On a routine flight to Frankfurt earlier this year, I turned around in my seat and was pleasantly surprised to see Paolo Russo sitting behind me.
Now I’m no stranger to this Italian-born, Danish-dwelling musician, having followed his career for the last year. As we chatted our way through the maze that is Frankfurt Airport, we realised we were both on the first leg of our journey to somewhere very special. For me it was to my home country … for Russo it was to the spiritual home of his beloved bandoneon: Argentina.
Russo is currently one of the very few professional bandoneon players in Scandinavia. He describes his unique musical style as a successful meeting of southern flavours and Scandinavian landscapes with a touch of Argentinian tango.
For those of you unfamiliar with the bandoneon, think of it as a free-reed musical instrument similar to an accordion with bellows and buttons at both ends. While it is of German origin, it was in Argentina that this instrument developed and became an essential instrument in tango ensembles.
For Russo, playing the bandoneon isn’t simply about reading notes off a page. Talking with him you realise that he doesn’t distinguish between himself and his music. It’s as much of an expression of him as he is of it. He doesn’t just see his instrument as a form of aural beauty, but as a tool to provoke his audience to feel something beyond the notes.
“Someone may get euphoric, someone may cry, someone may get pissed off – this is the beauty of music,” says Russo defiantly.
For his next performance at the Jazzhus Montmartre, Russo has formed a trio together with two Swedish musicians: singer Josefine Cronholm and bass player Thommy Andersson.
For a year now, the trio have sought to compose new original material together – a process Russo describes as “a challenging encounter between the Nordic soul and the Italian spirit”.
He emphasises that audiences should prepare themselves to be immersed in a musical experience like no other.
“I want our music to touch each soul, elevate each spirit and hopefully get everyone to see, just for a moment, the infinity of our existence.”
The trio will also use this material for their upcoming album, which is due to be recorded in the studio in mid-September.
But while Russo has six very successful albums under his belt, it’s the live element of music that he enjoys the most.
“There’s a humanity one gains through a live performance that can’t be found anywhere else,” Russo says.
He believes audiences don’t emerge from their houses on cold evenings to hear something they could get from a CD.
“With live music, you have to give your audience a form of communication that goes beyond words and explanation.”
If you’re familiar with Russo’s music, you’ll know that it’s an enjoyable experience, both from a technical perspective and an emotional one. The bandoneon is a rare instrument on the Scandinavian jazz scene and that’s its star quality.
When you team it with a vocalist and a bass player, it’s a melding of old cultures and new rhythms, melancholic sorrowful tunes and passionate beats. It pushes the boundaries and redefines the definition of modern jazz.
Live music is a powerful force, and never more so than when the musicians aim to hit audiences in the heart right away.
So treat yourself to the experience of this exceptional trio this Saturday night at the Jazzhus Montmartre.
Paolo Russo with Josefine Cronholm & Thommy Andersson
Jazzhus Montmartre, Store Regnegade 19A, Cph K; Sat (Sep 8), 20:00; tickets: 285kr; www.jazzhusmontmatre.dk