Rocco Ventrella
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Rocco Ventrella

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Rocco Ventrella Releases "Give Me the Groove"
A native of the South of Italy, Rocco Ventrella grew up in Bari, on the Adriatic coast.
Rocco began playing saxophone at age fourteen, inspired by jazz records his father had
given him; for over twenty years, Rocco honed his chops by playing with the Big Band
“J.S.O.” of his hometown Bari where he appeared with an impressive list of artists such
as: Lee Konitz, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Benny Bailey, Chet Baker, Ernie Wilkins, Art
Farmer, Tony Scott, Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Mintzer and other collaborators including
keyboard wizard Renato Falaschi.
Ventrella developed a smooth soulful style that is a benchmark for European
smooth-jazz saxophone players. A combination of jazz improvisation and R&B, it forms
a bridge between late 70s jazz fusion and mid 80s jazz pop.
In recent years, he fell in love with Smooth Jazz and began writing and recording to
explore this new musical style. Rocco's recent mini-CD, Tribute To Grover Washington,
Jr. (in memory of the late, great saxophone player), brought him to the attention of
American producer Bruce Nazarian (Anita Baker, Millie Scott, the Automatix), and an
international alliance was born!
Give Me The Groove is a unique global collaboration, combining Rocco from Italy,
longtime friend Renato Falaschi from France, and producer/multi-instrumentalist
Nazarian from the USA in a smooth-yet-funky showcase for Rocco's performing and
writing talents.
The resulting CD has taken internet radio by storm! After hearing an early copy of the
CD, Jimi King, Smooth Jazz Programme Director of www.SKY.fm voted “Soulful Strut”
as his Number One Smooth Jazz Track in the 2006 year-end countdown, placed two
additional Rocco tracks in the top 25 including “Alleria,” and Rocco's soulful reworking of
“Feel Like Makin' Love.”
King said, “In these days of digital downloading, where the listener can pick and choose
what tracks they want, it's rare to find a CD that offers enough quality material to
make its purchase worthwhile. This is one such CD.”
- ejazznews.com


In my opinion, when performing covers of highly popular pieces,
interpretation is one of the most powerful tools to help ensure success.
Italian sax man Rocco Ventrella, hailing from Bari in southern Italy,
injects his artistic character into Give Me the Groove in such a way as
to clearly demonstrate that his interpretations are anything but the
same ol’ hash offered by others with less insight.
This is Ventrella’s first full-length CD. Before this, he recorded a
“mini-CD” dedicated to the late, great Grover Washington, Jr. If this
project is any indication, we could be in for a fun ride for some time to
come. Clearly, Ventrella is in touch with what works as he steps
through these covers with confidence and insight.
Kicking it off in lively/funky fashion with one of everyone’s favorites
“Soulful Strut,” he follows with a slow, sultry, and clear sax-laden
working of the Italian “Alleria.” Very enticing and sweet indeed. In
fact, it could be my favorite piece on the album, although he offers
many others that warm the heart or stir the soul.
Ventrella’s sax is quite captivating and always well-placed. He’s
accompanied on this project by the easy, gliding keys of fellow
collaborator Renato Falaschi and session guitarist Bruce Nazarian.
Already top shelf stuff, this is one of those CDs that just gets better as
you rewind and replay. A really perceptive R&B/jazz venture that I can
easily see becoming a staple in the field of covers. You don’t even
have to listen to Ventrella’s version of “Feel Like Making Love,” “On the
Night,” the classic “Winelight” or the funky sax and bass on
“Sensuality” at track 8 to understand what you have here.
His personality and feel are evident in each and every undertaking. An
album full of good ol’ “soothing” that’s great for whatever ails you (in
my case, that would be the lack of quality work from many in the
business today!). Remember the name Rocco Ventrella. I predict that
you’ll see it again and again.
LAWLESS
PERCUSSION AND
JAZZ ENSEMBLE
Jazz Behind Bars
(Lawless Percussion
and Jazz)
Get your CD in
the SPOTLIGHT!

