Interview: Composer-Saxophonist Sandro Brugnolini On The Modern Jazz Gang’s Miles Before And After (1960) And A Behind-The-Scenes Look At Making Albums With Stefano Torossi

Composer and alto sax player Alessandro “Sandro” Brugnolini, born and raised in Rome, first drew attention at a national jazz festival in 1958 when his composition “Arpo” captured the top prize for best original piece. Brugnolini, a member of the Modern Jazz Gang from 1956 to 1965, played sax, arranged, and was the main writer on albums that include Miles Before And After (1960). At the end of the decade, he joined Stefano Torossi to record Musica per comment sonori (1969), the first of more than a dozen albums they worked on together including Feelings (1974), with Giancarlo Gazzani and Puccio Roelens, Giancarlo Gazzani’s Musica per commenti sonori (1974), Strumentali: Genere computermusic – homo tecnologicus (1986), Strumentali: Emozionale (1987), and Musica per commenti sonori: Acoustic (I Marc Quattro oggi – suoni acustici degli anni ’60-’70) (1997).

Stefano Torossi also served as the producer of Sandro Brugnolini’s tracks on Strumentali: Il mondo del lavoro (1989), with Antonio Sechi, and several compilations including Strumentali: Vita d’oggi (1991), Commenti musicali: Musica d’epoca – prehistoria e storia antica (1993), and Musica per commenti sonori: Check Up (1999). Several of Brugnolini’s most popular albums were done in the run-up to Feelings, including Underground (1970), Overground (1970), with Luigi Malatesta, and Utopia (1972). His soundtrack output includes Gli arcangeli (1962) with the Modern Jazz Gang, featuring Helen Merrill on vocals, Fantabulous, Inc. (1967), with vocals by Gianpiero Graziano, and Gungala la pantera nuda (1968) and Dov’é L’Australia (1968), both with Luigi Malatesta. In addition, Sandro Brugnolini released a series of albums in the early to mid-1970s under the alias Narassa, nearly all with pianist-keyboard player Amedeo Tommasi, including Tensione dinamica, Guerra e angoscia, Camera-Car, and Made In U.S.A.

Modern Jazz Gang picture from Miles Before And After (1960) CD booklet

Sandro Brugnolini, Metal Carlo, Alberto Collatina, and Enzo Scoppa (from Miles Before And After (1960) CD booklet)

Q: Was there a specific point when you knew music was your calling?

A: As a teenager, and I took to the saxophone because of my love for jazz and Miles Davis, who was the inspiration to form our own jazz group.

In 1959, Sandro Brugnolini made his vinyl debut on the Modern Jazz Gang’s self-entitled EP for RCA Italiana. The next year, the Modern Jazz Gang released Miles Before And After, a well-received LP that features three compositions by Brugnolini. He commented on “Angel,” composed by Carlo Metallo, in the liner notes for the original Adventure LP, reprinted in a bilingual English-Japanese foldout booklet that accompanies the 2007 mini replica CD reissue by Dejavu:

“Angel” reminds harmonically of a previous piece by Carlo Metallo, “Carme for J,” that we recorded last year on a 45 rpm record. The introduction of the vibraphone at the end of a rhapsodic and dreamy series suddenly breaks the descriptive atmosphere of the piece with an unexpected, purer jazz note.

Listen to “Angel,” featuring all nine members of the Modern Jazz Gang: Sergio Biseo on double bass, Sandro Brugnolini on alto saxophone, Leo Cancellieri on piano, Alberto Collatina on trombone, Roberto Podio on drums, Cicci Santucci on trumpet, Puccio Sboto on vibes, Enzo Scoppa on tenor saxophone, and Metallo on baritone sax, on YouTube:

A vinyl rip of “Carme for J” and three more tracks from Cetra’s long out of print 45 EP Jazz In Italy N. 6 (1960) including “The Drum Is A Tramp,” “Polimnia,” and “Blue Mirria” are currently found at jazzfromitaly.blogspot.com. Click the album cover to access an informative article (in Italian) that also includes a number of exceptional black and white photos of the Modern Jazz Gang at the recording sessions for Miles Before And After in 1960.

Modern Jazz Gang - Jazz In Italy N. 6 (1960) Cetra

Modern Jazz Gang – Jazz In Italy N. 6 (1960) Cetra

Q: In addition to doing the soundtrack of Gli arcangeli for RCA in 1962 with vocalist Helen Merrill and the Modern Jazz Gang, what are some highlights from this part of your career?

A: The fact that I was among the first to be able to bring pure jazz into the soundtrack of a film.

