Gianmaria Testa was born near Cuneo (in Italy’s Piedmont region) in 1958. He grew up in a family of farmers and he learned as self-taught to play guitar, writing his first songs as soon as he learned his chords. Gianmaria played and sang in several local rock bands before discovering his true, solitary vocation. In 1993 and 1994 he won first prize at the Recanati Festival for emerging singer-songwriters, where he met a French producer (Nicole Courtois) who really appreciated his demo tape. His first CD,Montgolfières, was published by Label Bleu in 1995.
Gianmaria’s warm, dusky voice tells stories of wind and memories, earth and fog, objects that soar from one horizon to another and ladies in train stations (“Donne nelle stazioni”) who head off on someone else’s arm without looking back. His music is personal and richly melodic, flecked with accents of tango, bossa nova, habañera and jazz, but as spare and essential as a pencil sketch, imparting great beauty with simplicity and directness.
On the heels of Montgolfières’ superb reviews, in February 1996 Gianmaria made his début at New Morning, one of Paris’s most important clubs. He showed himself to be an artist of great presence, communicating the joy of making music with such outstanding sidemen as David Lewis (trombone), Jon Handelsman (sax, clarinet), François and Louis Moutin (bass and drums), Leonardo Sanchez (guitar) and René Michel (accordion, piano).
In October 1996 Gianmaria released his second CD: Extra-muros, the very first release on Tôt ou Tard, Warner France’s new label devoted to songwriters. His voice seemed to have gained new richness and depth, and there was a new freedom to the instrumental playing, featuring his comrades in art from New Morning. The driving rhythms of jazz, lively fanfares, piano solos, sudden silences: they all served to emphasize Gianmaria’s sincerity and his subtle, elegant way of telling tales of melancholy and quiet joy.
In February 1997, five months after the release of Extra-muros, Gianmaria gave a concert at the Olympia. He was one of the last musicians to perform at the legendary Paris music hall before its renovation. The engagement marked a key moment in his young career, which, in the space of two years, saw him going from being a completely unknown Italian singer-songwriter to making a chance début in France to becoming a runaway success. Still, those familiar with his CDs and live appearances couldn’t help but note the composure, confidence, sincerity and utter lack of self-importance with which he made these enormous strides.
Thanks to his appearance at the Olympia, the Italian press finally began to take note of Gianmaria: critics were first surprised, then unanimous in hailing this important new voice in the Italian singersongwriter tradition. In subsequent months, Gianmaria undertook tours in France, Italy, Portugal, and Canada: roughly a hundred dates, in small clubs and major theatres, nearly all capped with prolonged standing ovations.
In February 1999 Gianmaria released his third CD: Lampo(Tôt ou Tard), recorded in Italy and France. The title alludes to both lightening and the flash of a camera: a luminous instant, short-lived, but leaving an indelible trace in one’s memory. Lampo is a disc of micro-stories, of everyday people and things that take on surprising dimensions: lovers in Rome, the moon, chestnut trees, chalk dust left on doorsteps to mark the steps of visitors… Once again, critics were unanimous in welcoming a magnificent album, alive with a quiet, gentle swing, seemingly suspended in a dimension outside of time, “lunar” and earthy at the same time. For Lampo, Gianmaria invited some of his favorite musicians to put their stamp on certain cuts: Glenn Ferris (trombone) for “Petite reine” and “Lampo,” Vincent Segal (cello) for “Lucia di notte” and “Comete,” and Riccardo Tesi (folk accordion) and Rita Marcotulli (piano) for “Gli amanti di Roma.” David Lewis led the core of outstanding sidemen providing the fundamental color of the album.
In celebration of Lampo’s artistic success, Gianmaria decided to undertake another series of concerts at New Morning in March 1999. The end of the year brought additional dates in France with a new quartet, consisting of Gianmaria backed up by René Michel (piano, accordion), Leonardo Sanchez (guitar), and Roberto Tormo (bass). Gianmaria also gave duo concerts with Pier Mario Giovannone, a friend and guitar virtuoso.
In 2000 Gianmaria gave life to a memorable series of concerts at Alba’s Teatro Sociale, with special guests including Enrico Rava, Rita Marcotulli, Arthur H and the Mancuso brothers. In February he sold out Rome’s Teatro Valle with his Italian quartet: Enzo Pietropaoli (bass), Gabriele Mirabassi (clarinet) and Pier Mario Giovannone (guitar). May 2000 found Gianmaria back at the Olympia, opening for Israeli chanteuse Noa and scoring an overwhelming success.
