By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Francesco Marcocci’s Facebook Page.
Music has long been heralded as a universal language that’s capable of transcending cultural barriers across time and space. Surprisingly, despite this revelatory nature many of us continue listening to the songs that we encounter in the tightly wound circuits of our day-to-day lives.
For bass player and composer Francesco Marcocci, that just simply isn’t the case.
“Music is always around you, everywhere you go,” he tells BTR. “It comes in all shapes and forms; you just have to open your ear and try to catch it.”
Taking one listen to the Francesco Marcocci Quintet’s newest effort, Folklorico, reveals a jubilant exercise in cultural immersion. It’s a journey through musical frontiers capable of challenging listeners while simultaneously reaffirming the thread capable of tying such seemingly disparate worlds together: jazz.
We are greeted with the opening call to spirits of the Turkish flavored “Shardana”, and are quickly ushered into Morroccan and Ghanian rhythms of “La Grande Madre”, Argentinian Chacarera on “Pa Abalos y Messiaen”, and even some “acid” swing with “Danny Richmond (Raw)”.
The album marks a milestone in a musical path that took many turns and traveled across continents. The journey all started when a 14-year-old Marcocci began playing the electric bass in Tuscany, Italy. Inspired initially by rock and roll music, the young musician soon realized that he was hungry for something more substantial.
Two years later he decided to make the switch to double bass–realizing that by doing so he was delving deeper into both the instrument and his understanding of music. Not long after, Marcocci found himself transfixed by a jazz trio tearing up a hot summer night in the city of Lucca. Mesmerized by what the bass player was tapping into, Marcocci knew immediately that he was in love with the music and needed to learn how to create what he was hearing.
The music carried him to Boston, where he studied jazz at Berklee and met a wide array of talented performers. He formed a sextet with many of the musicians who would later go on to help create Folklorico.
Constantly moving in search of the sound, Marcocci set sails once again–albeit to a much closer destination: New York City. All of the musicians he wanted to play with who hadn’t left the country made the journey there already. It seemed like the next logical step for him too.
“At the time, my home country Italy wasn’t doing so well,” says Marcocci. “There was a real push to come here to New York City.”
He also acknowledges that the city challenges him more as a musician, and as a person, more than almost anywhere else. There’s definitely a spiritual force here, he admits, between all of the musicians and music, which acts like a magnet drawing everything forward.
In two years, Marcocci assembled many of his old friends (including Leo Genovese and Willy Rodriguez) along with some new ones to create a quintet he had been dreaming of. He acknowledges that while there were plenty of players to choose from, this select group encompassed all of the individuals whose creative vision he most admired and enjoyed.
The next step was to compose and arrange an album’s worth of material that could showcase the incredible talent available at Marcocci’s fingertips. The songwriting process came naturally, and took form out of the seemingly mundane, as well as the beautiful.
“It all comes back to personal experience,” illustrates Marcocci. “Maybe you’ll meet someone, or encounter a certain color, a certain smell… you’ll look out the window and suddenly emotions will move into you. You couldn’t say specifically ‘that mountain, or that park.’ There’s no single answer.”
He also explains that he’s careful never to force anything; lest it become too mechanical and riddled with logic. Rather, Marcocci will let inspiration seep into the songs, until they become a “soup” that he can sink into and further discover. Opening his ears allows him to catch these things seemingly out of thin air.
Folklorico is an album borne out of friendship and musical discovery on a global scale, but perhaps one of Marcocci’s fondest memories of its inception stems from a collaboration he never anticipated to happen. Dave Liebman, one of the bass player’s heroes of the saxophone, agreed to play on three of Marcocci’s compositions.
Liebman has shared the stage with jazz legends like Miles Davis, Chick Corea, and Elvin Jones. To be graced with his presence, let alone his performances, was an incredible honor for Marcocci.
“What he brought to this album was that ‘something’ that made all the difference,” says Marcocci. “He’s a genius. It was like fire dice; he was definitely flying somewhere else, somewhere that the tunes needed to go.”
To hear the rest of the interview with Marcocci, tune into this week’s Discovery Corner.
Or discover the Francesco Marcocci Quintet for yourself by clicking here.