- Jazzreview.com


posted by PM @ 8:05 PM
A native of the South of Italy, Rocco Ventrella grew up in Bari, on the Adriatic
coast. Rocco began playing saxophone at age fourteen, inspired by jazz records his
father had given him; for over twenty years, Rocco honed his chops by playing with
the Big Band “J.S.O.” of his hometown Bari where he appeared with an impressive
list of artists such as: Lee Konitz, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Benny Bailey, Chet
Baker, Ernie Wilkins, Art Farmer, Tony Scott, Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Mintzer and
other collaborators including keyboard wizard Renato Falaschi.
Ventrella developed a smooth soulful style that is a benchmark for European
smooth-jazz saxophone players. A combination of jazz improvisation and R&B, it
forms a bridge between late 70s jazz fusion and mid 80s jazz pop.
In recent years, he fell in love with Smooth Jazz and began writing and recording to
explore this new musical style. Rocco's recent mini-CD, Tribute To Grover
Washington, Jr. (in memory of the late, great saxophone player), brought him to
the attention of American producer Bruce Nazarian (Anita Baker, Millie Scott, the
Automatix), and an international alliance was born!
Give Me The Groove is a unique global collaboration, combining Rocco from Italy,
longtime friend Renato Falaschi from France, and producer/multi-instrumentalist
Nazarian from the USA in a smooth-yet-funky showcase for Rocco's performing and
writing talents.
The resulting CD has taken internet radio by storm! After hearing an early copy of
the CD, Jimi King, Smooth Jazz Programme Director of www.SKY.fm voted “Soulful
Strut” as his Number One Smooth Jazz Track in the 2006 year-end countdown,
placed two additional Rocco tracks in the top 25 including “Alleria,” and Rocco's
soulful reworking of “Feel Like Makin' Love.”
King said, “In these days of digital downloading, where the listener can pick and
choose what tracks they want, it's rare to find a CD that offers enough quality
material to make its purchase worthwhile. This is one such CD.”
One listen, and Rocco will give you the groove, as he has done countless others.

- Jazzchill(http://jazzchill.blogspot.com/search?q=rocco+ventrella)


Soprano-alto saxophonist Rocco Ventrella keeps his crowns polished and his loops flickering on his second album Give Me The Groove, the follow up to his debut disc Tribute To Grover Washington, Jr. Ventrella co-produced his latest release with modern jazz guitarist Bruce Nazarian who along with keyboardist Renato Falaschi supplied serendipitous segments for Ventrella's songs. Additional instrumentation by bassist Paolo Romano, guitarist Alex Milella, and drummer Saverio Petruzzelis on the final track "I Receive Your Love" was also used. Ventrella's smooth jazz levels on Give Me The Groove are mode with warm bubblies, silky serpentine glides, and discharging sparks which keep the home hearth flammable.

Ventrella's songs literally re-light the flames of a relationship that have been burned out, His elixir of potent crops and luxurious flumes exhibit fancy-free doodling that is managed with expert hands. His rendition of Grover Washington, Jr.'s song "Soulful Strut" summons ecstatic swirls looped with incandescent guitar spurts and washed in a light funk tempo. "Alleria" rings like a paramour's serenade to entice feelings of love to show. The whisking motions of the saxophone and Hammond organ are sweetly stirred while intercepted by softly discharged synth effects. The saxophone crowns reach imperious heights carrying a tuneful pitch that becomes a presence in other tracks like the doleful "Where Is The Love" and the radiant "A Night In Tunisia." The constellation of flickering notes on "Come Morning" are exquisitely fashioned by the saxophone and synth particles which interface with the slinky bongo-singed struts on the sensual, cool-jazz shuffles of "Feel Like Makin' Love."

The song "Winelight" exudes a flirtatious interplay as a dalliance between the saxophone and rhythmic beats form into an exotic dance. This is one track which Ventrella wrote solely and created the entire musical landscape. The dance tempo of "On The Night" is corporal in its arousing mixture, though the tone of "Sensuality" is more emotionally inclined for a cerebral stimulation. The title track has a smooth funk groove in the twisting saxophone lines while the final track "I Receive Your Love" has lounging harmonies and saxophone vapors which cosset silky caresses along the gentle flowing instrumentation. Ventrella not only handles the saxophone ligatures but also takes part in arranging the compositions and programming the bass, drums, and keyboard parcels for "On The Night," "Sensuality," the title track "A Night In Tunisia," and "I Receive Your Love."

