La Dolce Vita

“La Dolce Vita”

Stefano di Battista, sax
Fred Nardin, piano
Daniele Sorrentino, bass
Andre Ceccarelli, drums
Matteo Cutello, trumphet


CD, 180g Vinyl, Digital (Warner Music Arts)
Release: 19.4.2024

La Dolce Vita is more than just a film title; it is a gateway to a whole other world. A world of silver-screen fantasies, but also one of life, passion, style, desire, beauty and dreams, which emerged during a unique period in Italian history, and which have continued to resonate through the decades, right up to the present day.

Stefano Di Battista decided that the time had come to bask in this resonance and create an album that combined the brilliance of the great Italian music of yesteryear with the need to keep it alive, scintillating and eternal. The album aims “to explore some of the extensive and wonderful Italian repertoire from the ‘Dolce Vita’ years onwards and bring it to the attention of today’s global audience”, Stefano Di Battista explains. “These compositions epitomise Italian culture and the skill of our great composers, drawing both on what was undoubtedly Italy’s golden age and on the legacy of those years that lives on inside us today”.

Nino Rota’s incredible composition – which lends its name to the album and instantly transports us to a boundless fantasy world – therefore sits alongside Paolo Conte’s Via con me and Nicola Piovani’s legendary La vita è bella. There are pop songs, like the amazing Una lacrima sul viso, written by Iller Pattaccini with lyrics by Mogol and turned into a hit by Bobby Solo, and an operatic echo in Lucio Dalla’s now classic Caruso.

All held together by a strong and unique sensibility, by the flawless playing of a superb band – Matteo Cutello on trumpet, Fred Nardin on piano, Andrea Sorrentino on bass and André Ceccarelli on drums – and especially by Di Battista’s ability to transform every piece into something else, transporting the listener to a magical (and here quintessentially Italian) new place. “I found working on these tracks took me into a beautiful world”, Di Battista continues, “so I decided the best approach was to let the tunes guide me, to enter into the melodic structures and discover their heart for my improvisation. In other words, not producing tracks featuring solos, but single entities, with the exposition and improvisation intertwined”. Some of his choices may appear unusual, like Con te partirò, written by Francesco Sartori and Lucio Quarantotto and introduced to global audiences by Andrea Bocelli, which in the saxophonist’s hands becomes a sort of magic portal between past and present. Or Domenico Modugno and Franco Migliacci’s ‘well-worn’ Volare (also known as Nel blu dipinto di blu), where Di Battista avoids taking the obvious path and instead breathes fresh life into the song, fully capturing its ‘surrealist’ spirit: “Performing pieces like these may be a gamble”, the saxophonist says, “but it is something I have always loved doing. And in the end, it turned out that these are perhaps the most interesting tracks on the album”. But it is not enough to call the route Di Battista charts through the melodic devices of the great Italian repertoire ‘eclectic’: this does not fully explain its richness. Like the brilliant leader that he is, Di Battista takes his bandmates into a hugely diverse array of landscapes and through an equally wide-ranging set of emotions. These range from the cutting irony of Renato Carosone’s Tu vuò fa l’americano, where the piece’s American and Neapolitan roots become lost in the ensemble’s limitless improvisation, to the subtle melancholy of Sentirsi solo, written by Piero Umiliani for the film Fiasco in Milan (original title Audace colpo dei soliti ignoti): “a composition I had not come across before”, the saxophonist notes, “from a Chet Baker soundtrack. It has an incredible atmosphere: there is no long, song-like melody, it is ‘sparse’, with a mood that transports you to that blue world that defines Baker’s universe, linked to his demons, and with a captivatingly mysterious flavour.

And there are other masterpieces on this album too: the magic of Roma nun fa la stupida stasera, written by the peerless Armando Trovajoli and the duo Garinei e Giovannini; the unprecedented allure of memory in Federico Fellini’s Amarcord, translated into music by Nino Rota; and the exquisite artistry of Ennio Morricone in La Califfa. All subtly balancing past – the compositions – and present – the way they are interpreted by Di Battista and his band.

“Taking on the past made us feel very small”, Di Battista concludes. “That music contains a level of artistry that seems very difficult to achieve nowadays. But the process of reviving these works, ensuring they can thrive in today’s world, gives us real satisfaction. This means I want to savour them; I am happier when I play and I have more fun. And I can explore inside them: they give me space to improvise, to invent, to forge a connection with my roots and my Italian culture, but also to look beyond. Because even when they were first written, these pieces – with their melodies, their captivating chromaticism and their joy – were never provincial, they never had borders”.

Born in Rome, saxophonist Stefano Di Battista came to jazz through the records of Art Pepper and Cannonball Adderley. Encouraged to move to Paris by pianist Jean-Pierre Como, who heard him during the summer of 1992 at the Calvi Jazz Festival, Di Battista quickly found his footing in the French capital.

Di Battista’s highly acclaimed album for Blue Note Records “Round About Roma” with a symphonic orchestra conducted by Vince Mendoza is “an exquisite work of music that engages the mind as well as the heart” (All About Jazz). Di Battista followed up with another two albums for Blue Note Records: a tribute to Charlie Parker Parker’s mood , and the virtuosic Troubleshootin’.

Stefano Di Battista is a master of sound and melody, virtuoso in his improvisations and authentic in his approach to the song. Three years after his first record on Warner Music Morricone Stories, he now returns with La Dolce Vita.

1. La vita è bella (from “Life Is Beautiful”)
2. Con te partirò (“Time To Say Goodbye”)
3. Tu vuò fa l’americano (by Renato Carosone)
4. Roma nun fa’ la stupida stasera (by Armando Trovaioli)
5. La dolce vita (from “La dolce vita”)
6. Via con me (by Paolo Conte)
7. Una lacrima sul viso (by Bobby Solo)
8. Sentirsi solo (by Piero Umiliani)
9. Volare (by Domenico Modugno)
10. La califfa (by Ennio Morricone)
11. Amarcord (by Nino Rota)
12. Caruso (by Paolo Conte)