Francesco Turrisi: In Pursuit of Ecstasy
The same could be said of Francesco Turrisi. He plays Balkan music in Nick Roth's Yurodny, early music with Irish ensemble EX, jazz trio music with Dan Bodwell and Sean Carpio, solo piano, accordion in the Brazilian/Bulgarian-flavored Gato Azul, Arabic-influenced music in Zahr, and more besides. The prospect of Turrisi one day bringing all these elements together under the roof of a single Duke Ellington-like large ensemble is an exciting one: "I've thought about it for a while and always talk about it with different people," Turrisi admits. "One of the groups that I've been listening to a lot lately is the Magnetic North Orchestra. Jon Balke is the pianist and he's always had a really interesting sound and concept. I couldn't believe it when Siwan (ECM, 2009) came out," says Turrisi, laughing. "I thought, 'Oh my God, this is me!' There is a Moroccan singer, an Algerian fiddle player, a baroque orchestra and an ECM, spacey jazz groove. I thought, 'This is all the stuff that I'm into. Someone did it before me,'" he says, laughing.
"I always say next year I'm going to do a big band project. I like the idea of a big band, but I really prefer the intimacy of the three-piece band. It's really hard to coordinate large groups, and you never have the money to pay your musicians. A quintet is a really big band for me. Tarab is a big band for me," laughs Turrisi.
The problem, should Turrisi ever decide to take the big-band plunge, might just be finding the time to fit it in around all his ongoing projects. "I'm not short of ideas," states Turrisi. "The problem is always the opposite; I have too many ideas, at times." Turrisi is certainly busy; the CD release of Zahr (Taquin Records, 2011), with Italian traditional singer Lucilla Galeazzi, Iraqi oud player Khayam Allami, Italian percussionist Andrea Piccioni and Turrisi on piano, is to be supported by a tour of Ireland. Then there are a series of concerts running from November through March 2012, where Turrisi will play solo piano for the first half, and will then be joined by a guest musician for the second half: "There'll be a sean-nós singer, a Renaissance cornetto player, a jazz singer and all kinds of crazy stuff," says Turrisi. "So, it'll be interesting and challenging, for sure." And of course, there'll be a push to support both Fotografia and Tarab.
As if all this wasn't enough, there's a new addition to the household: "I've also just become a father, which is a big shock to the system," says Turrisi, laughing, "so I'll have to learn to deal with that as well." So far, Turrisi seems to be taking it all in stride. The breadth and ambition of his musical imagination is impressive, though in some ways, the multi-talented Turrisi has only just begun what promises to be a prolific, fascinatingly varied and exciting career.
Francesco Turrisi, Fotografia (Diatribe Recordings, 2011) Tarab, Tarab (Taquin records, 2011) Zahr, Zahr (Taquin Records, 2011) L'Arpeggiata & Cristina Pluhar, Via Crucis (Virgin Classics, 2010) Yurodny, Even Set (Diatribe 2009) Francesco Turrisi, Si Dolce e il Tormento (Diatribe Recordings, 2009) L'Arpeggiatta & Cristina Pluhar, MonteverdiTeatro D'Amore (EMI Classics, 2009) L'Arpeggiata & Cristina Pluhar, Los Impossibles (Naïve, 2009) Yurodny, Odd Set (Diatribe 2008)
Page 1: Marco Borggreve Pages 2, 7: Courtesy of Francesco Turrisi Page 4: Courtesy of Yurodny ensemble Page 5, Francesco Turrisi: Stephen Barnes
Page 5, Frame Drum: Emma Haugh Page 6: Courtesy of Tarab