Maria Chiara Argirò Quintet create avant-garde jazz music, rich in texture and unique in direction. The quintet strike memories of The Cinematic Orchestra, exploring pleasant tonality and timbre with charm and intrigue. With just a live performance on YouTube the ensemble have managed to debut clearly and artistically their vision and aesthetic, serving not just as a inwdow into what they are, but as a teaser of what is to come.
Having now completed writing what is looking to be a stunning debut album, we catch up with composer Maria to find out more.
(((o)))): Firstly, thank you for taking the time to speak with us! Could you give the readers a little background on yourself, and your history as a musician?
Maria: I’m an Italian pianist, keys player and composer. I started playing music at a young age but when I turned 18, I became more conscious of music and started listening in a deeper way. This firstly led me to study a degree in Ethnomusicology. There wasn’t any playing involved the course and by this point I was very inspired and eager to play more. I moved to London in 2009 to study. I graduated in Jazz performance. Since I moved here I’ve been lucky enough to perform with many different artists and bands with various music backgrounds, in many different venues in UK and Worldwide.
(((o))): Perhaps your best known work is performing with These New Puritans. How does this new project compare? What are the challenge are rewards that you’ve found establishing yourself, as opposed to working with such an established act?
Maria: Well most of the new music I’ve been writing for this project started coming to life in between the tours I had with These New Puritans. I remember I started writing a lot when we got back from the European and Mexico tour (December 2013). So meeting TNP has been fundamental. It’s been challenging to establish myself as a performer and composer because you have to depend on your own strengths and ideas, but working with TNP has been really inspiring and gave me courage to explore my vision of music.
(((o)))): What are the primary influences behind the pieces you’ve been composing as Maria Chiara Argirò Quintet? What are some of your inspirations?
Maria: As well my passion for Jazz, I’ve always been interested in different types of music such as Classical, Contemporary, Brazilian music, Folk, Rock and Electronic. I’ve been stuck for months recently listening to Tigran Hamaysan, an incredibly talented pianist and composer from Armenia. This has really influenced my most recent compositions.
(((o))): And what about your friends? Give us three acts you think everyone should be listening to.
Maria: A great band I’ve been listening to recently is called Knower, bringing fresh sounds from LA, and then I would say Shostakovich and Tom Waits.
(((o))): Improvisation seems to be a key factor in your performances. How much of a composition is completed before you take it to the rest of the quintet, and do these ideas sometimes develop wildly in performance?
Maria: I write all the parts for every instrument so I have a complete idea in my mind of how everything should sound. When you work with musicians of such a high level, things can change and sometimes a composition can sound even better than you originally thought. I often have lots of melodies going round my head at night and sometimes in my dreams, so I always make sure that I have my phone near by so I can sing/record any new ideas I have! I’m always excited to bring a new score to the band because it blurs the line between my subconscious and reality. There is always 50% of improvisation, which is fundamental for this kind of music. I take great care with my Compositions because it is the basis for and starting point for improvisation. I find that the melodies and rhythms are what most resonate with the audience most and is what stays with them once they leave the show.
The live performance is my favourite part though because all the initial imagery I have whilst writing the music really comes to life. The interplay between the musicians is a huge part of the composition because they are able to take it to new places, which is very exciting.
(((o)))): Finally, what is next? will we see you playing some shows soon?
Maria: We just got back from a successful tour in Italy and we had a lot of positive feedback and reviews. I’m now working towards getting some London and UK dates for the quintet, which I will be announcing soon. My main priority is to record our first album, which will be taking place in the next few months.
Lastly, I’ve been working in collaboration with a very talented animator, to create an animation for one of my compositions, which I’m very excited about. It will be available to watch in the next few weeks so watch this space!
Thank you for this Maria, and best of luck with the record. Hopefully some of our readers are now as excited to hear it as we are!