@ the Royal Albert Hall
16 November 2010
Click an image to enlarge.
Born in Asti, a small wine-producing town in northern Italy, Paolo
Conte has held a lifelong passion for jazz and the visual arts since
his schooldays. Songwriting started spontaneously, almost instinctively:
first he and his brother Giorgio, and then he alone, would write
songs inspired by books, films, and the imaginative development
of actual experience. He worked for several years as a lawyer. His
performing career began on a small scale as a vibraphone player
in local and touring bands (Saint Vincent Jazz Festival), with occasional
foreign trips (3rd place in the Oslo International ‘Quiz’).
However, in the second half of the 1960s his compositions drew
notice and popular singers began to record his music. For the first
time the public heard these strange, unusual songs: “La coppia
più bella del mondo” and “Azzurro” (sung
by Adriano Celentano), “Insieme a te non ci sto più”
(Caterina Caselli), “Tripoli '69” (Patty Pravo), “Messico
e nuvole” (Enzo Jannacci), “Genova per noi” and
“Onda su onda” (Bruno Lauzi), and many others.
Paolo Conte’s own recording career began in 1974, with his
debut album, Paolo Conte. For the first time, the public heard that
languid voice, nonchalantly walking a tightrope of melody, narrating
poetic fragments of brief encounters, sudden enthusiasms, and nostalgic
recollections. A year later, a second LP was released (also called
Paolo Conte) with another collection of songs in the same vein.
With these two albums Paolo Conte had made his public debut as a
He gained widespread public recognition in 1979 with Un Gelato
Al Limon and Paris Milonga, which were presented in 1981 at a special
“Conte Day,” organized by the Club Tenco at San Remo.
The following year saw the issue of Appunti Di Viaggio, a collection
of songs that provided a rich repertoire of concert songs.
Paolo Conte entered the limelight again in 1984 with his first
CGD recording, an album with the familiar title of Paolo Conte,
which received enthusiastic reviews. He followed this release with
a series of successful concerts at the Théâtre de Ville
in Paris, receiving critical acclaim throughout France. He then
ended his tour with sold-out concerts throughout Italy. The enthusiastic
atmosphere of this tour was captured on a double live album, titled
Concerti released in 1985.
With the release of another double album, Aguaplano, in 1987, Conte
broadened his artistic range, introducing new elements to his work.
With the release of “Aguaplano”, Conte toured abroad
playing in Canada, France, Holland (where he received gold and platinum
disks), Germany, Belgium, Austria, Greece and Spain---not to mention
two nights at New York's historic Blue Note Club. He also made appearances
at many jazz festivals including Montreux, Montreal, Juan les Pins,
Nancy etc. Following the tour, a live album (Live) recorded at the
Spectrum in Montreal, and a video (Nel cuore di Amsterdam) recorded
at Theâtre Carré was released.
After a short hiatus, Paolo Conte released a new album, Parole
D’amore Scritte A Macchina (1990) which introduced a new set
of recently composed songs and revealed another side of Paolo Conte,
a new musical approach which included backing singers and electronic
The portrait of Paolo Conte on the album cover was the work of Hugo
Pratt, a friend. In 1982, Conte wrote the music for the theatre
performance of Corto Maltese. In the same year, Hugo Pratt illustrated
20 of Paolo Conte’s songs for a book dedicated to him by the
editor Lato Side.
In addition to his success as a recording artist, Paolo Conte is
also acknowledged as a prominent figure on the cultural and literary
scene. In 1991 he received the Librex-Guggenheim award “Eugenio
Montale per la poesia”, in the “Verses for music”
The following album, Novecento (October 1992), marked a return
to a more familiar style--vintage Conte, in fact. The experimentations
of “Parole D’amore” had been left aside in favor
of a splendid band capable of suggestive echoes of jazz and musicals
as commentaries on Conte's famous rhythms, melodies, and lyrics:
elegant, seductive or even drunken rhythms lurching into hot jazz,
or barroom tangos; music of memories that are half true, half dreams;
poetic fragments of colours, images and fantasies.
The importance of Conte’s concert performances is shown
by the double album “Concerti” in 1985 and “Paolo
Conte Live” in 1988, as well as two videotapes “Nel
Cuore Di Amsterdam” (1989) and “Live In Montreux”
(1991), then by his 19-track CD called Tournée, a selection
of performances recorded live in 1991, 1992 and 1993.
In 1993, a collection of his songs, “Le Parole di Paolo Conte”,
was published by Allemandi. A second updated edition came out in
1997, put together by Doriana Fournier, a lecturer at the University
of Paris. The English version of the book, “The Words of Paolo
Conte”, was published in 1999.
In 1995 he released Una Faccia In Prestito, in which he worked
in close collaboration with bassist Jino Touche, percussionist Daniele
Di Gregorio, and accordionist and multi-instrumentalist Massimo
Pitzianti with contributions on individual tracks from other members
of his band. This album possesses the typical elements of the classic
‘Paolo Conte song’-- his taste for a pastiche of various
styles and periods, the evident pleasure gained from creating fantastic
musical texts accompanied by a witty language of unpredictable invention,
like the pidgin of ‘Sijmadicandhapajiee’, or the 'Spanish'
of ‘Danson metropoli’ and ‘Vita da sosia’.
