Buffalo Philharmonic JCOI: Composer Spotlight – Emilio Solla

Emilio Solla made his start in Buenos Aires and has since led a vibrant career as a pianist, composer, arranger, bandleader, and educator. He has performed all around Europe, Japan, the US and Latin America to rave reviews in many of the most important Jazz houses and Festivals. As a composer, Solla’s music has been performed at the Palau de la Musica during the Barcelona Jazz Festival, Chicago Symphony Hall, and Rutgers University. Emilio has recorded CDs as band leader on Fresh Sound Records and produced, composed for, arranged for more than forty other albums. His band La Inestable de Brooklyn’s first CD, Second Half, was nominated for a 2015 Grammy Award as Best Latin Jazz Album. Emilio is currently a Faculty Member at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and has given clinics in Jazz Composition at Emory University, Bates College, Gotemburg Music School (Sweden), Jazz & Pop Conservatory (Helsinki, Finland) along with past teaching positions in Argentina and Spain. Emilio Solla got his degree in Classical Piano at the National Conservatory of Music in Buenos Aires and his MA in Jazz Composition at Queens College in New York.

Emilio participated in the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute (JCOI) Summer Intensive last year and answered these questions for SoundAdvice. His piece Ñandú will be workshopped and read at the Buffalo Philharmonic JCOI Readings, Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at Kleinhans Music Hall.

Pianist and composer Emilio Solla

American Composers Orchestra: You have been a successful band leader throughout your career, with a Grammy nomination for your band La Inestable de Brooklyn‘s first CD, Second Half. Can you talk about how your experience in front of a band, leading the music in real time, translates to communicating with an orchestra on the page?
Emilio Solla: I think that what you learn the most out of that experience is the importance of writing out everything into the parts, with verse and chapter, every small gesture, articulations, dynamics, everything you can give the musicians to make it sound already in the ballpark of how you need the music to sound at the first reading. My music is strongly based on the Folk and Tango languages from Argentina, so many times I still make the mistake of thinking musicians from all over the world will understand what for me is obvious, for example, about how to phrase or play a certain rhythm. I keep making the same mistake: big band, orchestra, any large ensemble need everything you can give them in the parts. The other important thing is, if you know the people you are writing for, try to write FOR them, use your writing tools to accommodate as much as possible to the ensemble, as opposed to sit in a “composer throne” and expect people to play your music no matter what.
ACO: Theme One of your piece Ñandú is based on an Argentinean folk dance known as Malambo, which uses the superposition of the time signatures 3/4 and 6/8 as its rhythmic core. In what ways is this rhythm well-suited for an orchestral setting? In what ways do you think you are pushing the orchestra out of its comfort zone?
ES: Well, in fact, it is not! (LOL) It is much easier to play this music with less musicians, and ones that know those rhythms well! So this aspect, Rhythm, is, I believe, where they will feel less comfortable. The accents and phrasing are not your obvious ones if you want to play this right, and also the string players might find some unusual bow markings. 
ACO: Can you talk about your experience at the JCOI Intensive? What aspects of your piece were influenced by techniques you learned or ideas you encountered during the program?
ES: The workshop was awesome, so much good music in just a few days, ideas, writing contemporary techniques… I am not sure I can identify specific tools I am using from that experience itself, but I am sure some of them are there. That is the way I normally learn, I absorb and let things decant, later on I usually surprise myself by identifying things that show up in the new music and I can sometimes relate them to things I have been listening or investigating.
ACO: What are you looking forward to about the Buffalo Philharmonic JCOI Readings?
ES: Experience, learning, and finding how much of what I hear in my head has been properly translated for this huge instrument, the orchestra. I hate MIDI, so I only use the piano and the color palette is in my head all the time. I want to see that painting now, as I am sure I will go back to my brushes and adjust a good bunch of things!
Learn more about Emilio at www.emiliosolla.com
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