Rocco Ventrella's recent album Give Me The Groove is music that only has love on its mind. A native of Bari, a city on the Adriatic coast of Italy, Ventrella is a product of his environment. Though Bari is not known for nurturing jazz music, it clearly nurtured love in Ventrella and he has channeled that influence into his music. Ventrella displays the possibilities which the saxophone has in making smooth jazz music and in re-kindling fires that have been extinguished. His music is made with purpose and a very important one at that.

by Susan Frances - www.helium.com


Few jazz musicians have epitomized the sound of contemporary jazz as did the late Grover Washington, Jr. Considered by many to be the savior of modern-day jazz because of his ability to cross the lines between R&B, popular and classical music with appeal and ease, Grover's popularity was very wide spread. As one of America's greatest exports, he carried the gospel according to jazz to practically every corner of the globe. His influence on other saxophonists including Gerald Albright, Najee, George Howard, Kenny G and Richard Elliot are widely known; however, there are other musicians who may not be at the top of the list impacted by Grover's unique presence. Enter saxophonist Rocco Ventrella, a musician who has felt Grover's influence from as far away as the continent of Europe, more specifically in Italy. In fact, Rocco may well become one of contemporary jazz's finest imports into the United States with the release of Introducing...Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. Although this CD only contains three tracks, it is one of the most important new recordings I have heard to date. It also goes the distance in elevating the consciousness of Grover Washington's impeccable talent.

Grover Washington, Jr. passed away in 2003. His departure from this planet shocked the world over as they recognized the true measure of his abilities would never be fully realized. Before his death and even thereafter, numerous musicians attempted to duplicate the passionate embrace of music created by this very unique individual. In hindsight, I believe Rocco Ventrella has come a long way in capturing the essence of Grover's sound. The tonal quality of his music is pure Washington, but the creative approach is all Ventrella's.

As stated earlier, there are only three-tracks on Introducing...Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. With that being expressed, it might also be stated that Rocco Ventrella has actually done an outstanding job with Grover's most recognized cuts. They include "Winelight," "Let It Flow" and "Make Me A Memory," all of which reflect Rocco's high regard for Grover. What is just as apparent, is Ventrella's display of musical range, which also makes for a "sound activated spiritual energy tribute" to the "Father of Contemporary Jazz." Rocco Ventrella's testament to Grover Washington, Jr. gets five stars by my estimation. His music is original and his choice of musicians creates an under tow of musical harmony that makes the CD even more compelling. All of the combined elements contained in this release will overwhelm the harshest of critics and at the end of it all, most will agree that this tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. is one that will surely stand the test of further scrutiny.

Prior to receiving information pertaining to Rocco Ventrella, I did not have a clue about the infectious nature of his sound. If the true nature of what Rocco has been able to accomplish with the release of Introducing...Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. is this dynamic in approach, then his influence will be heart felt and equally embraced by Grover Washington's devoted fan base. This recording left a vacuum with the release of only three tracks, which is a very big tease in my opinion. Rocco left in me an intense urge to replay this CD over and over again, as I anxiously await the next installment from this highly evolved saxophonist.

Sheldon T. Nunn-Jazzreview


- Sheldon T. Nunn-Jazzreview


Rocco Ventrella grew up in Bari in the southern part of Italy. After music Conservatory, Rocco participated in various clinics with famous jazz musicians like David Liebman, Michael Brecker and Bob Mintzer. In addition, he began to play in small jazz groups appearing in numerous jazz clubs and at the same time started to study piano and began to work in the studios "Crescendo" and "Sorriso" (ex C&M) of Bari. Since 1983, Rocco plays in the Big Band J.S.O. of P. Lepore of Bari where he has appeared with an impressive and long list of world renowned jazz artists. By 1998, Rocco began to love Smooth Jazz music, with the latest fruit of this love being the promotional CD Tribute to Grover Washington, Jr., a great tribute to one of his idols.