The collection The Best Of Paolo Conte was published in Europe
in 1996. The 20 songs included in the album make up the first true
anthology of Conte’s career: songs which all have a place
in the history of the Italian song: “Azzurro”, “Bartali”,
“Genova per noi”, “Boogie” and “Via
con me”, all interpreted in Conte’s instantly recognisable
style. In addition to the better known tracks, some of the author’s
favourite are also featured, among which “Colleghi trascurati”,
“Max” and “Gong Oh”. In 1998 the collection
was released for the first time in the United States under the Nonesuch
label, and was followed up by a hugely successful tour (New York,
Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco). The Best of Paolo Conte was
voted record of the year by The New Yorker and Rolling Stone.
In 1998 a new live double album Tournée 2 carried on where
the previous “Tournée” album left off, and was
issued in response to audiences’ enthusiastic and repeated
requests. None of the tracks on this double album had been previously
released as live versions. Tracks such as the instrumental “Swing,”
“Legendary,” “Irresistible” (with vocals
from Ginger Brew), “Roba da Amilcare,” and “Nottegiorno”
appear for the first time on record.
In 1999 he was named “Cavaliere di Gran Croce” of the
Republic of Italy.
In November 2000, Razmataz was released to critical acclaim in Europe
on CD and DVD (with a montage of 1800 drawings by Conte accompanied
by music and dialogues). This is a sketch for a musical ‘’revue’’
set in Paris in the 1920s, the meeting place of European avant-gardes
and the new black music. Conte spent two years touring Europe with
sold-out concerts that include songs from his project, sometimes
combined with exhibitions of his drawings.
Paolo Conte returned to the United States again in late February
and early March 2001 for a second North American tour playing large
concert halls in New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco
and Los Angeles.
In May 2001 in France he was named “Chevalier dans l’ordre
des arts et letters”.
He also received an honoris causa degree in modern literature from
the University of Macerata in 2003, where he gave a lecture entitled
“I Tempi dell’Ispirazione”: il Pomeriggio. The
official motivation for the award expresses at best all the refinement
of Paolo Conte’s life-long work and art: “For having
translated into a wholly original language, of great textual and
poetic texture, types, places, situations, stories, and atmospheres
of aspects of the contemporary imaginary”.
In April 2003, Reveries was released worldwide – a collection
of 16 classic Conte songs, 12 of which were re-recorded and re-arranged
to bring them closer to the performance style of his much-appreciated
concerts. Paolo Conte went back into the studio with all the musicians
who had accompanied him around the world on the two-year long “Razmataz
Tour”, and recorded 12 new versions of classic songs from
his repertoire. The new recordings are interesting for a wealth
of reasons. The title track “Reveries”, for instance,
is a true masterpiece of a song which had previously only been recorded
in a live version for the album “Tournée”. Conte
classics such as “Dancing”, “Diavolo rosso”
and “Sud America”, feature new arrangements and allow
listeners a taste of how they are often performed during his magical
concerts.Versions which differ considerably from those recorded
for the albums published in the 1980’s. The album is completed
by the addition of four songs taken from “Paolo Conte”
and “Novecento”. After having been released in the United
States by Nonesuch, the album was also published in the rest of
2003 was also the year in which a box-set dedicated to Paolo Conte
was issued as part of the Einaudi Parole e Canzoni series. This
included the book “Si Sbagliava da Professionisti”,
in which Conte made rare comments on some of his songs. The introduction
is written by Andrea Camilleri and the Oscar winner Nicola Piovani.
The box also contains a DVD, produced by Renzo Fantini, in which
Paolo Conte talks about his art in a lengthy video interview, another
Nine years after his last album of new songs, Elegia was released
in 2004, with 13 new tracks from the Asti singer-songwriter. An
album of great artistic maturity, for the poetic and musical quality
of the songs which are truly original in terms of composition. In
a search for essential artistic expressiveness, Conte sings about
the elegy of life, or better of a life that is worth living.
In 2005 Paolo Conte Live Arena di Verona was released on CD and
DVD. The tracklist is the same on both (the concert at the Verona
Arena), with the same songs, eight of which had not formerly been
available in a live version: the six from “Elegia” plus
“La Donna d’Inverno” and “Gioco d’Azzardo”.
The CD also contains an brand new song, “Cuanta Pasión”,
recorded in the studio with the contribution of guitarist Mario
Reyes from the Gypsy Kings family and of the Spanish singer, Carmen
Amor. On May 24 2007, he was awarded an honoris causa degree in
painting by the Academy of Fine Arts at Catanzaro, where he gave
a lecture entitled “Razmataz – La Bellissima Negritudine”.
On June 25 2008, the concert “Paolò Symphonique”
made its debut performance in Lyons, France. This was a musical
project proposed by the Lyons Auditorium and the Lyons National
Orchestra conducted by Bruno Fontaine. Each concert includes a first
part with Paolo Conte performing with his historic group and a second
part in which they are joined by the great Symphony Orchestra. The
repertoire includes many well-known songs and a few new ones. Following
the debut in Lyons, the first dates for this new musical adventure
are July 31 2008 in Athens with the Greek Radio TV (ERT) Symphony
Orchestra and September 5 and 6 2008 in Paris with the Orchestre
National d’Ile de France.