Leo Genovese: ‘Music is air moving’

I wanted to write a few words for the brilliance ofLeo Genovese, but there’s no way I can come up with anything better than his official bio:

Leo was born in Argentina in 1979. He moved to the United States in 2001.

He has been traveling the world playing music for the last twenty years.

He has nine albums as a leader and dozens as a sideman.

He believes in music as a force of change.

He practices the saxophone in hotel rooms.

He doesn’t support MP3 culture.

He cooks pretty spicy food, like his music.

A spectacular, inventive pianist, he is coming to Melbourne for a few nights to play at Bird’s Basement – here’s what he had to say about it.

What are you going to present at Bird’s Basement?

We will be playing music from my nine albums, [as well as] from my upcoming cd, in trio format with Jeff Williams on drums and Demian Cabaud on bass.

How would you describe your music to someone not familiar with it?

My music is influenced by everything that influences me and my life, [from the] things I learnt on my trips around the world. I grew up in Argentina, so many folkloric elements can be felt in my songs.

When did you discover your own voice as an artist?

When I learnt how to really listen. when I was comfortable being in silence for a long time. When I learnt to accept and to not judge the music.

Is it true that you have disowned your first albums? Why?

Music comes and goes. [It] is not property, it doesn’t have an owner. It is air moving. It is magic, it is medicine. Even if you compose something, it is not yours, it is patrimony of every human. I know the law works different, but the cosmic law is another thing.

What has your trajectory in music been so far?

I have been playing with lots of different bands in NYC and around the world, [with musicians coming] from lots of different backgrounds and musical styles. This year I have already travelled to all the continents on the planet. It’s a blessing to be able to discover the world doing what you love. The challenge is always to stay out of the way and serve the music.

What does it mean, being an Argentinian in the jazz world today? How has your identity shaped your life as an artist?

I have a deep connection with Argentinian music, poetry and other art forms. I think I became more Argentinian when I left the country and I rediscover the beauty of the land, the music and peoples traditions and their untold stories.

Is improvisation a life skill?

Life is improvised. Everybody does it on a daily basis, we are just not fully aware all the time.

Who are your heroes?

The people who give everything in what they do. The people who never give up. The people who challenge everybody with their art. There are too many names to mention.

How did you get into jazz?

I heard some cassettes in my hometown, Venado Tuerto, Argentina. I didn’t understand, I still don’t understand, but I followed a dream and here I am.

Which tune best describes your current state of mind?

I don’t know. The mind is infinite, tunes tend to start and end. I can’t pick one right now, but the spirit of Bud Powell is always there to help.

Leo Genovese is performing at Bird’s Basement in Melbourne from Wednesday 25 to Sunday 29 September