Rocco was kind enough to send me a copy of this CD containing three of Grover's most beloved and classic compositions: "Winelight", "Let It Flow" and "Make Me A Memory," which all were originally recorded back in 1980 on Grover Washington, Jr.'s Winelight album. Winelight is a record which definitely has touched the hearts of many smooth jazz lovers around the world. Rocco Ventrella gives the songs a new twist with updated contemporary grooves but still manages to retain the spirit of the original. In the beginning he reluctantly and respectfully approaches the songs but increasingly starts to bring his personality and improvisation to the mix, generating quite a bit of heat before the songs are gracefully brought to an end.

I am looking forward to hearing more from this ongoing project in the future. All of these songs have been added to the playlist of SwissGroove.ch and they definitely are radio friendly, groovy, spirited and do justice to Grover's legacy. Rocco Ventrella is a great sax player and a nice person to boot so let's hope that more finished work will be available soon so the world can hear this music.

Peter Bohei-SmoothJazzVibes - Peter Bohei


Al direttore del diparti-
mento “Woodwinds” della
Berk lee, Bill Pierce (Jazz
Mes sengers, Stevie Wonder,
Marvin Gaye) é bastato l’ -
ascolto del cd Give Me The
Groo vee aver letto il curricu-
lum del mago del sax, Rocco
Ventrella, per invitarlo a Bo -
ston, lo scorso 29 Gennaio,
per tenere una clinic/concert
pres so la prestigiosa scuola
di musica “Berklee College”.
Rocco Ventrella è uno di
qu ei musicisti di cui ci si
pen tirà per non averlo sco-
perto in tempo. Vuoi per il
suo “lavorare dietro le quin-
te”, ma mica poi tanto, vista
l’ultima prestigiosa avventu-
ra in America, il sassofonista
barese vanta le più interes-
santi collaborazioni (Lee Ko -
ni tz, Eddie Davis, Paolo Fre -
su, Enrico Rava, Tullio De
Piscopo, Tony Scott, Dizzie
Gil lespie, Rossana Casale,
Mario Rosini, ecc.), oltre che
un album eccezionale, Give
Me The Groove.
“Presso uno degli Audi to ri -
um della Berklee, mi sono
esi bito con la “Spajazzy”
(lad dove “Spa” sta per “spa-
ghetti” e “jazzy” la musica
che accompagna da una vita
la carriera di Ventrella, ndr),
composta da Sergio Bellotti,
batterista e insegnante della
Berklee e Tino D’Agostino,
bas sista e insegnante presso
il Liceo di Arlington”.
Il maestro Ventrella, dopo
il concerto, ha discusso con
gli studenti italiani e ameri-
cani presenti, sul perché egli
abbia voluto applicare lo
smoothjazz alla melodia ita-
liana. “Gli americani, in mo -
do particolare, erano molto
cu riosi di sapere”. Con la
stes sa band, Rocco ha poi te -
nu to vari concerti, “presso l’ -
as sociazione culturale italia-
na “Dante Alighieri”, il Liceo
della città di Arlington,
“Vernisage Jazz Restaurant”
e in molti altri luoghi”, che
vi vono di musica, non al mo -
Rocco VentrellaRocco Ventrella
EE’’pugliesepugliese
il mago del saxil mago del sax
do di noi italiani, fra una piz -
za e una birra, ma nel devoto
ascolto di chi ha crede nella
musica come sostentamento
dello spirito e non solo. D’ a -
ltronde, la musica jazz, origi-
nariamente, è nata da tale
connubio. “Tra i vari jazz
club, ricordo in modo partico-
lare il “Breezeway” in Rox -
bu ry – racconta Ventrella -
con i “WeJazzUp” di Frank
Wilkins, pianista, ex inse-
gnante della Berklee, di Dee
Dee Bridgewater, Mike Ste -
rn, Stevie Wonder; Andre
Hay ward, trombonista dell’ -
En semble di Joshua Red man
e Joe Lovano. Tutti que sti
musicisti mi hanno in vitato a
‘tornare subito’, per suonare
con loro”. Noi po tremmo
aggiungere semplicemente
per suonare. Perché il guaio
dell’Italia è che da noi c’è il
rischio serio che non si suoni.
Che musicisti come Ventrella
non trovino spazio nel nostro
paese, men che meno nel
nostro Sud. A meno che di
accontentarsi del piano bar e
del musicista dei matrimoni.
Ma questo risulta denigran-
te, oltreché fuorviante per un
musicista come Rocco Ven -
trel la, di grande talento mu -
Due immagini di Rocco Ventrella
si cale, tanto da essere stato
nominato al 50° Grammy
2008, entrando nei Top 50
artisti selezionati per la cate-
goria “Contemporary Jazz
Best Album”.
Non è difficile capire a qua -
le livello siamo, quando par-
liamo di lui. Basta far partire
la prima traccia del suo ulti-
mo cd. Il piano e il basso di
Bruce Nazarian che giocano
con il sax soprano di Ven trel -
la, non lasciano spazio alcuno
ai sotterfugi: è so ul, allo stato
puro. Grande emo zione per
l’aver dato l’ ani ma smooth ad
uno dei mi gliori calibri del
nostrano Da nie le, “Alleria”.
Dall’arran gia mento molto
intimista e assolutamente
personale, cu rato dallo stesso
Ventrella. Bel lo ed elegante.
Il glissato, sorretto dall’ham-
mond e il suo no noir del rho-
des, non fanno avvertire
alcuna mancanza delle paro-
le scritte dal musicista parte-
nopeo, ben sostituite da
‘quelle’ suonate dallo stesso
Ventrella. Per l’ipno tica
Winelightè difficile trovare le
parole per descrivere quello
che Rocco tira fuori dal suo
animo profondamente musi-
cale. On the night, un brano
scritto a sei mani dallo stesso
sassofonista, insieme a
Renato Fala schi e Bruce
Nazarian, ha mol to di quel
tanto amato smooth anni
Ottanta, di cui i musicisti
come Ventrella si sono nutriti
e di cui ormai so no assoluti
possessori. A pieno titolo.
Anche l’omo ni mo brano che
dà il titolo al cd è ‘griffato’
dagli stessi tre musicisti, ma
con il sax che in questo è
qualcosa di superiore (“all of
‘em!”). Qui Ven trella è in
assoluto stato di grazia: diffi-
cile non emozionarsi. I receive
your love, è il pez zo di cui è
artefice Ven trel la, quello con
cui si chiude il disco, per
aprirne altre. La fine dell’ini-
zio. Per dirla con le parole di
un fan di Rocco, che sul suo
bellissimo sito ha lasciato un
commento degno di racchiu-
dere tutti gli altri possibili
commenti di coloro che lo
conoscono e che hanno avuto
l’onore di ascoltarlo: “Ca ro
Rocco, la tua pre senza nel
panorama mu sicale in ter -
nazionale ono ra il no stro
cognome e le nostre origini
del Sud... grazie di cuo re”.
Per chi volesse saperne di
più: www. my spa ce. com/ roc -
co ventrella.
Giancarlo Visitilli
- Giancarlo Visitilli