“Helen’s Blues,” a Sandro Brugnolini composition performed by the Modern Jazz Gang that features vocalist Helen Merrill and appears on the soundtrack for Gli arcangeli, is on YouTube:

Q: Is there any information you can share about the possible reissue of albums such as 1967’s Fantabulous, Inc. and others released in vinyl only? Will MP3 and other digital formats be coming anytime soon?

A: Anything might happen. It depends mainly on the publisher.

Q: Gungala la pantera nuda, your soundtrack with Luigi Malatesta first released in 1968, has recently been reissued in CD by Saimel Ediciones (available at retailers such as the dustygroove.com). It’s also available as a digital download from Amazon USA. I am guessing on many albums, you compose the music and others perform it but on a track like “Gungala nido (Bossa Nova),” is that you on saxophone? How often do you perform on your albums?

A: I perform personally whenever it is jazz music. If the music we record is more commercial, like all the average film sound tracks, I call professional performers.

Gungala la pantera nuda‘s “Bakenda Beat,” composed by Sandro Brugnolini, Luigi Malatesta, and C.A. Bixio, is here:

Sandro Brugnolini and Luigi Malatesta have collaborated on several albums including the 1968 soundtrack for the television series Dov’è l’Australia, now available as a digital download from iTunes USA.

“Society Rhythm & Blues” from Sandro Brugnolini and Luigi Malatesta’s Dov’è l’Australia is also available on Beat Vol. 2: Lounge At Cinevox, a CD compilation released by the Italian label Cinevox in 2000.

Beat Vol. 2: Lounge At Cinevox (2000) Cinevox

Beat Vol. 2: Lounge At Cinevox (2000) Cinevox

Sandro Brugnolini and Luigi Malatesta’s “Society Rhythm & Blues” is here:

Q: When did you first meet your old friend Stefano Torossi? While making your first album for Costanza Records

A: Exactly, in 1969, for Musica per commenti sonori.

Q: Which tracks did you like the most on this LP?

A: My favorite two tracks from that album are “Sweet-Beat” and “Flyer.”

An online EP for Musica per comment sonori that includes Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi’s “Sweet-Beat,” plus “Motopuprio,” “Polyphony,” and “Grace” is on SoundCloud:

Q: New fans continue to flock to your 1970 classic album Overground (LP reissue in 2008, CD reissue in 2009, and now available as a digital download) recorded 12-13 March and Underground (LP and digital download reissue by Sonor Music Editions’ in June 2014), cut between 9-22 May the same year. Any comments on composing the music for the albums, your feeling about their longevity and vitality so many years after creating them?

A: I am rather surprised at seeing so many years go and these records stay, while some much more important works, like Miles Before And After and others you have mentioned have almost disappeared.

Underground (1970) Record TV Discografica

Underground (1970) Record TV Discografica

“Uauàico, the fourth track, on Sandro Brugnolini’s recently reissued Underground LP and digital download, with Angelo Baroncini and Silvano Chimenti on guitar, Giorgio Carnini on organ, Enzo Restuccia on drums, and Giovanni Tommaso on bass, is here:

Besides Overground and Underground, Sandro Brugnolini appeared on another 1970 album, Freedom Power, a Cometa Edizioni Musicali compilation that includes “Reaction” and “Vortice.” Cometa reissued the album in CD in 2010 and Sonor Music Editions in vinyl in 2013. Sonor also has a digital download available at bandcamp.

Sandro Brugnolini’s “Reaction” has been uploaded to the Internet:

“Reaction” and “Vortice” are also on the first installment of Plastic Records’ superior Stroboscopica series: Stroboscopica, Vol. 1: Sonorizzazioni Psycho-Beat (1999).

Stroboscopica, Vol. 1 - Sonorizzazioni Psycho-Beat (1999) Plastic Records

Stroboscopica, Vol. 1: Sonorizzazioni Psycho-Beat (1999) Plastic Records

The 2001 CD by the Italian label, Stroboscopica, Vol. 3: 20 Jazzy Orchestral Latin Strobo Sounds From Cinematic ’70’s Filmworks, features a pair of Sandro Brugnolini compositions, “Guiggi” and “Supermarket,” as well.

“Supermarket” initially appeared on Sandro Brugnolini’s Utopia album in 1972.

An audio file of “Supermarket,” composed by Sandro Brugnolini, is on SoundCloud:

In 1974, composers Sandro Brugnolini, Giancarlo Gazzani, Pucccio Roelens, and Stefano Torossi created Feelings, frequently cited as one of the finest albums ever produced in the Library Music genre.

Q: How did you come to join the Feelings project?

A: It was like a slowly ripening fruit, benefiting from the work of the whole team over a period of time.

