- Michael Wilson
- Michael Wilson
About Paolo Conte
Born January 6, 1937, in Asti, a small wine-producing town in northern Italy, Paolo Conte has had a passion for jazz and the visual arts since his schooldays. His songwriting began spontaneously, almost instinctively: first he and his brother Giorgio, and then he alone, would write songs inspired by books, films, and the imaginative development of actual experience. He worked for several years as a lawyer. His performing career began on a small scale as a vibraphone player in local and touring bands (Saint Vincent Jazz Festival), with occasional trips abroad (third place in the Oslo International "Quiz").
However, in the latter part of the 1960s, Conte's compositions first began to draw notice, and popular singers began recording his music. For the first time, the larger public could hear these unusual creations: “La coppia più bella del mondo” (sung by Adriano Celentano), “Insieme a te non ci sto più” (Caterina Caselli), “Tripoli '69” (Patty Pravo), “Messico e nuvole” (Enzo Jannacci), “Genova per noi” and “Onda su onda” (Bruno Lauzi), and many others.
Paolo Conte’s own recording career began in 1974, with his debut album, Paolo Conte. For the first time, the public heard that languid voice, nonchalantly walking a tightrope of melody, narrating poetic fragments of brief encounters, sudden enthusiasms, and nostalgic recollections. A year later, a second LP was released, also called Paolo Conte—another collection of songs in the same vein.
Conte gained widespread public recognition in 1979 with Un Gelato al Limon and Paris Milonga, which were presented in 1981 at a special “Conte Day,” organized by the Club Tenco at San Remo. The following year saw the issue of Appunti di Viaggio, a collection of songs that provided a rich repertoire of concert songs
Paolo Conte entered the limelight again in 1984 with his first CGD recording, an album with the familiar title of Paolo Conte, which received enthusiastic reviews. He followed this release with a series of successful concerts at the Théâtre de Ville in Paris, receiving critical acclaim throughout France. He then ended his tour with sold-out concerts throughout Italy. The enthusiastic atmosphere of this tour was captured on a double live album titled Concerti.
With the release of another double album, Aguaplano, in 1987, Conte broadened his artistic range, introducing new elements to his work. He toured abroad, playing in Canada, France, Holland (where he received gold and platinum disks), Germany, Belgium, Austria, Greece, and Spain, not to mention two nights at New York's historic Blue Note Club. He also made appearances at many jazz festivals including Montreux, Montreal, Cagliari, Juan les Pins, and Nancy. Following the tour, a live album, aptly titled Live, recorded at the Spectrum in Montreal, and a video recorded at Amsterdam's Theâtre Carré were released.
After a short hiatus, Paolo Conte released a new album, Parole d'Amore Scritte a Macchina (1990), which introduced a new set of recently composed songs and revealed yet another side of Paolo Conte, a new musical approach that included backing singers and electronic experiments. The following album, Novecento (1992), marked a return to a more familiar style—vintage Conte, in fact. The experiments of Parole d’Amore were left aside in favor of a splendid band capable of suggestive echoes of jazz and musicals as commentaries on Conte's famous rhythms, melodies, and lyrics: elegant, seductive, or even drunken rhythms lurching into hot jazz or barroom tangos; music of memories that are half true, half dreams; poetic fragments of colors, images, and fantasies.
In 1995, Conte released Una Faccia in Prestito, on which he worked in close collaboration with bassist Jino Touche, percussionist Daniele Di Gregorio, and accordionist/multi-instrumentalist Massimo Pitzianti, with contributions on individual tracks from other members of his band. This album possesses the typical elements of the classic Paolo Conte song—his taste for a pastiche of various styles and periods, the evident pleasure gained from creating fantastic musical texts accompanied by a witty language of unpredictable invention, like the pidgin of "Sijmadicandhapajiee" or the "Spanish" of "Danson metropoli" and "Vita da sosia."
In 1998, a new live double album, Tournée 2, carried on where the previous Tournée album left off, issued in response to audience’s enthusiastic requests. None of the tracks on this double album had been previously released as live versions. Tracks like the instrumental “Swing,” “Legendary,” “Irresistible” (with vocals from Ginger Brew), “Roba da Amilcare,” and “Nottegiorno” appear for the first time on record.
Conte’s US debut, The Best of Paolo Conte, was released on Nonesuch in 1998. The album represents a 20-track compendium of Paolo’s career and was warmly received by critics and fans alike. A successful US tour through New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco followed, as The Best of Paolo Conte was named record of the year in The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. It was followed in 2003 with a second Nonesuch release, Rêveries.
April 15, 2003
Composer-singer-pianist Conte's second Nonesuch collection offers new recordings of his classic material. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune called the venerated Italian artist "a gentlemanly cross between Tom Waits and Caetano Veloso. His spirit, humor, and emotion transcend the language barrier."