It’s a long way from the Adriatic splendour of Bari in Southern Italy to the smooth jazz intensity that is Los Angeles but this is a journey that Italian sax virtuoso Rocco Ventrella has made to record and release his latest album ‘Give Me The Groove’. It follows the ‘Tribute To Grover Washington, Jr.’ CD that he recorded, arranged and produced in memory of one of his all time musical heroes and two of the tracks from this five track sampler have made it across to ‘Give Me The Groove’. In fact the album owes much to the LA based producer and arranger Bruce Nazarian who plays keyboards throughout and co-writes three of the tunes with Ventrella. This mixture of well selected covers, Grover Washington tributes and four new compositions all combine to produce an end product that is totally pleasing.
Unusual choices such as his take on the Dizzy Gillespie standard ‘A Night In Tunisia’ and a stunning rendition of an Italian favourite ‘Alleria’ set the tone and set the standard. Its an album on which Rocco’s playing often sounds more than a little like that of Grover and this is particularly so with his faithful interpretation of the Record and Saunders classic ‘Soulful Strut’. Taken from Washington Jr’s 1996 album of the same name Ventrella captures the vibe perfectly and does so again both for ‘Winelight’ (which, courtesy of Gerald Albright, recently found a place on the ‘To Grover With Love’ compilation CD) and the chillingly beautiful ‘Come Morning’. Rocco ratchets up the enduringly smooth mood of the album with nice versions of two songs made famous by Roberta Flack, ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’ and ‘Where Is The Love’, but is always at his very best when presenting his own music.
The unashamedly romantic ‘I Receive Your Love’ sits comfortably with the haunting melodic brilliance of ‘On The Night’ and when Ventrella turns up the tempo for the title track he creates a contender for best track on the album. Making good use of backing vocals that simply yet effectively call back the words of the title this is an extremely well constructed piece of hip contemporary jazz. That said a personal favourite is ‘Sensuality’. With a chilled out groove that oozes sex and playing from Rocco that’s right in the pocket this one really gets the job done.
In ‘Give Me The Groove’ Rocco Ventrella has created a superb example of smooth jazz music that is the perfect antidote to a stressful day. To buy it and to find out more about Rocco go to www.roccoventrella.com - Smooth Jazz Therapy