Jay Richford and Gary Stevan (aka Stefano Torossi) - Feelings (1974) reissue (2012) Golden Pavilion Records [Portugal] (GP1017LP)

Sandro Brugnolini, Giancarlo Gazzani, Puccio Roelens, and Stefano Torossi – Feelings (1974) (Reissue 2012) Golden Pavilion Records

Q: Besides composing, did you play on any tracks on Feelings?

A: I did not play on any of the selections of the album.

“Walking In The Dark,” one of ten classic compositions from Sandro Brugnolini, Giancarlo Gazzani, Puccio Roelens, and Stefano Torossi, is here:

Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi appeared on another album for Costanza Records in 1974, albeit very briefly as Giancarlo Gazzani’s Musica per commenti sonori (CO 10010) was released and then abruptly withdrawn.

Q: What do you recall about this rather mysterious project?

A: Pieces and recordings on this Costanza disc were made in Milan and Rome between February and July of 1974, by Brugnolini, Gazzani and Torossi, directed and arranged by Gazzani. The titles include: “Aggressione,” “Abbandono,” “Faccia di bronzo,” “Shift,” “Perifrasi,” “Ok Jazz!,” “Delicato,” “Mondanità e esotismo,” and “Genio e sregolatezza.”

Audio files of Giancarlo Gazzani’s “Aggressione,” “Shift,” and “Perifrasi,” with Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi, are online:

Q: Two albums you made with Amedeo Tommasi and others under the alias Narassa, 1974’s Camera-Car and Made In U.S.A. (197?), were each recently reissued by Arison in both CD and LP. What’s your favorite track from Camera-Car?

A: My favorite selection is the one that gives the album its title.

“Camera-Car” by Narasssa (aka Sandro Brugnolini) and Amedeo Tommasi is on YouTube:

Q: What about Made In U.S.A.? If you had to choose one standout track, which one?

A: My favorite from that album is the first cut, “Lalo.”

Narassa (aka Sandro Brugnolini) and Amedeo Tommasi - Made In U.S.A. (197?) Colimbo

Narassa (aka Sandro Brugnolini) and Amedeo Tommasi – Made In U.S.A. (197?) Colimbo

Four tracks from Made In U.S.A., composed by Sandro Brugnolini under the pseudonym Narasssa and performed by the Amedeo Tommasi Trio are on SoundCloud, including “Louisville,” “Black Rock,” “Tensione sociale,” and “Hard Power”:

Q: What are the chances the 1975 album L’uomo dagli occhiali a specchio gets either a CD or digital release?

A: I’ve heard talk about a possible reissue of this soundtrack.

Excerpts from Sandro Brugnolini’s L’uomo dagli occhiali a specchio are here:

In 1986, Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi released Strumentali: Genere computermusic – homo tecnologicus, followed the next year by Strumentali: Emozionale. Neither has been released in either CD or digital format, although the vinyl LPs can often be found on eBay and sites such as Discogs.com.

Q:  Any insights about your successful chemistry working together on so many projects, including with Stefano Torossi as a producer on Strumentali: Vita d’oggi  in 1991, Commenti musicali: Musica d’epoca – prehistoria e storia antica in 1993, and Musica per commenti sonori: Check Up in 1999?

A: We spent time together, we drunk, we ate, we made merry with charming young ladies, and in the spare time we worked… And the outcome was music!

In the 1970s, Ritmi e tastiere, a release on the Ritmi e Canzoni label included seven compositions by Sandro Brugnolini.

Sandro Brugnolini’s “Usual” from Ritmi e tastiere is on SoundCloud:

An MP3 vinyl rip of Ritmi e tastiere is currently found at Boxes Of Toys, one of the Web’s best resources for rare, out of print library and jazz music. Click HERE.

In the 2000s, Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi both had music on Flippermusic labels Primrose Music and Deneb Records including Children’s World and Kaleidoscope, released in 2008, and The Primrose Music Bank Vol. 1 and The Primrose Music Bank Vol. 2 compilations from 2009.

Stefano Torossi and others - Children's World (2008) Primrose Music (PRCD 012)

Stefano Torossi et al. – Children’s World (2008) Primrose Music

Q: Regarding the Kaleidoscope album you did three tracks for in 2008 on Flippermusic’s Primrose Music label, was “Space Fairy” from a specific earlier soundtrack project?

A: “Space Fairy” was composed specifically for this album.

Sandro Brugnolini’s “Space Fairy” is on SoundCloud:

In 2010, the Flipper Psychout: Original Italian Library Music From The Vaults Of Flipper compilation CD (and now digital download) featuring Sandro Brugnolini’s “Globicefalo,” “Balenottera,” “Stenella dubia,” “Lamantino,” “Orca,” “Marsuino,” and “Megattera” was released by Vampi Soul.

