer and alto sax player Alessandro “Sandro” Brugnolini started out as a member of the Modern Jazz Gang from 1956 to 1965 when he played sax, arranged, and acted as the main writer on albums including Miles Before And After (1960). At the end of the decade, he joined Stefano Torossi to record Musica per comment sonori (1969), the first of more than a dozen albums they have worked on together including Feelings (1974), with Giancarlo Gazzani and Puccio Roelens, Strumentali: Genere computermusic – homo tecnologicus (1986), Strumentali: Emozionale (1987), and Musica per commenti sonori: Acoustic (I Marc Quattro oggi – suoni acustici degli anni ’60-’70) (1997).
Torossi also served as the producer of Brugnolini’s tracks on Strumentali: Il mondo del lavoro (1989), with Antonio Sechi, and several compilations including Strumentali: Vita d’oggi (1991), Commenti musicali: Musica d’epoca – prehistoria e storia antica (1993), and Musica per commenti sonori: Check Up (1999). Several of Sandro Brugnolini’s most popular albums were done in the run-up to Feelings, including Underground (1970), Overground (1970), with Luigi Malatesta, and Utopia (1972). His soundtrack output includes Gli arcangeli (1962) with the Modern Jazz Gang, featuring Helen Merrill on vocals, Fantabulous, Inc. (1967), with vocals by Gianpiero Graziano, and Gungala la pantera nuda (1968) and Dov’é L’Australia (1968), both with Luigi Malatesta. In addition, Sandro Brugnolini released a series of albums in the early to mid-1970s under the alias Narassa, almost all with pianist-keyboard player Amedeo Tommasi, including Tensione dinamica, Guerra e angoscia, Camera-Car, and Made In U.S.A.
6D: When did you first meet your old friend Stefano Torossi? While making your first album for Costanza Records?
SB: Exactly, in 1969, for Musica per commenti sonori.
6D: Was there a specific point when you knew music was your calling?
SB: As a teenager, and I took to the saxophone because of my love for jazz, and for Miles Davis who was the inspiration to form our own jazz group.
In 1959, Sandro Brugnolini made his vinyl debut on the Modern Jazz Gang’s self-entitled EP for RCA Italiana. The next year, the Modern Jazz Gang released Miles Before And After, a well-received LP that features three compositions by Brugnolini. He commented on “Angel,” composed by Carlo Metallo, in the liner notes for the original Adventure LP, reprinted in a bilingual English-Japanese foldout booklet that accompanies the 2007 mini replica CD reissue by Dejavu:
“Angel” reminds harmonically of a previous piece by Carlo Metallo, “Carme for J,” that we recorded last year on a 45 rpm record. The introduction of the vibraphone at the end of a rhapsodic and dreamy series suddenly breaks the descriptive atmosphere of the piece with an unexpected, purer jazz note.
“Angel,” the fifth track on Miles Before And After, was composed by Carlo Metallo and features all nine members of the Modern Jazz Gang: Sergio Biseo on double bass, Sandro Brugnolini on alto saxophone, Leo Cancellieri on piano, Alberto Collatina on trombone, Roberto Podio on drums, Cicci Santucci on trumpet, Puccio Sboto on vibes, Enzo Scoppa on tenor saxophone, and Metallo on baritone sax:
On 6 May 1960, the Modern Jazz Gang recorded Jazz In Italy for Italy’s Cetra label. The players on the EP single, arranged by Sandro Brugnolini, include Sergio Biseo on bass, Alberto Collatina on trumpet, Carlo Metallo on baritone saxophone, Roberto Podio on drums, Cicci Santucci on trumpet, Puccio Sboto on piano, Enzo Scoppa on tenor saxophone, and Brugnolini on alto saxophone.
A vinyl rip of “Carme for J” and three more tracks from Cetra’s long out of print 45 EP Jazz In Italy N. 6 (1960) including “The Drum Is A Tramp,” “Polimnia,” and “Blue Mirria” are currently found at jazzfromitaly.blogspot.com. Click the album cover to access an informative article (in Italian) that also includes a number of exceptional black and white photos of the Modern Jazz Gang at the recording sessions for Miles Before And After in 1960.