After hearing the latest album from saxophonist originally from the Italian city of Bari, Rocco Ventrella, one arrives at a logical and simple: the Italian genre you love Smooth Jazz and since then this album is like with their own European saxophonist with "Smooth." The album dates from 2006 and we are confident that Rocco Ventrella already working on a new album that will come soon. "Give Me The Groove"-that is how it is composed of holders of 11 subjects where the common denominator is the sound emitted by the elegant saxophone Rocco and sometimes moves us by its beauty. Once again the Italian saxophonist shows his weakness by the great teacher and Groover Washington Jr interprets classic themes of the late jazz saxophonist. A good example is "Come Morning", "Soulful Strut" or "Winelight", belonging to the album of the same name. Thus, "Give Me The Groove" starts with the classic "Soulfull Strut" in tribute to Groover Washington Jr, unfortunately disappeared several years ago. But we can not forget that the album also contains Rocco Ventrella's own compositions, in the case of "On The Night", "Sensuality," "I Receive Your Love" or "Give Me The Groove". On these issues the saxophonist receives participation of musicians like the pianist Bruce Nazarian or Renato Falaschi. Note that the 11 items comprising the record of Rocco Ventrella, players are seamlessly integrated and even have their own plot to be protagonists of the disc. Notable are the "welcome" from the keyboards and piano Renato Falaschi or the guitar solo from "Georgino" under the "Soulful Strut." In the musical arrangements of compositions involving Rocco Ventrella and Bruce Nazarian. As for the musicians involved in the project include Bruce Nazarian on keyboards, Renato Falaschi in Hammond and on keyboards, Rocco Ventrella up the saxophone, bass and drums. The album was recorded in two very specific scenario: in the United States in the Gnome Sound Studio and the Studio in the Mediterranean city of Santerramo, Italy. Of production, recording and mixing the disc is responsible Bruce Nazarian who is assisted by Rocco Ventrella. Also involved in mixing, recording and mastering the album and Massimo Stano Steve Hall. The latter is responsible for remasterization HDCD disc format which means a flawless sound. The album has received since its publication all kinds of praise from the specialized press. Jimi King of Smooth Jazz Sky FM Channels, said that today it is difficult to find quality music, and "Give Me The Groove" has that quality that is missing now in the music scene and recording. Besides international Saxophonist Dave Koz says Rocco Ventrella is one of the musicians to whom he has given more attention, both for its beautiful melodies and the way they interpret. The theme of "Soulful Strut" was named No. 1 issue in the Smooth Jazz category in the year 2006. Rocco Ventrella is positioned as the saxophonist who leads the Smooth Jazz in Europe. - http://www.nosolosmoothjazz.com/?p=1592


