Born: February 14, 1969
Styles: Mainstream Jazz, Post-Bop, Neo-Bop
Instruments: Sax (Alto), Sax (Soprano)
Italian saxophonist Stefano di Battista has released a trio of albums as a leader, two of which were never issued in the U.S. The third, a U.S. release in 2000 from Blue Note, is self-titled and mainly features di Battista's own compositions. In addition, it includes "Song for Flavia" by Rosario Bonaccorso and a pair of songs by Jacky Terrasson, "Chicago 1987" and "Little Red Ribbon." Both bassist Bonaccorso and pianist Terrasson appear on the album, accompanied by former Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones and trumpeter Flavio Boltro.
Di Battista, a native of Rome who plays both soprano and alto saxophone, took up the instrument when he was 13 to play with some friends from his neighborhood. When he heard recordings by alto saxophonist Art Pepper, he knew the sound of jazz was for him. Later he received guidance from Massimo Urbani, another influential alto saxophonist. By his early twenties, di Battista had begun performing in Paris, thanks to an invitation from Jean-Pierre Como. The two had met during the Calvi Jazz Festival.
Within two years the Italian saxophonist had established himself at the Sunset, a prominent jazz hot spot in the City of Lights. He appeared frequently on the bill with Michel Benita, drummer Stephane Huchard, and drummer Aldo Romano. From there he proceeded to work as a soloist, which led to associations with such artists as cornetist Nat Adderley, drummers Daniel Humair and Jimmy Cobb, and the late French pianist Michel Petrucciani, among others.
Petrucciani invited di Battista into a sextet he was then forming and extended the invitation to include trumpeter Boltro, who frequently accompanied di Battista. Di Battista put out his debut recording as a leader for Label Bleu in 1997. Volare kicked up a lot of attention for the saxophonist and received an award nomination in France. The following year he put out A Prima Vista. The recording of his third album in 2000 so impressed veteran jazz drummer Jones that when the album was finally wrapped up and in the vault, he scooped up di Battista for his Elvin Jones Jazz Machine tour. Di Battista released his second album on Blue Note, the Charlie Parker tribute album Parker's Mood, in 2005.
- Linda Seida (All Music Guide)
He was born in Rome on February 14, 1969 into a family of music lovers, if not musicians. He begins on the saxophone around the age of thirteen in a "banda", one of these small neighborhood bands, composed mostly of children, with haphazard orchestration, a lot of brass instruments, trumpets, trombones, tubas, minimalist rhythmic section, and then saxophones, clarinets, flutes... It's here that up until the age of sixteen or seventeen, Stefano experiments with what is to become one of the essential qualities of his music: conviviality.
During the same period, he has two decisive encounters that direct him to his vocation: he discovers jazz by falling in love with the acid sounds of Art Pepper ("I instantly wanted to play like that... It was the beginning of my passion.") ; and he meets the man who will become his mentor, the legendary alto saxophonist Massimo Urbani - "He was a monster, he played without knowing what came next. Instinctively. He taught me energy, and the physical and spiritual commitment to music. Generosity..." Stefano will be a jazz musician... However, he enrolls at the conservatory and perfects his technique by familiarizing himself with the classical tradition of the saxophone (Jacques Ibert, etc...) and gets his diploma, with top conservatory honors, at the age of 21.
He then begins playing in various pop and Italian variety bands, it's his "day job", he makes a living at it... In 1992, he finds himself by chance at the Calvi Jazz Festival; there he meets French musicians for the first time, notably Jean-Pierre Como who invites him to come and play in Paris. For Stefano, it is a revelation: "When I arrived in France, I had the impression of having been born there. In Italy, I had the impression that I didn't exist..." From that moment on, Stefano shuttles back and forth between Rome and Paris, multiplying the auditions in order to hunt down a few engagements.
Finally he gets two gigs at the Sunset, in a trio with the drummer Roberto Gatto and Michel Benita. Gatto cancels, Aldo Romano replaces him at the last minute and quickly falls under the charm of the saxophonist's generous style. In an instant, a friendship is born between the two men. The second evening Stephane Huchard is on drums and invites Laurent Cugny, then just about to take the reins at the ONJ (National Jazz Orchestra). Another lightning bolt. Stefano is hired on the spot. In two dreamlike evenings, Di Battista's life has changed.
It is now 1994, his career is taking off in Paris. He settles into the city and begins the unbridled life of a musician. In addition to his participation in Aldo Romano's projects from which two albums are derived (Prosodie and Intervista), and his presence in Cugny's ONJ, he continues to meet people, does a few concerts in a trio with Daniel Humair and J.F. Jenny-Clark, plays with American musicians passing through, like Jimmy Cobb, Walter Booker, Nat Adderley... So many unforgettable experiences for this "torch bearer": "I am always searching for the spirit of jazz, what I hear when I listen to Cannonball Adderley... I like this idea of music which is simple, communicative... and which remains fluid and directly perceptible even if there are complex structures along the way... My relationship with tradition lies in this quest for spirit, not in the imitation of formal processes: the phrases, the notes, all of that is nothing without the spirit which animates them... Jazz is about being together: it is the generosity and the conviviality that I am looking for."
Today, Di Battista's career is at a turning point. An incontestable pillar of Aldo Romano's various endeavours, called upon by Michel Petrucciani to join his new sextet, Stefano also knows that he must now work on establishing his own music. His first album for Label Bleu, Volare, is a decisive step in this direction. Heading a homogenous quintet where one finds his alter-ego Flavio Boltro on trumpet, Eric Legnini, his pianist for the past three years, and now irreplaceable, "the art of accompaniment, Alain Jean-Marie's equal", Benjamin Henocq and Rosario Bonaccorso - "a resolutely jazz rhythm, just the way I like them", Di Battista offers a direct music, based on a sense of energy and the respect for tradition. In the spirit of jazz.