6D: In addition to doing the soundtrack of Gli arcangeli (1962) for RCA Records, with vocalist Helen Merrill and the Modern Jazz Gang, what are some highlights from this part of your career?
SB: The fact that I was among the first to be able to bring pure jazz into the soundtrack of a film.
The original soundtrack was remastered and reissued in CD in 2005 by GDM, a record label founded by Gli archangeli producer Gianni Dell’Orso. In 2013, Trunk Records reissued it as a digital download. “You Are Too Sexy” from Gli archangeli also appears on The Original Masters: Rare Vintage Italian Soundtracks – Crime & Jazz (2007) download compilation on Universal Music.
The album features Maurizio Majorana on double bass, Carlo Metallo on baritone saxophone, Roberto Podio on drums, Cicci Santucci on trombone and flugelhorn, Puccio Sboto on vibraphone, Enzo Scoppa on tenor saxophone and flute, Amedeo Tommasi on piano, and Brugnolini on alto sax and clarinet. In addition, Helen Merrill does vocals on several songs and pianist Silvana Masone appears on a pair of tracks. Sandro Brugnolini composed, arranged, and conducted all the music on the soundtrack.
Sandro Brugnolini’s “Helen’s Blues” from the Gli archangeli soundtrack, with the Modern Jazz Gang and vocalist Helen Merrill, is posted online:
6D: Is there any information you can share about the possible reissue of albums like Fantabulous, Inc. (1967) and some of your others released in vinyl only? Will MP3 and other digital formats be coming anytime soon?
SB: Anything might happen. It depends mainly on the publisher.
The title track for director Sergio Spina’s Fantabulous, Inc. (aka as Il donna, il sesso e il superuomo) (1967) featuring music by Sandro Brugnolini and vocals by Gianpiero Graziano is on YouTube:
6D: Gungala la pantera nuda, your soundtrack with Luigi Malatesta, has recently been reissued in CD by Saimel Ediciones (available at retailers such as the dustygroove.com). I am guessing like on many albums, you compose the music and others perform it but on a track like “Gungala nido (Bossa Nova),” is that you on saxophone? How often do you perform on your albums?
SB: I perform personally whenever it is jazz music. If the music we record is more commercial, like all the average film sound tracks, I call professional performers.
Gungala la pantera nuda‘s “Bakenda Beat,” composed by Sandro Brugnolini, Luigi Malatesta, and C.A. Bixio, is here:
Sandro Brugnolini and Luigi Malatesta have collaborated on several albums including the 1968 soundtrack for the television series Dov’è l’Australia, now available as a digital download from iTunes USA.
“Society Rhythm & Blues” from Sandro Brugnolini and Luigi Malatesta’s Dov’è l’Australia is also available on Beat Vol. 2: Lounge At Cinevox, a CD compilation released by the Italian label Cinevox in 2000.
Sandro Brugnolini and Luigi Malatesta’s “Society Rhythm & Blues” is here:
6D: Which are your favorite compositions on your first Musica per comment sonori LP (CO 1005) you did with Stefano for Costanza Records in 1969?
SB: My favorite two tracks from that album are “Sweet-Beat” and “Flyer.”
Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi’s “Sweet Beat,” which was later included on the Musica per comment sonori: The Seventies CD in 1998, is online. The original 1969 Musica per comment sonori album is scheduled for reissue in CD and vinyl by Schema in July 2016:
6D: New fans continue to flock to your 1970 classic album Overground (LP reissue in 2008, CD reissue in 2009, and now available as a digital download) recorded 12-13 March and Underground (LP and digital download reissue by SONOR Music Editions’ in June 2014), cut between 9 and 22 May the same year. Any comments on composing the music for the albums, your feeling about their longevity and vitality so many years after creating them?