For saxophonist Rocco Ventrella, the lure of smooth jazz is
powerful. It’s so powerful, in fact, that it regularly leads him from
his home in Bari, Italy — on the shore of the Adriatic Sea — to the
shores of the United States. Actually, there is no smooth-jazz scene
to speak of in his native country, or, indeed, in Europe as a whole.
For Ventrella, who loves smooth jazz and is determined to make
his mark playing it, that leaves America, smooth-jazz capital of the
world, home of Dave Koz, Boney James, Euge Groove, Kenny G, Eric
Marienthal, Kim Waters, and many other smooth-jazz saxophon-
ists. In America, the 47-year-old Ventrella must compete against a
great multitude of like-minded talent. So far, he loves every minute
of it. “It’s very good here in the United States,” he said via telephone
during a recent visit to the States. “It’s my wish to move here. My
dream is to live in Los Angeles. I’ve got contacts there, and I would
like to stay there.”
Since there is no appreciable market or outlet for smooth jazz
in Italy, Ventrella relies on classical, pop, and funk performances
— even playing at weddings and the like — to make a living there.
He moonlights as an instrument repairman, working on saxo-
phones and clarinets.
His music career began with classical studies on clarinet
and piano before he discovered pop music and then jazz. But
it was upon hearing the sound of smooth jazz, courtesy of a
London-based Internet radio station, that he decided on his
musical future. “I heard my first jazz album at 15 when my father
gave me a Duke Ellington album,” he says in heavily accented
English. “I was captured from Johnny Hodges’ sound and solos.
But I feel more expressive when I play smooth jazz because what
people hear is my heart playing, and this is what I want.”
Among the artists who inspired him are familiar names like
Kirk Whalum, Bob James, Boney James, and Eric Marienthal. “The
first was Grover Washington Jr.,” he says, “then Dave Sanborn,
George Howard, and more followed. I loved Grover because I was
able to capture quickly his groove, his feel, his sound. I felt that
was his heart playing, and I love so much his music still today.”
Ventrella is not the First european instrumentalist
to try to make it in the world of smooth jazz. Some, of course, have
found success — among them guitarists Peter White from England
and Marc Antoine from France; Dutch saxophonist Praful; and
the British group Acoustic Alchemy. Another saxophonist from
Holland, altoist Candy Dulfer, has been popular with smooth-jazz
audiences since the release of her debut album, Saxuality, in 1991.
That disc sold more than a million copies worldwide, and her latest
release, last year’s Candy Store,
continues to sell well.
Despite her success, Dulfer
agrees that playing smooth
jazz in Europe is a decidedly
difficult proposition. “Smooth
jazz is basically non-existent in
Europe,” she says. “Jazz is popu-
lar, but in Europe there’s not so
much room for saxophone. In
the United States, there are a
lot of sax players. A musician
has got to have something that
makes them different. Miles
[Davis] was a genius, but he
was also a character onstage,
very well-dressed, articulate,
outspoken. Even if you don’t
have that genius inside of you,
you can bring something differ-
ent. Boney James, for example
— he’s very quiet onstage, kind
of mysterious. And a nice guy.”
So if you’re an Italian
instrumentalist who wants
to make it in smooth jazz,
you should be nice, mysterious, a good player, and head for the
States? Not a bad strategy, says Allen Kepler, president of Broadcast
Architecture, a highly successful consulting firm for smooth-jazz
radio stations. “Even with depressed sales, this is still one of the
more open markets. Smooth jazz has no walls. There are groups
like Four80East from Canada, Praful from Holland. It boils down
to talent and a performer who has a show, not an MTV-created
image or persona. It’s acts that are out touring. Smooth-jazz
cruises are booked solid, and there are festivals across the U.S.
There are definitely more opportunities here than abroad.”
Carol Archer, who writes a smooth-jazz column for Radio
and Records, says the best way for a musician like Ventrella to
make it is to go where the competition is because that’s where
the audience is as well. “You’ve got to go to the United States,
Japan, or Southeast Asia,” Archer says. Beyond that, she adds,
artists need hits. “By far, the most effective way of expos-
ing music to potential buyers is radio airplay. Adults make
choices based on what they hear on the radio. Without some
level of airplay and popularity, it’s hard to get booked into clubs.
Having a hit and the exposure and airplay is the way to go.”
That said, Archer continues, “It’s harder for [smooth-jazz]
artists to get airplay because smooth jazz is song-driven, rather
than artist-driven.” Furthermore, artists have to fit their music
into what else is being played on radio. “It’s a sonic tapestry,”
Archer explains. “Production is extremely important. There’s
not a thread out of place. There is a formula to follow.”
Will Ventrella make it? If his debut CD, Give Me the Groove,
(Smooth Sounds) is any indication, the possibility certainly exists.
The disc is a well-produced mix
of familiar tunes and original
material. It opens with “Soulful
Strut,” popularized by Ventrella’s
hero, Grover Washington Jr. Here,
Ventrella is soulful, indeed, with
his soprano sax soaring above
the bubbling rhythms. He turns
delicate on the following track,
“Alleria,” before taking on four
more familiar tunes: “Where
is the Love” and “Feel Like
Makin’ Love,” both associated
with Roberta Flack; and “Come
Morning” and “Winelight,” two
more tunes identified with
Washington. Ventrella brings
his personality to these tunes
without going so far afield as to
render them unfamiliar to the
listener.
Four Ventrella originals,
including the smoothly pro-
pulsive title track, are even
more engaging. “On the Night”
may be the best of the bunch: a
lilting melody atop a bed of electronic keyboards and programmed
percussion (including finger snaps) that leads to a gently swing-
ing chorus. The only misstep on the disc is an overly relaxed “A
Night In Tunisia,” with synthesizers unable to take the place of a
big band and with programmed beats that are simply too stiff.
Besides Ventrella’s sax and keyboards, Give Me the Groove
includes contributions by keyboardist Renato Falaschi and work
on keyboards, guitars, and bass by producer Bruce Nazarian. For
his few live performances in the United States, Ventrella enlisted
the aid of drummer Sergio Bellotti (who also hails from Bari)
and Belotti’s band Spajazzy, which also includes fellow Italian
Tino D’Agostino on bass and Maxim Lubarsky on keyboards.
Ventrella bemoans the fact that his opportunities to play
smooth jazz disappear when he returns to Italy. “There are
some opportunities outside the United States, but not for
smooth jazz,” he says. “There’s pop and funk, but it’s hard to
do smooth jazz.” Thus Ventrella commutes across the Atlantic
for gigs in the States. “I’ll stay here, more or less, for a month,
then go back to Italy,” he explains. “I am spending nine or
10 months in Italy and the rest in the United States.”
He hopes his shows with Spajazzy along with his CD will
help him gain a foothold in America. Unfortunately, as Carol
Archer points out, “It’s a very challenging time in the music
business. It’s not an environment that currently encourages
labels to find and support artists the way they used to.”
Ventrella is undaunted by such talk. Despite the fact that he’s
still a very small fish in the very large American pond, his ability,
joy, and enthusiasm for smooth jazz are serving him well. “Now,” he
says, “what I need is to find good management, and then play.”
Ross Boissoneau - Jazziz Magazine/Ross Boiss


