Gianni tells his story
how he came to the organ:
I was born in Milano, in a family where almost everybody could play piano, and I started to study
Classic Music at the age of five (with talented teachers like Bruzzone-Pozzi and Mattavelli).
My uncle Arturo Testa was a famous TV singer and Opera baritone, able to win at the "Sanremo Festival"
as well as singing Puccini's Boheme at "La Scala" (with Maria Callas and Giuseppe di Stefano); he soon
introduced me to Jazz and since he was also the owner of a big music-records store, I could listen to
hundreds of Jazz records. I started to play the organ at the age of thirteen (someone will smile) when
I badly broke my left arm and could not play the piano for some year due to the pain, while the organ
keyboard was softer and faster and needed less articulation. A couple of years later I became official
organist of the "Basilica of San Vincenzo", the third most important church of Milano after the Duomo
and Sant'Ambrogio. In the mean time I bought my first portable organ (it was a Gem :) and started to play
in local blues-rock bands and to work part-time (making demos in music fairs) for companies like Bontempi,
Farfisa, Thomas and Conn.
I falled in love with the Hammond since the first time I heard it's sound, in the radio or in various recording;
I recall the day when I played the "side B" of the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Loving": it was "Blues in F"
played on a wild-distorted B3. Another shock was when I heard another side B: it was July Driscoll's "Save me"
and the title was "Red Beans and Rice" (a Brian Auger's Hammond masterpiece) or when I heard "The Champ" by the
Mohawaks, another masterpiece of Alan Harkshaw (the original composer/player of The Champs) today a good friend of mine…
Desperately in love with the Hammond, I was visiting the local dealer-distributor almost every afternoon and when
"The Boss" (every pun intended) heard me playing a B3, he proposed me to be an official Hammond Concert-Artist
and demonstrator, as I have been for almost four years. This position allowed (forced) me to play not only in
Smith's or Auger's style, but to learn the "art of obtaining millions of sounds and athmospheres" widely using
the drawbars and the Leslie in any kind of music, an art I learned from skilled organists (like Brian Rowell,
Axel Alexanders etc) and this unique experience is still an important part of my background. Being a church organist,
I also learned to play the pedalboard quite fast and this is the way I still prefer to play the bass lines, using
my left hand for harmonies and counterparts, as any player should be able to do to be called a real "organist".
Bruno De Filippi (an incredible guitar-harmonica player) heard me playing in a concert and immediately asked me to
be part of new Jazz Trio with Tullio de Piscopo on drums, another Italian Jazz giant. Since then I played Blues
(with the Cooper Terry Band) and Jazz (also on piano) with most of the best Italian musicians, recording with famous
singers (like Adriano Celentano and Gino Paoli) and becoming part of a famous dance-show band (Johnny Sax) with some
of the best musicians of the Italian Rai-Tv Orchestra, another experience that has been an important part of my musical background.
I left Milano (and my Hammond) when I become Musical Director of Generalmusic-Gem (1974) and since then I played only
piano (in Jazz concerts) for over fifteen years, playing the organ only for Gem in hundred of concerts all over
the world (USA, Canada, South America, England, France, Germany, Benelux, Scandinavia etc) also learning a lot of
"tricks" from incredible "real" organists like Jerry Allen and Champ Champagne (God bless them). One "very special day"
I met Tony La Camera, who was restoring original Hammonds and building nice portable versions. I asked "Can I try to
play a real Hammond after fifteen years? Well, it has been like "recognizing" your real love after an entire life
without it (another smile...) and Tony soon built for me one of his nice portables from a real tone-wheel Hammond
(no clones, please) that I'm still driving around in my trailer or in the big garage of my camper, taking my lovely
instrument with me, all over Italy and Europe.
As a jazz pianist-organist I had the opportunity to play in concerts with top musicians like: Al Grey, Eddie Davis,
Bobby Watson, Benny Bailey, Tony Scott, Valery Ponomarev, Ingrid Jensen, Chet Baker, Terry Gibbs, Gary Burton, Milt
Jackson, Bruce Forman, Randy Bersen, Jimmy Owens, Cameron Brown, Yoice Juille, Madeleine Peirou, the Jestofunk band
(recording with Eric Marienthal) and with Renzo Arbore's Swing Maniacs, playing for Raiuno in various live Tv Shows,
(also broadcasted workdwide thru Raisat ).
This wide Jazz background allows me to (try to) play the Hammond not always in the "standard" way of playing this
faboulous instrument (sound and music wise). The inspiration is probably the same for all Hammond Jazz organists
(No JOS = No Jazz) but I believe we all should try to add our little personal contrinbution to the Hammond world.
When someone can recognize my music (saying: "Hey, this should be Gianni") I feel to be at least on the right way,
since my philosophy is "Roots in the past and leaves in the future", or also "Brain on the earth and the heart in
the sky". Or more simply: I love to play and I play for love.
Ciao Hammond brothers…
Gianni has also produced an audio file (8:21 min, 7,835 kB)
speaking about his way to the Hammond organ. Click on the
MP3 logo to listen to Gianni !