SB: I am rather surprised at seeing so many years go and these records stay, while some much more important works, like Miles Before And After and others you have mentioned have almost disappeared.
Overground and Underground showcase Angelo Baroncini and Silvano Chimenti on guitar, Giorgio Carnini on organ, Enzo Restuccia on drums, and Giovanni Tommaso on bass. Both albums were recorded at Dirmaphon Studio in Rome.
“Cortex,” a track not included in the initial Overground release in 1970 but added along with “Cromoton” on the Cinedelic Records vinyl reissue in 2008 and the AMS reissue in CD in 2009, is on SoundCloud:
Sandro Brugnolini’s “Diacromèico,” which first appeared on Underground, is also the first track on Scoctopus: The In Sound From Octopus Records!, a 17-track 1997 compilation from Schema that also features outstanding compositions from Amedeo Tommasi, Piero Montanari, and more.
“Diacromèico,” featuring Angelo Baroncini and Silvano Chimenti on guitar, Giorgio Carnini on organ, Enzo Restuccia on drums, and Giovanni Tommaso on bass, is online:
Besides Overground and Underground, Sandro Brugnolini appeared on another 1970 album, Freedom Power, a Cometa Edizioni Musicali compilation that includes “Reaction” and “Vortice.”
Cometa reissued the album in CD in 2010 and SONOR Music Editions in vinyl in 2013. SONOR also has a digital download available on bandcamp.
Sandro Brugnolini’s “Reaction” has been uploaded to the Internet:
“Reaction” and “Vortice” are also on the first installment of Plastic Records’ superior Stroboscopica series: Stroboscopica, Vol. 1: Sonorizzazioni Psycho-Beat (1999).
The 2001 CD by the Italian label, Stroboscopica, Vol. 3: 20 Jazzy Orchestral Latin Strobo Sounds From Cinematic ’70’s Filmworks, features a pair of Sandro Brugnolini compositions, “Guiggi” and “Supermarket,” as well.
“Supermarket” initially appeared on Sandro Brugnolini’s Utopia album in 1972, released on Italy’s Gemelli Records.
Sandro Brugnolini’s “Supermarket” is online:
In 1974, composers Sandro Brugnolini, Giancarlo Gazzani, Puccio Roelens, and Stefano Torossi created Feelings, frequently cited as one of the finest albums ever produced in the Library Music genre.
6D: How did you come to join the Feelings project?
SB: It was like a slowly ripening fruit, benefiting from the work of the whole team over a period of time.6D: Besides composing, did you play on any tracks on Feelings?
SB: I did not play on any of the selections of the album.
“Walking In The Dark,” one of ten classic compositions from Sandro Brugnolini, Giancarlo Gazzani, Puccio Roelens, and Stefano Torossi’s Feelings, reissued in CD and vinyl by Schema in 2016, is here:
Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi appeared on another album for Costanza Records in 1974, albeit very briefly as Giancarlo Gazzani’s Musica per commenti sonori (CO 10010) was released and then abruptly withdrawn.
6D: What do you recall about this rather mysterious project?
SB: Pieces and recordings on this Costanza disc were made in Milan and Rome between February and July of 1974, by Brugnolini, Gazzani and Torossi, directed and arranged by Gazzani. The titles include: “Aggressione,” “Abbandono,” “Faccia di bronzo,” “Shift,” “Perifrasi,” “Ok Jazz!,” “Delicato,” “Mondanità e esotismo,” and “Genio e sregolatezza.”
Audio files of Giancarlo Gazzani’s “Aggressione,” “Shift,” and “Perifrasi,” with Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi, are online:
6D: Two albums you made with Amedeo Tommasi and others under the alias Narassa, Camera-Car (1974) and Made In U.S.A. (197?), were each recently reissued by Arison in both CD and LP. What’s your favorite track from Camera-Car?
SB: My favorite selection is the one that gives the album its title.
6D: What about Made In U.S.A.? If you had to choose one standout track, which one?