Discography

"Sweet Temptation" - Innervision Records 2012

"Secret Agent" - single - RV Music 2010

"Where were you" - single - RV Music - 2009

"Give Me The Groove" - Smooth Sounds Music - 2007

"Tribute To Grover Washington, Jr."- Roven Productions 2006

Photos

Bio

Short bio:

The Italian American saxophone player Rocco Ventrella has enjoyed a Pre-Grammy Nomination Contemporary Jazz Best Album 2007 Top 50 and scored Top 20 smooth jazz radio stations with 5 tracks of the CD: Soulful Strut, Winelight, Alleria, On The Night, and Give Me The Groove and gotten quotes from George Duke, Everette Harp, Dave Koz, Marion Meadows, Chris Standring and more.
Rocco Ventrella appeared in selected jazz festivals include the James Brown Festival in Georgia, the 1° Annual Smooth Jazz Festival in Austria, The Cube Smooth Jazz Festival with Brian Culbertson in Austria, the Augsburg Smooth Jazz Festival in Germany plus performances in Luxembourg, the UK, the USA, the France. Actually Rocco continuous to play in the world. He shared and sharing the stages with most respected smooth jazz artists such as Peter White, Candy Dulfer, Renato Falaschi, Oli Silk, Mindi Abair, Paul Brown, Gerald Albright, Brian Culbertson, Nick Colionne, Jackiem Joyner, Nils, Jessy J., Marion Meadows, Jaared, Jonathan Fritzen and more.