Exclusive interview with Paolo Favini, an all-around and dynamic international artist

Exclusive interview with Paolo Favini, an all-around and dynamic international artist

Although music offers fewer opportunities nowadays to young people, things must always be carried out. One must always be determined in every profession.

Arrived at the meeting point, he is already there, focused on staring at something intangible, drumming his fingers on the table and softly humming something.

Good morning, Maestro. How are you?

While I was waiting, a tune occurred to me, so I would say I’m good.

Good, then we bring you luck, we are pleased.

He smiles. 

Sometimes it just happens, and some pieces come up randomly.

Should we name it as our newspaper then?

He smiles again and nods as someone who knows what’s what but does not speak a word. Let’s hope so.

What would you like to talk about?

I don’t know, you’re the one asking the questions.

How long have you been playing? 

I guess for as long as I can remember, since childhood. I started when I was 14, so it has been a few years. 

I would say that I ‘officially’ started in 1979 playing in the orchestra at RAI with Franco Cerri, and then in 1983 I started playing as a real professional on my first tour with Christian. 

Today I call myself an all-round musician.

What genre are you most passionate about?

I would say funky music, but I play all types of music. I’ve been working in the television industry for 18 years and it is not a piece of cake, you must be able to play everything…

We’ve actually seen you on television at Crozza’s show…

Yes, since 2006 I have been playing tenor sax at Maurizio Crozza’s show with the Silvano Belfiore Band. Before the pandemic, we played live. Three rehearsals a week and then a live performance every Friday night.

How many and what instruments do you play?

I am mainly a saxophonist, so I play all four types of saxophones: soprano, tenor, alto and baritone

Well, quite unique tunes.

I like ‘unusual things’, even a bit daring. 

In 2008, I published a record playing baritone sax in honour of Gerry Mulligan, a great 1950s jazz musician.

In 2017, I worked to a totally instrumental funk project inspired by Queen’s music. It was a success and since then we built a world-famous show that also involves other great professionals.

How much time do you dedicate per day to music? How much do you practise? 

I practise every day, several hours a day. I compose every morning from eight to noon and then I study saxophone twice or three afternoons a week.

Do you also teach music?

Yes, lately I’ve also been teaching in some music schools and at the Pavia Conservatory. In 2011, I used to teach at Franco Mussida’s academy and he offered to publish my first book.

We heard you played with famous personalities. 

Oops, he’s well-known as well, we should have known better but he understands, sketches a smile and answers calmly.

Working in the light music field, I have played with many artists, such as Liza Minnelli, Amy Stewart, Melvia Chick Rodgers, Karima, and also with Italian artists: Roberto Vecchioni, Claudio Baglioni, Nina Zilli, Dirotta su Cuba, Nomadi, Stadio, Michele Zarrillo.

You took part also in the concert in Piazza Duomo in Milan.

Yes, Radio Italia live. I have been playing for them for eight years, as well as several other music personalities, from Renato Zero to Claudio Baglioni. I also did a live record with Roberto Vecchioni: we toured for a year all around Italy. It was amazing.

Rumour has it that…

You heard so many things, didn’t you?

He says smiling.

…that you appeared on television, besides the TV programme with Crozza.

Yes, I played at the Raffaella Carrà Show, Apocalypse Show (Funari), Festival di Sanremo, Premiatissima, Risatissima, Sogno Ribelle. I have been on theatrical tour around Italy: Saturday Night Fever, Lady D., A Chorus Line, Per fortuna c’è la musica, Gran Galà del Musical.

What is it like to play in a live concert and on television? Is there any difference? 

Yes, there are many differences. 

On television you rehearse, you practise pieces you will play afterwards during the show. However, I have always performed live television, and the camera is always pointed at you. Even in live performances, for example in concerts, you always know what you are going to play and you always play a repertoire that you generally know. For example, in Crozza’s show we played many types of music: arias of opera, musicals, dance and swing, which he sings well, and together we played some Sinatra songs.

Anyway, it’s a matter of experience. In that kind of show, there are people who have been playing for at least twenty or thirty years… Experience, as in all fields, is crucial.

Spells or things to ward off ill-luck before playing? Some sort of rituals, maybe like athletes or actors do.

Usually, I don’t do such things. But luckily enough to have done theatre and musicals for five years, I have seen how actors, before going on stage, wish each other good luck saying, ‘Break a leg’. It’s a superstitious habit.

We laugh together like old friends. 

Are there any anecdotes and curiosities that belong to the unique world of musicals? Those that can be told, of course.

Yes, there are. For example, I was disappointed when in 2009 I was lucky enough to play in Sanremo in the Liza Minnelli’s orchestra and she arrived six hours late. I asked to take a picture together, but it was too late, and I couldn’t capture the moment. The director was understanding and videotaped me on stage together. I now have a picture with her taken from a video. It’s fine though, you can forgive those people anything.

Any other fun facts that you still remember?

In 2005 we took part in a private event with Baglioni in Budapest. This time I was amazed and pleased because he came to shake hands with all the musicians. It is quite uncommon…

Saxophonist and arranger. What was your relationship with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Conflicting and a bit complicated at first.

For TV programmes, we had to record ourselves at home and then send them the videos. It wasn’t easy, and I also had to be a director and learn how to use digital platforms…

And then there were no concerts, no contact with the audience, which is the most satisfying thing. But I studied, transcribed, and transferred all paper-works of the last 30 years on the computer.  I also took advantage of the pandemic to produce books on saxophone teaching methodology.

Basically, you never stop learning and must always be eager to work hard.

Any hobbies to share with your fans?

He smiles.

Hobbies? A few. I like reading. I have an archive of over 6,000 pieces produced over the years. You always must move forward to be happy, and I am satisfied with my life and my job.

A message for the young musicians who starting off their careers…

These are hard times as the field is short of opportunities. Once, twenty year-old talents could rehearse even every night with orchestras and practise. Now you can’t do that anymore. Before there was so much work to do in television, in recording studios, in clubs.

Things have changed.

Yes, now things have changed. For example, there are now three venues in Milan, once there were about twenty. There was a wide choice. There was this famous club, Le Scimmie, where musicians could accompany every month the best singers, and not just from Milan. Now it is closed, now there is for example the Blue Note where I played several times, once even with Gigi Cifarelli for a tribute for the 80th birthday of a world-famous guitarist: George Benson. Now it’s not like that anymore, the margins have narrowed.

What about a more general message? 

You must do things. If you have something in mind, you must always see it through, perhaps it will take a little longer, but you must be determined, always, in every profession.

What are you working on now? Upcoming dates to come and hear you?

On May 9 at the Creberg Theatre in Bergamo, a charity event I very much care about.

Will you come as a musical guest at the opening event of our newspaper?

Yes, of course, I will see what I can do. When will that be? 

We do not have a date yet, but it will probably take place by the end of the year. We will make sure to let you know in advance.

Thank you for your time, Maestro.

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