Aside from being great jazz musicians, what do Steve Gadd, Louie Bellson, Flip Phillips, Tony Scott, and Frank Capp have in common? You wouldn’t know it from their last names, but each of these talented gentlemen are of Italian heritage. Sometimes names were changed (Americanized) for the sake of simplicity or fitting in. Cappuccio became Capp, Sciacca became Scott, and Balassoni became Bellson.
In their recent book “Bebop, Swing, and Bella Musica: Jazz and the Italian American Experience,” co-authors Bill Dal Cerro and David Anthony Witter document “the many cultural barriers Italian-American musicians faced in the pursuit of the American Dream.” They also postulate that the importance of melody and harmony to those of Italian extraction make for a common bond in their interpretation in any music, be it opera, popular music, or jazz. Capital Public Radio’s Jazz Music Director Gary Vercelli recently spoke with both authors about the book and brings us this interview.