Sophia Tomelleri: A Tenor Sax With a Jazz Heart Made In the USA
28.10.2021, by Luca Testoni
Fresh from the release of “These Things You Left Me”, the Milanese saxophonist and composer graces the stage of JAZZMI FUTURE.
«I’m not a fan of “pink quotas”. Least of all in music. Unfortunately, some people are still surprised to discover that women can play the saxophone, the double-bass or the drums. But it’s not like this everywhere. It is a question of culture, and we in Italy are still behind. I think the issue might be overcome with the support of education and school».
Sophia Tomelleri, 29 years old, is a Milanese saxophonist and composer, born in the trade (renowned saxophonist Paolo Tomelleri is her grandfather) who wants nothing to do with the gender controversies applied to jazz. And who can blame her?
After winning the prestigious Massimo Urbani award last year (this helped her record her debut “These Things You Left Me”, published by Emme Record Label and available on all online platforms) she is now among the most buzzworthy names of young Italian jazz. Tomelleri will play live on Thursday, October 28th at Milan’s Teatro Filodrammatici, during the first of three evenings of “JAZZMI FUTURE” at the head of an excellent quartet including Simone Daclon on piano, Alex Orciari on double bass and Pasquale Fiore on drums.
«Lately, when we talk about jazz, we don’t know what to think anymore. Too many things are trying to pass themselves off as jazz when they aren’t. While it’s true that jazz was born from a mixture of different cultures, it almost seems like it has lost its own identity», argues Sophia Tomelleri. What about new generations? «From what I’m hearing, some of my contemporaries appear to be too fixated on rational or conceptual music, with the result of neglecting harmony. I don’t want to appear too traditional, but I personally prefer a more acoustic kind of jazz, in the manner of saxophonist Mark Turner, who is one of my favorites». And speaking of favorites, Tomelleri places at the top of her preferred albums one of John Coltrane’s masterpieces, “My Favourite Things”, alongside “Something Gold, Something Blue” by trumpeter Tom Harrel. “Made in the U.S.A.” jazz clearly has a special place in Sophia’s heart.
Something she regrets about contemporary jazz is the clear lack of spaces it suffers from: «It’s not fair to say young people don’t like jazz. The main issue is a lack of spaces. Young people won’t go to theaters or venues where tickets are too expensive. And things become difficult even for us as musicians, if we don’t have anywhere to play. And I’m not just talking about clubs, sometimes it’s hard even to find a bar…».
Finally, we couldn’t resist asking Sophia about her encounter with the tenor sax. «It only happened three years ago», she explains. «I began with the piano when I was little, and at home we listened to a lot of jazz. Then I graduated from the conservatory in classical music and contralto sax. I feel very comfortable playing the tenor sax: it is the instrument I most like to use in my jazz improvisation. Lately I’ve been increasingly focusing on composing, and when I compose I use the piano. I am even thinking of deepening this aspect of my musical knowledge by signing up for a two-year course at Genoa’s conservatory of music».