Gianni Basso

About Gianni Basso

Gianni Basso was one of the lights who began shining on the European jazz scene following the end of World War II. He began as a clarinetist and first played professionally in Germany and Belgium in the late '40s with the Raoul Falsan Big Band. By the beginning of the next decade, he was established as a commercial "GB" or "general business" player in Milan, but one with a steady presence at jazz events, including some of the early Italian attempts at post-fascist festivals. From about 1954, a collaboration with trumpeter and composer Oscar Valdambrini began that resembled the relationship between Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, minus the former man's household-name status. Basso studied music in the busy northern city of Turin, where Valdambrini was a homeboy. It was more than just two Italian lads growing up with a fascination for American jazz -- this was a case of a tenor saxophone and trumpet finding each other. This led to all manner of musical possibilities, most notably the easy-to-maneuver-and-feed small combo (not that feeding anyone in Italy is a problem, ever). The partners' group was without a doubt the most popular jazz band in Italy in the '50s, accompanying many touring stars such as Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton, Gerry Mulligan, Slide Hampton, and Chet Baker. The engaging style of tenor saxophonist Stan Getz was the primary goal Basso set for himself in terms of having a main man on the saxophone. His many subsequent recordings provide documentation of how he discovered Sonny Rollins and developed his own style from these sources to the point where the Verve label signed him and a top-notch singer such as Sarah Vaughan wanted a Basso baste as sauce on her 1984 serving entitled Mystery of Man. In the late '70s he founded the band Saxes Machine and subsequently fronted the Gianni Basso Big Band. In his senior years he settled into the comfort of the Rome studio scene, still playing in clubs and enjoying his growing historical stature on the European jazz scene. Even free jazz fans like him now. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

Asti, Italy
May 24, 1931