Italian musical maestro Michele Chiavarini has lent his talents to more pop, dance and jazz records than you could shake a stick at, working with a vast number of superstars from Donna Summer and Christina Aguilera to dance music legends Joey Negro and David Morales. Kicking off a busy 2020, having recently launched his new label SPRY Records with partner Fernanda Reis, he is releasing a cracking new single from his band The Jazzcodes and has penned tracks for the new Narcos game. DMCWorld checks in for a chat…
A huge welcome to DMCWORLD Michele, where on planet earth are you and how was your Christmas?
Hey DMC, I’m currently in Napoli, Italy after a lovely Christmas with the family in Perugia and Firenze.
What is the best piece of new music you have heard recently?
‘Portals’ by Alan Silvestri (from Avengers: Endgame). As far as classical scores can be, it’s a banger.
So let’s cut to the chase as you’re certainly no newcomer to the industry.. you’ve worked with some huge names in music from DMC’s favourite pop princess Kylie, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Luciano Pavarotti, Donna Summer, Christina Aguilera, Moby and Simply Red, through to dance music legends Joey Negro, DJ Spen, David Morales, Mark Knight and so many more. For those who are not so familiar with your work, please tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up with such an impressive discography?
I’m classically trained on various musical instruments, composition, orchestration, arrangement, etc. – I fell in love with anything jazz and Latin influenced and I have always loved music for film, television and advertising. This still represents a good portion of my work. Many moons ago, I started working in recording studios, as a session musician and engineer. Eventually my session work lead to collaborate with the people you’ve listed above and many more. Some of them, recommended that I start producing and so I did.
Which for you are the most favourite releases you’ve collaborated on?
Robbie Williams – Kiss MeJakatta – One Fine Day and Michele Chiavarini ft. Carmichael MusicLover – Express Yourself.
What’s your favourite instrument you use when writing?
I normally play the piano when writing. If I want to come up with a different angle, I probably use the guitar. It depends on the music genre. The inspiration however, can come from any sound, a synth or any software instrument or sound generator of sort. Sometimes I love starting from orchestral sounds, like strings or brass, which in any case would be triggered by a keyboard.
You’re a big Jazz head, who would you say are your biggest influences?
Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Pat Metheny, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones, Gil Evans, Milt Jackson, Gary Burton, Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller, Weather Report, Michael Brecker, Bob Mintzer etc.
It was reported last year in The Guardian newspaper that there is a rising number of young fans and emerging artists, which has sparked somewhat of a UK Jazz renaissance, what do you think about that?
I think that the UK Jazz scene has always produced excellent talent at international level. The difference now is that people, especially youngsters, can access all genres of music much easier. This probably makes their taste more refined and pushes them to look for brain-stimulating music. Also, if you are a musician, there are more ways to improve your art, more schools, endless free online tuitional material and crucially, many more opportunities to play live.
It’s great to hear some fresh Jazz House coming through again by way of your band The Jazzcodes. Tell us a little about who is in the band and your new single ’Take Care Of The Music’.
I normally tend to play some of the main instruments in the band, like piano, bass, guitar, beats and vibraphone. Other regular Jazzocdes members include some of the best musicians I have known throughout my career. Among others, trumpet player Graeme Flowers (Quincy Jones, Michael Buble, Gregory Porter, Kyle and Clint Eastwood, etc.), Italian sax maestro and composer Francesco Santucci (RAI Orchestra, Gino Vannelli, Lost In Translation, etc.). Italian percussion player and drummer Gabriel Nuzzoli (Ricky Martin, Jazzinho, Cubana Pop, etc.) and Italian Jazz drummer Alberto Argiro’ (A. Corvini, Ares Tavolazzi, S. Cantini, Ramberto Ciammarughi, F. Puglisi, etc.) and many more. ‘Take Care Of The Music’ is the first of several Jazzcodes releases, aiming to combine outstanding musicianship with the jazz house genre. I don’t think that there is much on offer at present. Also, at least for my taste, only a few producers, like Tim Deluxe, Joey Negro, etc., make this kind of music well.
Name 5 essential Jazz records that we need to listen to?
Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
Oliver Nelson – The Blues And The Abstract Truth
Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage
Wes Montgomery – The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery
You have recently launched your brand new label SPRY Records with your single ‘Express Yourself’, you’ve been in the music industry a long time, so what made you finally decide to set up a label?
Having my own label was something I have always wanted, mostly because of the creative control one can retain. However, I was never sure about how much time would be require to running a label and how much time would be left to make music. When I met my business partner (and wife) Fernanda Reis, we decided that we would share the tasks involved and that was the final incentive to go for it.
And how do you see things moving musically for the label in the future?
The plan is to initially put out the music I am mostly known for, i.e. Soulful house, Jazz house, Gospel and Latin house. However, as I have been working with many other music genres outside dance music in general, we also plan to release totally different styles, such as hip-hop, chill-out, especially with a cinematic twist, electronic, etc. We are also looking to put out other producer’s music. Some material is already coming through and we are very excited about this aspect of having our own label.
What have you got coming up in 2020 that you can tell us about, have you any plans for a Michele Chiavarini or Jazzcodes album?
Potentially there are a few projects which could become albums. The Jazzcodes is one. My Latin outfit Nova Fronteira could be another as a second album has been long overdue. Possibly an album of soul vocalists and a cinematic/chillout one. There is a lot of new material in progress, but I can’t really say too much at the moment.
Please walk us through a typical Michele Chiavarini production process?
It definitely varies according to the music genre and whether I am working with other artists/musicians in person or remotely (nowadays this is a fairly common way of working because of its practicality and lower cost). When working on house tracks, for instance, firstly I put together some instrumentals, often with basic melody or lyrical ideas, send them to singers, songwriters and then we go back and forth until we are both 100% happy with the song. Then the vocals are recorded and some vocal editing usually follows (I am quite fussy as far as vocal production is concerned). I do additional work on the music and when I am completely satisfied with the result, the song is mixed. Absolutely nothing revolutionary!
You also write for TV, film and advertising, which shows and films have you produced music for and was it a difficult area to break into?
In my career I have covered a bit of everything, from numerous documentaries for the The Discovery and History Channel, BBC3 (Dying for Clear Skin), Channel 4 (Escoffier, Plebs, etc.) and Channel 5 (How To Survive a Disaster Movie, etc.). My music has also been used on many US shows, such as The Big Bang Theory, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Criminal Minds, Survivor, The Price Is Right, etc. In advertising I have scored many commercials, such as Toyota, Heineken, Nat West, Gordon’s Gin, Debenhams and many more. Recently, I have also scored the trailer for a video game Narcos: Rise Of The Cartels. Trailers are really great fun to work on. Short and sweet! When I started, the best way to break into this area was to work with emerging directors and producers. The more popular they would become, the bigger the projects and consequently, my reputation. Now, there are even more opportunities to get into that line of business, which also means more competition.
We come to raid your record collection, which embarrassing record do you chuck out the window before we arrive?
I don’t think I have anything that embarrassing. Possibly some of my earliest work!?!
What record makes you say ‘damn, I wish I made that’?
So many too choose from!?! I’ll go with ‘Portrait Of Jennie’ by George Benson and the Big Boss (Count Basie) Orchestra, arranged by the great late Robert Farnon.
Finally, have you any new year’s resolutions?
To make great music with my team and not to make people wait too long for it.
The Jazzcodes ‘Take Care Of The Music’ will be released on Traxsource promo January 10th / Full release January 24th 2020 on SPRY Records.