With a new album coming out soon, it is time to shine a well overdue light on the brilliant Italian Jazz singer, improviser, composer and psychologist Diana Torti.
Singing and exploring the voice has been an integral part of Diana’s life since she was a small child, when she first started improvising. ‘When I was a child, I started doing imitations and I think this was important because now I really love improvisation in singing. I love the possibilities of sounds with your own voice, and I think this was an important part of my childhood. I was very keen to listen to sounds and to reproduce them whether it was from an advert, another song or even just a noise. For most of my life, I have listened to instruments more than singers’
Growing up in Umbria, Italy, Diana had a rich musical environment to feed from and was initially drawn to traditional music. ‘We travelled a lot because of my parents’ work but mostly I spent my childhood in Umbria, which is a region in the very heart of Italy. A really beautiful place with a peaceful countryside. I listened to everything coming from the TV, the street, the music my parents were listening to which was both Italian and English. But also Umbria, this beautiful region, has so many beautiful mediaeval places and has a strong tradition of mediaeval music. When I was 20 years old I started practising and singing ancient music with an ensemble and then collaborating with them so I started working as a professional singer in my 20s, with a strong connection to traditional music and identity within the history of Italian music’
But it wasn’t long before jazz came calling and as with many singers, it was the voice of Billie Holiday that drew Diana to jazz. ‘I fell in love with jazz when I was about 21 or 22 and I went to this beautiful, wonderful singing teacher Cinzia Spata. She told me that I had to listen to Billie Holiday. I said to myself, I’ve never heard of him! Yes, I thought it was a him! I knew nothing about jazz. After two weeks of lessons, my mother bought me a collection of Billie Holiday CDs which included some discussions that she had with musicians, so it was not only musical, but there were also conversations and chatting, which was amazing. I believe that when you want to learn something, you listen to the real life, and I fell in love with jazz, from that moment.’
It also wasn’t long before Diana found a beautiful connection with the guitarist and composer Sabino de Bari. Having first met in Rome, they have been working together since 2006 and this relationship is magical. ‘Together we feel so free to express ourselves. My way of expressing myself through voice, his way through his guitar and together it feels like we have something very special. We feel so connected and sometimes we don’t even need to speak about something, it just magically happens’.
This chemistry is beautifully explored in their upcoming album It’s All We Have due to be released on April 7th. ‘Sabino and I felt a new sense of freedom in expressing ourselves, through sound and felt the urgency to say something and to do something that expresses our gratitude. The title of the album, for us, has a double meaning. It means we are aware of the beauty; of the nature and the humanity we are surrounded by and we want to say that out loud that this is beautiful! But also, all the things that are happening right now are not easy and there are so many events that have had a negative effect on life. I mean the last two or three years have been very difficult for everybody and especially for artists. I think it was important for us that right now was the time to express this through our music. But we wanted to express a sense of positivity, the other side of the negatives – the beautiful nature and the way we should respect the magnificence of the things we are surrounded by.’
Diana and Sabino will be launching their new album in April and it promises to be something quite magical. While you wait, you can explore their work together through their two previous albums, On A Cloud and Lo Racconta il Mare. On A Cloud emerged through Diana’s vocal research, where she explored the pioneer Jeanne Lee. ‘She proposed a way of performing that was not competitive nor above the others nor against them, but of great exchange and dialogue with the other artists with whom she related. A redefinition of the image of women, therefore, but also of women in the collective. Jeanne Lee expresses a great sense of positivity and humanity’. Lo Racconta il Mare is a beautiful collection of songs for voice, flute and alto flute, classical and soprano guitar, narrator and electronics based on old dialect works and elements from Molfetta musical tradition (South Italy).
To find out more follow Diana Torti
This interview was first published in the Women in Jazz Media March 2023 magazine
Last modified: March 27, 2023