SB: My favorite from that album is the first cut, “Lalo.”
Four tracks from Made In U.S.A., composed by Sandro Brugnolini under the pseudonym Narasssa and performed by the Amedeo Tommasi Trio are on SoundCloud, including “Louisville,” “Black Rock,” “Tensione sociale,” and “Hard Power”:
6D: What are the chances L’uomo dagli occhiali a specchio (1975) gets a CD or digital release?
SB: I’ve heard talk about a possible reissue of this soundtrack.
JAN 2015 UPDATE:
Italy’s Cinedelic Records has reissued the L’uomo dagli occhiali a specchio LP in a limited 300-copy run that also includes a high-quality download in formats including FLAC and MP3. The vinyl is scheduled to ship around 20 February 2015. Click HERE.
Sandro Brugnolini’s “Incidente provocato” from the L’uomo dagli occhiali a specchio soundtrack, featuring Giancarlo Schiaffini and members of the Modern Jazz Gang, directed by Giancarlo Gazzani, is online:
In 1986, Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi released Strumentali: Genere computermusic – homo tecnologicus, followed the next year by Strumentali: Emozionale.Unfortunately neither album has been released in either CD or digital format. One or both of the LPs can often be found on eBay and sites such as Discogs.com.
6D: Any insights about your successful chemistry working together on so many projects, including with Stefano Torossi as a producer on Strumentali: Vita d’oggi (1991), Commenti musicali: Musica d’epoca – prehistoria e storia antica (1993), and Musica per commenti sonori: Check Up (1999)–all of which are presently out of print?
SB: We spent time together, we drunk, we ate, we made merry with charming young ladies, and in the spare time we worked… And the outcome was music!
In 1977, Ritmi e tastiere, a release on the tiny Ritmi e Canzoni label included seven compositions by Sandro Brugnolini. Several of these tracks from this long out of print LP are now online.Sandro Brugnolini’s “Usual” from Ritmi e tastiere is on SoundCloud:
An MP3 vinyl rip of Ritmi e tastiere is currently found at Boxes Of Toys, one of the Web’s best resources for rare, out of print library and jazz music. Click HERE.
In 1997, Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi’s Musica per commenti sonori: Acoustic (I Marc Quattro oggi – suoni acustici degli anni ’60-’70) album was released in CD by Costanza Records.6D: How did the Musica per commenti sonori: Acoustic (I Marc Quattro oggi – suoni acustici degli anni ’60-’70) album come about? Whose idea was it, do you recall?
SB: As in many other projects of the period, the ideas stemmed from our continuous living and working together.
6D: Are there any songs that stick out for you from this album?
SB: Yes, my favorite is: “Il sorpasso.”
Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi’s “Il sorpasso” is here:
The Musica per commenti sonori: Acoustic (I Marc Quattro oggi – suoni acustici degli anni ’60-’70) album has recently been reissued as a digital download.
In the 2000s, Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi both had music on Flippermusic labels Primrose Music and Deneb Records including Children’s World (2008), Kaleidoscope (2008), The Primrose Music Bank Vol. 1 (2009) and The Primrose Music Bank Vol. 2 (2009). Brugnolini also appeared on The Original Masters: Rare Vintage Italian Soundtracks – Crime & Jazz (2007) on Universal Music.
6D: Regarding the Kaleidoscope album you did three tracks for in 2008 on Flippermusic’s Primrose Music label, was “Space Fairy” from a specific earlier soundtrack project
SB: “Space Fairy” was composed specifically for this album.
In 2010, the Flipper Psychout: Original Italian Library Music From The Vaults Of Flipper compilation CD (and now digital download) featuring Sandro Brugnolini’s “Globicefalo,” “Balenottera,” “Stenella dubia,” “Lamantino,” “Orca,” “Marsuino,” and “Megattera” was released by Vampi Soul.
The Pinball Music download compilation Psyche Funk Italia with Brugnolini’s “Velocipedèico” and “Diacromèico” was also released in 2010, followed the next year by Once Upon a Time in Rome, a compilation that uses “Respòndico” and “Capodoglio.”