Q: The Flipper Psychout album is one of the first to introduce me to the Italian library music/soundtrack genre. There’s some amazing music on there… Which track do your prefer?

A: My favorite is “Stenella dubia.”

Sandro Brugnolini’s “Stenella dubia” is on YouTube:

In 2013, Deneb Records/Flippermusic released Sandro Brugnolini, Vito Tommaso, and Stefano Torossi’s Vintage Jazz, Pop & Rock: 1960s, 1970s, Easy Listening digital download, a reissue of Musica per commenti sonori: The Seventies (1998) CD by Costanza Records–which drew the majority of tracks from two identicaliy titled Musica per commenti sonori LPs released in 1969 by Stefano Torossi and Sandro Brugnolini (CO 10005) and by Torossi and Vito Tommaso (CO 10004).

Vintage Jazz, Pop & Rock (2013)

Sandro Brugnolini, Vito Tommaso, and Stefano Torossi – Vintage Jazz, Pop & Rock (2013) Deneb Records/Flippermusic

Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi’s “Interrupted” is online:

In March 2014, The Milestrane 1959-1964 Vol. 1, the most comprehensive collection of Modern Jazz Gang recordings assembled to date, was released in CD by Italy’s Il Giaguaro Records. The compilation featuring 24 original compositions by Sandro Brugnolini, many initially used in films and documentaries, is also available as a digital download from iTunes USA.

Modern Jazz Gang - The Milestrane 1959-1964 Vol. 1

Modern Jazz Gang – The Milestrane 1959-1964 Vol. 1 (2014) Il Giaguaro Records

Besides the June 2014 reissue of Sandro Brugnolini’s 1970 Underground album, Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi’s “Miss Apple” was included in Blues Moods: Playing Blues All Night Long, a compilation from ExtraBall Records released as a digital download at the beginning of the year.

Blues Moods - Playing Blues All Night Long (2014) Download compilation ExtraBall Records

Blues Moods: Playing Blues All Night Long (2014) ExtraBall Records

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am composing music for a series of discoteques on the east shore of the Adriatic Sea… And, of course, I keep working on my own for no particular reason except my own pleasure.

Q: Are you aware of any other reissues planned in the second half of the year?

A: No, I know nothing about this subject at this time.

In the second half of 2014, Sandro Brugnolini continues to compose new music for film and television. In addition, he still finds time to perform jazz as well as to write. Brugnolini, who was a full-time and part-time parliamentary reporter from 1967 to 1993 (for non-Italian readers, this is a correspondent specializing in the Italian Parliament), is also a noted music critic.

More Music From Sandro Brugnolini

Modern Jazz Gang - Modern Jazz Gang (1959) RCA Italiana EP

Modern Jazz Gang – Modern Jazz Gang (1959) RCA Italiana

A selection of tracks composed by Narassa, an alias used by Sandro Brugnolini, including “Dirottamento,” “Amore giovanile,” and “Drumming Beat” from a self-entitled I Marc 4 album (1971) on Nelson Records; “Playing The Mood” from Ritmi e tastiere (1970s) on Ritmi e Canzoni; “Macero” from Viaggio Pop No. 1 (1970s) on Ayna; “Minaccia di guerra,” “Commandos,” and “Beat bellico,” all with Amedeo Tommasi, from Guerra e angoscia (1973) on Rotary; the title track of Camera-Car (1974), with Tommasi, from Rotary; and “Louisville,” “Black Rock,” “Tensione sociale,” and “Hard Power,” all with the Amedeo Tommasi Trio, from Made In U.S.A. (early-mid-1970s) also on the Rotary label, is on SoundCloud:

Sandro Brugnolini’s entire Overground album from 1970, featuring Angelo Baroncini and Silvano Chimenti on guitar, Giorgio Carnini on organ, Enzo Restuccia on drums, and Giovanni Tommaso on bass is on the Internet. Tracks on this overlooked gem include “Celluin,” “Adrie’s Dream,” Cirotil,” “Amofen,” “Simanite,” “Roxy,” “Alipid,” and “Brain”:

Speedball Experience: Obscure Pop Jazz From Early 70’s Italian Music Library, an unofficial compilation from Italy released in vinyl in the mid-1990s that features Sandro Brugnolini and Stefano Torossi’s “Sweet-Beat” and “Polyphony,” as well as Brugnolini’s “Macero” (released under his Narassa pseudonym), is online. The 13-track collection also has cuts by Gianni Coscia, Gianni Mazza, Amedeo Tommasi, and more.

Note: The original version of this interview first appeared on http://the6thdimension.com, a website dedicated to the music of Stefano Torossi and his many talented musical collaborators. Click the 6D icon to access the full-length original interview.

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