Later that year, in October, he made a new CD of songs and poems, Il valzer di un giorno. The CD represented a real gamble: solo voice backed up with acoustic guitar (Pier Mario Giovannone), relying solely on the quality of the material and not on “special effects.” It was Gianmaria’s first CD recorded and produced entirely in Italy and distributed via alternative channels: Italy’s 45,000 newsstands. As it happens, Il valzer di un giorno sold 20,000 copies in its very first month of release and needed to be repressed immediately. It included two new songs (“Piccoli fiumi” and “Il valzer di un giorno”) as well as readings of Giovannone’s marvelous poetry. Following the release ofIl valzer di un giorno, Gianmaria played in Italian most prestigious theatres, includingTeatro Regio in Turin, Teatro Valle in Rome, Galleria Toledo in Naples, Teatro Duse in Bologna , Teatro Pergola in Florence, and Teatro Gustavo Modena in Genoa.
In March 2001, Il valzer di un giorno, now entitled La valse d’un jour, was released by Harmonia Mundi as a CD-book in France, the rest of Europe, Canada and the United States. To coincide with its release, Gianmaria played two sold-out dates at Paris’sCafé de la Danse; his concerts and the CD received extensive coverage in Le Monde and other leading publications. To date, La valse d’un jour has sold more than 80,000 copies, and was eventually released by Harmonia Mundi in Italy through normal distribution channels, given ever-growing demand.
Other 2001 highlights included an evening dedicated to Nobel Prize winner José Saramango: Gianmaria, with Riccardo Tesi and Piero Ponzo, composed music to accompany a reading of Saramago’s Tale of an Unknown Island; tours of Austria, Switzerland and Germany; and a concertshow in celebration of Fred Buscaglione, Guarda che luna!, with Enrico Rava, Banda Osiris, Stefano Bollani, Enzo Pietropaoli and Piero Ponzo, produced by Produzioni Fuorivia and Turin’s Teatro Stabile. Guarda che luna! was chosen to open the 2002 Umbria Jazz Festival and also toured throughout 2002-03. Along with Roberto Cipelli and Paolo Fresu, and with the participation of Attilio Zanchi and Gianni Cazzola, Gianmaria created Omaggio a Leo Ferrè in 2002. That same year saw the worldwide re-release of Montgolfières by Harmonia Mundi in deluxe CD-book packaging.
Gianmaria’s album, Altre latitudini (Le Chant du Monde/Harmonia Mundi) was released in October 2003 in Europe and Canada. Its January 2004 United States release won a rave review in Time Out New York and extensive airplay on WNYC, the most listened-to NPR station in America. The “latitudes” of the title are those of the heart, explored in fourteen songs of love lost and found, backed up by some of today’s finest musicians (including Mario Brunello, Enrico Rava, Rita Marcotulli, David Lewis, Gabriele Mirabassi, Luciano Biondini and Fausto Mesolella). The fifth CD of Gianmaria’s remarkable career, Altre latitudini is an album of maturity: of his voice, more expressive than ever; of his texts, still sober, essential, and evocative; and of his music, with ever more distinctive melodies.
Following the release of Altre latitudini, Gianmaria toured Italy, France (including a week at the Café de la Danse), and Germany. Summer 2004 will bring several concerts in Canada.
In 2004 Gianmaria Testa tooked part in 3 important theatrical productions: Rossi in testa, dreamlike journey with Paolo Rossi and Chisciotte e gli invincibili, from an unpublished text by Erri de Luca. The show has turned all around Italy for four seasons with great success and since 2008 it has also been played in France (Granoble, Paris, Clais…). The show also becam a dvd edited bu Gallimard.
From the experience of Chischiotte e gli invincibili comes Chisciottimisti, a new show with the same cast and the same atmospheres, which is going to debut on season 2013.2014 In October 2006 Gianmaria Testa has released, Da questa parte del mare, a turning point in his artistic production. It’s a “concept album”, wholly focussed on a single topic. Thus, the album has been thought as a novel and the songs are its chapters. All of them together tell a story.
The plot is that of modern migrations. It is a poetic meditation, a series of unbiased and non-demagogic reflections on recent years mass migrations. Gianmaria reflects on the reasons why so many people undergo the sufferings of leaving their own country, crossing deserts and seas looking for a better life. He explores the meanings of “land” and “country”, the feelings of uprooting and dismay linked to the idea of being forced to move away, irrespectively of the country we live in. The album is produced by Paola Farinetti for Produzioni Fuorivia. Greg Cohen is the artistic producer. Bill Frisell and Paolo Fresu are the special guests together with Gianmaria’s “historical” players: Gabriele Mirabassi, Enzo Pietropaoli, Piero Ponzo, Philippe Garcia, Claudio Dadone, Luciano Biondini.
“Da questa parte del mare” has received TARGA TENCO 2007 like “best album of the year”. After the new album’s presentation in France and in Paris (L’Européen – 17-21 October 2006) Gianmaria had a long tour in Italy in November 2006, February and March 2007, Germany and Austria (early December 2006), Than Netherlands (May 2007) and Canada (July 2007) and on 25th May 2008 has been introduced also to the Joe’ s Pub di New York.