6D: The Flipper Psychout: Original Italian Library Music From The Vaults Of Flipper album is a personal favorite–and also one of the first to introduce me to the Italian library music/soundtrack genre. Which of the tracks is your personal favorite?
SB: My favorite is “Stenella dubia.”
Sandro Brugnolini’s “Stenella dubia” is on YouTube:
In 2013, Vintage Jazz, Pop & Rock was released by Deneb Records, a reissue featuring the compositions of Sandro Brugnolini, Vito Tommaso, and Stefano Torossi. The digital download draws tracks from Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi’s first Musica per comment sonori LP in 1969, in addition to Torossi and Vito Tommaso’s 1969 album of the same title.
The Vintage Jazz, Pop & Rock album was released in CD 1998 by Costanza Records under the title Musica per comment sonori: The Seventies. The album features the identical two dozen tracks, with about half renamed in the 2013 reissue.
6D: What are your views, regarding the migration of music from vinyl to CD and now to the digital medium in the music industry of the 2010s? Do you see this new delivery system as an opportunity?
SB: Of course, I believe any technical advance to be a good thing for the diffusion of music to new audiences and markets.
6D: What musical projects are you working on now?
SB: I am composing music for a series of discoteques on the east shore of the Adriatic Sea… And, of course, I keep working on my own for no particular reason except my own pleasure.
Recent Sandro Brugnolini releases include Overground reissued in LP in 2008 and CD in 2009 and the Criminale Vol. 1 Paura soundtrack compilation in LP and bonus CD in 2010 (featuring “Narvalo”). In 2012, the Dov’é L’Australia soundtrack, with Luigi Malatesta, a Cinevox LP from 1968 was reissued as a digital download and in 2013 another Sandro Brugnolini-Luigi Malatesta album from 1968, the Gungala la pantera nuda soundtrack was released in CD by Saimel. In 2014, two albums back in print include the new compilation CD by the Modern Jazz Gang, The Milestrane 1959-1964 Vol. 1 on Il Giaguaro Records and Underground reissued in LP and digital download.
The The Milestrane 1959-1964 Vol. 1 CD compilation showcases 24 original compositions by Sandro Brugnolini, many initially used in films and documentaries. This collection is also now available as a digital download from iTunes USA.
Besides the June 2014 reissue of Sandro Brugnolini’s 1970 Underground album, Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi’s “Miss Apple” was included in Blues Moods: Playing Blues All Night Long, a compilation from ExtraBall Records released as a digital download at the beginning of the year.
6D: Are you aware of any other reissues planned in the second half of the year?
SB: No, I know nothing about this subject at this time.
In 2014, Sandro Brugnolini continues to compose new music for film and television. In addition, he still finds time to perform jazz as well as to write. Brugnolini, who was a full-time and part-time parliamentary reporter from 1967 to 1993 (for non-Italian readers, this is a correspondent specializing in the Italian Parliament), is also a noted music critic.
Sandro Brugnolini-Narassa Audio Sampler on SoundCloud
A Sandro Brugnolini/Narassa audio sampler that currently features tracks from nine albums, including Overground (1970), Underground (1970), Utopia (1972), Viaggio Pop No. 1 (1973), UST 7010 Beat drammatico – Underground – Pop elettronico (1973), Guerra e angoscia (1973), Made In U.S.A. (1970s), Ritmi e tastiere (1977), and Fantabulous (1968), is located on SoundCoud:
LPs, CDs, and Digital Downloads
Speedball Experience: Obscure Pop Jazz From Early 70’s Italian Music Library, an unofficial compilation from Italy released in vinyl in the mid-1990s that features Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi’s “Sweet-Beat” and “Polyphony,” as well as Brugnolini’s “Macero” (released under his Narassa pseudonym), is online. The 13-track collection also has cuts by Gianni Coscia, Gianni Mazza, Amedeo Tommasi, and more: