Chiara Izzi – Biography
“It’s very important for me to make music as a peacemaker, to work creating bridges between different worlds, to put different cultures in communication starting from the music.” – Chiara Izzi
“Chiara is one of the rare artists that we get the pleasure to meet a few times in our life.” – Kevin Hays
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Chiara Izzi is an award-winning singer-songwriter from Italy who has been based in New York City since 2014, three years after Quincy Jones awarded her first prize in the 2011 Montreux International Jazz Festival Vocal Competition. Since arriving, she’s become one of New York’s busiest vocalists, sharing bandstands with such luminaries as Kevin Hays, Leon Parker, Ken Peplowski, Diego Figueiredo, Jeff Hamilton, Aaron Goldberg, Bruce Barth, Eliot Zigmund, Warren Wolf, and Anthony Wonsey.
Izzi first documented her formidable talents on her well-received 2013 debut album, Motifs (Dot-Time), singing in English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese on an 11-track program that spanned the American and Brazilian Songbooks, Tango, high-level Euro-Pop, and Mainstream Jazz Vocalese and Scat. Izzi navigated each idiom fluently, on its own terms of engagement, displaying her prodigious vocal instrument, refined musicianship, inherent soulfulness, and ability to convey both emotional transparency and ebullient swing. In an All About Jazz review Michael Bailey praised Izzi as “force of nature,” while in Jazz Times Travis Rogers described her as “a talent to be heard, admired and anticipated.”
How that talent has evolved and blossomed since Izzi moved to New York is apparent on her 2019 release, Across The Sea (Jando), a cooperative project with pianist Kevin Hays who says about Izzi: “There was a sense of sincerity and honesty — a lack of artifice. She has an inner strength that I think is rare”. The rising star and established master, functioning as equal collaborators, address well-wrought original pieces and lyrics by each protagonist and highly personalized interpretations of songs from composers and songwriters who both artists love and admire.
Izzi began her musical journey in Campobasso, a city of 50,000 that is the capital of the Molise region of southeastern Italy, situated between Rome and Naples. Before focusing exclusively on singing during her teens, she studied classical piano seriously for almost a decade. She recalls first singing at 8 years old, and continued to sing while participating in various school functions. At 17 she was referred to the president of Campobasso’s Thelonious Monk School, which Izzi describes as “a small, very good jazz school with teachers who were professional musicians – they suggested that I study piano jazz and singing.” Not long after embarking on her jazz studies, Izzi formed her first band with several fellow students, with whom she participated in an immersive week-long event in Belgium that involved singing every day with a cohort of musicians from around the world. Rather than enroll in a conservatory, Izzi worked towards a Bachelors degree in Communications and Media in Campobasso, and learned by doing. “I started to go deeper into jazz, listening to records, finding my own way,” she says.
After earning her Bachelors Degree with a dissertation that explored the implications of an encounter between cellist Yo-Yo Ma and kabuki actor Tamasaburo Bando, Izzi enrolled in the Conservatory of Frosinone, near Rome, where she earned a Masters Degree in Jazz Music in 2012, graduating with honors. During these years, she performed extensively with her group, and joined various rhythm sections in different European locales. She also participated in several jazz competitions, winning first prize in Barga Jazz in 2009 and the prestigious Italian contest Lucca Jazz Donna 2010, while earning finalist honors in the International Jazz Competition Scrivere in Jazz, in Sassari (Italy) and at Voicingers 2012 (Poland) from a jury that included Patricia Barber, Lars Danielsson and Thierry Quenum.
In 2011, Izzi sent a demo to the Montreux International Jazz Festival Vocal Competition, made it past the initial screening and ended up being awarded first place from the living legend Quincy Jones, president of the jury of that year’s competition. In addition to a consequential cash prize, a voucher from competition sponsor Shure Microphone, an invitation to do her set at the 2012 Montreux Jazz Festival, and the all-expenses-paid recording session that generated Motifs, she received sage advice from Quincy Jones, who told her: “Sister you are very, very talented. You should go to the U.S., because you have to improve your craft.” “That helped me gain the initial confidence to think bigger,” Izzi says. “I believed in myself and enjoyed my music, but I hadn’t thought of myself as an international singer. Then I decided it was time to think about moving to New York.”
Upon her arrival in August 2014, Izzi took an apartment in Harlem and began making the rounds of New York’s clubs, using the Motifs CD as a calling card. She also quickly found leader and sidemen engagements at Iridium, Smalls Jazz Club, Blue Note, 55 Bar, Birdland Jazz Club
“My own music includes Brazilian influences, influences from classical music, and things from Pop and Jazz. I take ideas from whatever music I feel an affinity with, and then I try to make it my own. That’s the important thing for me. Otherwise I couldn’t express myself, and I’d probably get bored with myself, too, which I hate to do on stage.”
“A talent to be heard, admired and anticipated” – Travis Rogers, Jazz Times
“Sister, you are very very talented!” – Quincy Jones
“Motifs is her debut recording and immediately reveals a study, lightly-accented voice with a well-scrubbed sensual vitality that is fresh and crisp…Izzi joins as a force of nature with prodigious scat chops” – Michael Bailey, All About Jazz
“She’s probably one of the best scatters out there right now, effortlessly melodic, effortlessly daring… jaw-dropping excitement for a new youthful wave of appreciation, and invention” – Carol Banks Weber, AXS
“Having traveled to and performed in Italy for the last 35 years, I have met many Italian rising stars and have seen them to go on to achieve international recognition. Chiara is one of those rising stars that I speak of. She has the talent, passion, devotion, musicianship, and professionalism that is required for success”. – Bobby Watson
“She has developed a distinctly original vocal style and understands the feeling of jazz in a deep way. Her performances never fail to inspire and always elicit the very best out of her sidemen”. – Joel Frahm
“One of the few artists that we all get the pleasure to meet a few times in our life”. Kevin Hays
Una voce dalla forte comunicativa quella della cantante e compositrice Chiara Izzi, la quale trasferitasi a New York ha già avuto occasione di calcare alcuni tra i più prestigiosi palchi della musica live della grande mela quali l’Iridium, l’Apollo Theater, Smalls, Bar Next Door, instaurando collaborazioni con musicisti del calibro di Kevin Hays, Eliot Zigmund, Warren Wolf, Anthony Wonsey, Pat Bianchi, Yotam Silberstein e tanti altri. Con un’innata sensibilità musicale Chiara è abile interprete della tradizione jazzistica e di stili contemporanei, ma allo stesso tempo cantautrice e compositrice dalle tante sfumature e influenze, che includono anche il pop, la canzone dʼautore, la musica brasiliana e sonorità mediterranee.
Il percorso artistico di Chiara inizia nell’adolescenza attraverso lo studio del piano e del canto, simultaneamente ad un’intensa attività live. Dall’età di 17 anni ha la possibilità di sviluppare il suo talento suonando in tanti e diversi contesti musicali, con grandi musicisti tra cui, Roberto Gatto, Maurizio Giammarco, Massimo Manzi, Nicola Cordisco, Aldo Vigorito, Jerry Popolo, Sandro Deidda, Giorgio Rosciglione, Daniele Scannapieco, etc., con cui condivide esperienze musicali molto significative.
Il suo debutto sulla scena internazionale avviene nel 2011 in occasione di un concorso molto prestigioso collegato al Montreux Jazz Festival dove viene insignita del primo premio da Quincy Jones, presidente di giuria del concorso, nonché leggenda vivente delle musica internazionale. L’anno successivo la cantante, sotto invito diretto dello staff torna al Montreux Jazz Festival esibendosi questa volta su uno dei prestigiosi palchi del Festival, in apertura di Paco de Lucìa. È inoltre vincitrice di concorsi nazionali tra cui, Lucca Jazz Donna 2010, Chicco Bettinardi 2010 (terzo premio, sez.solisti) e Barga Jazz 2009 (sez.gruppi). E’ stata inoltre finalista a Voicingers Festival 2012 (Polonia), selezionata da una giuria costituita da Patricia Barber, Lars Danielsson e Thierry Quenum e ha partecipato a Scrivere in Jazz 2008 (sez. canto), scelta da David Linx, Maria Pia de Vito e Norma Winstone.
L’uscita nel 2013 dell’album di debutto “Motifs” per lʼetichetta newyorchese Dot Time Records l’ha portata a tenere concerti in Italia e allʼestero (Svizzera, Belgio, Francia, Finlandia, Stati Uniti) e a ricevere recensioni degne di nota su Jazz Times, All About Jazz Italia e USA, Midwest Record. L’album inoltre è stato presentato in alcuni importanti programmi radio in Belgio, Olanda (Radio Jazz meeting by Cynthia Thijs Coenraad), Italia (a Radio 24 da Gegé Telesforo, a RTL 102.5 Cool da Roberto Uggeri, a Rai Radio 1 da Max de Tomassi).
Si è esibita in diversi club sul territorio italiano ed estero (Svizzera, Belgio, Francia, Finlandia, Stati Uniti) e ha partecipato a note rassegne musicali e festival tra cui Montreux Jazz Festival, Jazzahead Festival, Libreria Feltrinelli, Voicingers Festival, Piacenza Jazz Festival, Villa Celimontana Jazz Festival, Elba Mediterraneo Jazz Festival, Eddie Lang Jazz Festival, Festival dei due Laghi, San Giazz…, Festival della Tradizione. La sua competenza in contesti musicali differenti, e le sue abilità musicali hanno valso sinceri elogi da musicisti quali Quincy Jones, Benny Golson, Kevin Hays, Joel Frahm, Javier Girotto, Bob Stoloff, Greg Hutchinson, Bobby Watson, Dado Moroni, Aaron Goldberg, Barry Harris, Jonathan Kreisberg, Curtis Lundy, David Kikosky e tanti altri. Nel 2012 consegue il Diploma accademico di II livello in musica Jazz presso il conservatorio L. Refice di Frosinone con il massimo dei voti e la lode. È inoltre laureata in Scienze della Comunicazione.
“Sono rimasto estasiato per la sua continua inventiva nei soli in ogni pezzo con variegati stili musicali, cosa che non è da tutti sapersi muovere su più terreni e non solo stilisticamente ma anche nelle interpretazioni e nelle varie lingue scelte per cantare che fa di lei un’artista a 360°. Consiglio fortemente l’ascolto di questo disco per il sentimento, la tecnica, la musicalità, l’interpretazione di Chiara Izzi” – Javier Girotto
“Il suo canto evidenzia uno slancio improvvisativo arioso, una brillante intonazione e una timbrica luminosa”. – Angelo Leonardi, All About Jazz Italia
“A talent to be heard, admired and anticipated” – Travis Rogers, Jazz Times USA
“Sister, you are very very talented!” – Quincy Jones
“Motifs is her debut recording and immediately reveals a study, lightly-accented voice with a well-scrubbed sensual vitality that is fresh and crisp…Izzi joins as a force of nature with prodigious scat chops” – Michael Bailey, All About Jazz USA
“Having travelled to and performed in Italy for the last 35 years, I have met many Italian rising stars and have seen them to go on to achieve international recognition. Chiara is one of those rising stars that I speak of. She has the talent, passion, devotion, musicianship, and professionalism that is required for success”. – Bobby Watson