At the beginning of 2009 a new cd has been released: for the first time Gianmaria has presented a LIVE album “SOLO-dal vivo” – the title of the album-, the recording of a concert in solo at the Auditorium of Rome. “SOLO-dal vivo” contains 21 songs and an unpublished one (“ Come al cielo gli aeroplani”), recorded in studio with Piero Ponzo (Indian harmonium and sax) and Nicola Negrini (double bass). The CD, produced by PRODUZIONI FUORIVIA, has been released in Italy on January 19th with EGEA RECORDS and on February 12th in the rest of the world with HARMONIA-MUNDI/CHANT DU MONDE label. The presentation to the audience has been done in March, April and May 09 with concerts in Paris, Milan, Rome, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, etc.
In October 2009 “SOLO-dal vivo” has been released as special, limited edition with a DVD including the first Gianmaria’s videoclip of the song “Come al cielo gli aeroplani”, a fine art video, recorded at Diavolo Rosso – Asti.
Besides, among the other releases of that period, we remind:
the DVD of the show GUARDA CHE LUNA! with Banda Osiris, Enrico Rava, Gianmaria Testa, Stefano Bollani, Enzo Pietropaoli e Piero Ponzo (October 19th, 2007).This show has been revived at the TEATRO NUOVO of Turin for the Season of the Turin Teatro Stabile (January 2009)
the re – release of LAMPO, (November 2007).
The DVD (Franch version) of the show Chisciotte e gli invincibili (Quichotte et le invincibles) for Gallimard (February 2008)
The presence as special guess in F. – à Léo (Homage to Léo Ferré), a jazz re-reading of Léo Ferré work, from an idea of Roberto Cipelli, with, Roberto Cipelli himself, Paolo Fresu, Gianmaria Testa, Attilio Zanchi and Philippe Garcia (March 2008). The album was released with success in FRANCE (Among others, Trianon of Paris), ITALY (among others Rome and Milan) and CANADA (International Jazz Festival – Montréal). F. – à Lèo was finalist at TENCO PRICE 2008 in the category “interpreter”.
2011 represented for Gianmaria Testa another important moment for his theatrical experience: in fact he debuted in the show ” 18 mila giorni- Il pitone (18 thousand days- The python” debuted at the Theater Carignano in Turin. It’s a text of Andrea Bajani on the theme of the job; Gianmaria is the protagonist together with the Italian actor and several times prizewinner Giuseppe Battiston, directed by Alfonso Santagata. The show, produced by Fuorivia together with the Fondazione Teatro Stabile di Torino has faced a long tour in Italy, from south to north, and it
will also be presented on the scene for the season 2011 -12. In the same year (2011) Gianmaria is again on the stage with Giuseppe Battiston in the show “Italy”, which tells about Italy, Italian migrations of the past century and, as in a mirror, about present migrations which turn our coasts from a departure point into an arrival one. They tell these stories using poems and words by Giovanni Pascoli, but also with songs by Gianmaria Testa, who dedicated his album “Da questa parte del mare” to present migrations.
On 17th October 2011, day of Gianmarias’s birthday, VITAMIA, the last album of his unpublished works, was released.
VITAMIA (“My Life”): eleven tracks that embody personal and political reflections spanning some fifty years or “18 Thousands days” (to quote the title of one of the album’s songs). Like life itself, VITAMIA is a fresco of human emotions that draws on an immense diversity of musical colors and nuances. It is a sort of budget of personal life and social life and it represents the natural evolution of the theatrical show with Battiston ( 18 thousand days- The python), obviuously with new songs and new arrangements. Gianmaria has just turned 18.980 days and he has felt the demand to look back and inside, to look at the sign that 18 thousand days have left on our country and on the life of the Italian people. VITAMIA may very well be the CD that you weren’t expecting from Gianmaria Testa—one in which musical settings and the sheer pleasure of making music play leading roles, with a pronounced and dramatic alternation between soft and loud dynamics. VITAMIA has been produced by Paola Farinetti. It is distributed in Italy by Egea Records and in the rest of the world by Harmonia Mundi – Le Chant du monde.
Following the release of VITAMIA, Gianmaria Testa toured in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Canada, Holland, Belgium, with some of the musicians who took part in the recording. On May they also played in New York.
At the end of 2012 Gianmaria Testa published his first book by Gallucci Editore: NINNA NANNA DEI SOGNI, a song-tale for adults and children, illustrated by Altan’s poetic fugures. The book has sold out three editions in a few weeks.
In May 2013 Ginamaria Testa published (still by Gallucci Editori) a new book: 20 mila Leghe (in fondo al mare), illustrated by Marco Lorenzetti.
In autumn 2013 MEN AT WORK, the new live album by Gianmaria Testa, has been released all over the word. MEN AT WORK has born from a longlasting and lucky tournee in Germany with Gianmaria’s quartet and it is composed by 23 songs, which represent the summa of his 20 years old career, and a live dvd recorded at OGR in Turin. At the beginning of 2014 Ninna nanna dei sogni has been published in France in its French version: BERCEUSE DES RÊVES, illustrated by Marina Jolivet.
In May 2014 another song-book for children is being published in Italy: Biancaluna it’s the title, always with the Editor Gallucci.