Andrea Centazzo: The Drummer As Composer, Inventor, Writer…Searcher

Andrea Centazzo: The Drummer As Composer, Inventor, Writer…Searcher

Andrea Centazzo : Modern DrummerAndrea Centazzo is not only one of Italy’s most revered drummers, he is also an active composer, filmmaker, multimedia artist, writer, and inventor. He acquired U.S. citizenship in 2000 and is now a Los Angeles resident. His recordings include more than 170 LPs, CDs, and DVDs, issued mostly on his own label, Ictus Records, which was founded in 1976 and is still active following its 2006 California revival.

The drummer/percussionist has worked with notable jazz and avant-garde artists such as Gianluigi Trovesi, Don Cherry, John Zorn, Evan Parker, and Steve Lacy. His expanded setup of gongs, cymbals, and a host of percussion instruments inspired Centazzo to compose more and work in film. 1985’s Tiare, Centazzo’s video to push the idea of percussion as the core of a soundtrack ended up winning awards at numerous international film festivals, thus launching the drummer/percussionist into work as a filmmaker in addition to a score composer.

In 1991, Centazzo moved to Hollywood in order to focus more on composition and film soundtracks. In the late ’90’s and early 2000s, he created three multimedia operas: 1996’s Tina (based on the life of photographer/artist/revolutionary Tina Modotti), 2000’s Memento, and 2001’s Simultas. His multidimensional work has led to collaborations such as his presentation with author Jeffrey Eugenides at the 2003 Literature Festival in Rome. Samples, live drumming, video, and translation were combined with Eugenides’ reading of his novel Middlesex, resulting in a melding of narration and music that has rarely—if ever—been experienced.

Centazzo also carries a long-standing interest in ethnic music—studying and working with Balinese gamelan, traditional Japanese music, and Australian Aboriginal music—which has led him to help design a host of unique percussion instruments over the years. In 1974 he began working with Italy’s UFIP cymbal company, creating, among other products, the Icebell, a small, rough bell/cymbal hybrid. Unfortunately UFIP did not have the resources to protect Centazzo’s creative efforts, so the inventor began working with Paiste on its line of specialty sounds instead.

Over a thirty-plus-year career, Centazzo has won numerous music and video awards, such as the Premio Speciale Della Critica Discografica Italiana, the USA Downbeat Poll, an International Video Festival Tokyo prize, and the Prix Arcanal of French Culture. He has also written eight musicological books and holds a doctorate in the subject. Currently he is working in a duo with pianist Don Preston, of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention fame.