Christian Ferlaino is a saxophonist, improviser, composer and a scholar currently living and working in Berlin. Born in Italy, Christian Ferlaino started as a self-taught jazz player and improviser and then received private tuition in saxophone before ultimately joining the course in Jazz at Conservatory G.B. Martini in Bologna. There, he studied jazz composition and idiomatic improvisation. He has been playing jazz, improvised music and free improvisation for almost two decades. Besides his training as a jazz musician and a free improviser, he undertook a traditional apprenticeship as a folk musician and learned to play the Calabrian bagpipe known as surdulina. He studied musicology and ethnomusicology at the University of Bologna and attained a PhD in Creative Music Practice at the University of Edinburgh.
An eclectic fragmentation characterises his musical activity: as a saxophone player, he has performed many different genres of popular music such as cumbia, Balkan music, funk, rock, jazz and free improvisation. As a composer-improviser, he is influenced by European, American, and Afro-American contemporary music. His creative work is informed by the sonic and musical realm of the southern Italian region Calabria with special attention to the traditional performing techniques and approach to sound and music generation. His music explores the relationships between composition and improvisation, and the expressive potential of improvised music. He is profoundly interested in improvisation as a social and collaborative creative process that offers opportunities to develop new ways of creating music.
He participates in European improvisation scenes in Bologna, Amsterdam and Edinburgh, where he lived and worked. He collaborated with musicians such as Anthony Braxton, Michael Moore, Dirk Bruinsma, Wilbert de Joode, Anne la Berge, Toby Delius, Han Bennink, Joost Buis, Yedo Gibson, Tristan Honsinger, Kaja Draksler, Onno Govaert, John Dikeman, Raymond MacDonald, Fabrizio Puglisi, Edoardo Marraffa, Nicola Guazzaloca. He worked with Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop and Cornelis de Bondt (Atelier Ensemble) and performed in Antony Braxton’s Sonic Genome at the Torino Jazz Festival in 2015. Ecuadorian composer José Rafael Subía Valdez composed for him Tessellations, a piece for saxophone and electronics that was premiered in Berlin in June 2018.
He performs in various bands, from solo to big ensembles. He also composes for various ensembles, both from the jazz and improvised music scene, and the contemporary music realm. He has written music for short movies, silent films, art installations, theatre and intermedia. His works have been performed, broadcast and reviewed worldwide.
He composes for and performs with Solaris Saxophone Quartet, New Dog, Comanda Barabba, HaFFaH, Antigone’s Choice, Personal de Limpieza, bands of which he is also a founding member. His music has been performed by the Glasgow-based Red Note Ensemble and the Czech ensemble Ostravská Banda.
His saxophone solo explores the use of the generative principles of Calabrian folk music in a context of contemporary improvised music. This work explores the relationship between fixed and mobile elements, resulting in a process that relies on constant iteration and variation of small originating musical materials.
In collaboration with Raymond MacDonalds, he composed a live soundtrack for Lorenza Mazzetti’s silent movie Together, commissioned in 2017 by Hipp Fest, Festival for Silent Movies in Bo’Ness. With Solaris Saxophone Quartet, he composed and performed an original soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi at Metro Movies Film Festival in Amsterdam (2014).
Together with painter Paolo Parisi and musicians Luca Bernard and Giovanni Falvo, he co-founded Tranepainting, a multidisciplinary performance for improvising trio and brushes that explores the relationships between visual stimuli and musical response in a context of free improvisation.
With EL, a quartet including Alberto Fiori (electronics), Francesco Guerri (cello) and Giovanni Falvo (drums), realised Electric Leak, a show for music and neon lights co-produced with Pietro Babina, Santarcangelo dei Teatri and Ortosonico.
As an instrumentalist, he plays with Pumporgan and has for a long time performed with All Ellington as well as freelancing for different improvisation ensembles. (Together)
He attended the summer seminars of Ostrava Center for New Music, Siena Jazz, Roccella Jonica, and Nuoro Jazz. He attended workshops and masterclasses on improvisation and composition with, among others: Bernhard Lang, Klaus Lang, Marc Sabat, Christopher Butterfield, William Parker, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis, Jennifer Walshe, Muhall R. Abrahams, Giancarlo Schiaffini, Egberto Gismonti, Francois Jeanneau, Rob Brown, Javier Girotto, Michel Godard, Chris Speed, John Surman, Rabih Abu Kahlil, Barre Phillips.
As a scholar, his interests range from ethnomusicology to jazz, from improvisation to composition. He has been conducting extensive ethnomusicological research on folk music in the Southern Italian region Calabria. He graduated in D.A.M.S. (Discipline of the Arts, Music, Theatre and Cinema) at University of Bologna and in Jazz at Conservatory of Bologna. He earned a Creative Music Practice PhD at the University of Edinburgh funded by AHRC. His doctoral research aimed at developing a contemporary practice for contemporary music, which is informed by the grammar and vocabulary of Calabrian folk music in Southern Italy. This research brings together ethnographic research on folk music and a creative enquiry into the realm of contemporary music. He conducted his research under the supervision of Prof Raymond MacDonald and Prof Peter Nelson. He conducted part of his research at the Universität der Kunste in Berlin, under the guidance of Marc Sabat.
His research has been disseminated through articles, international conferences and collaborative works. He has published a monograph book La Musica da Danza nell’Area di Influenza della Madonna di Conflenti (Rubbettino 2017), a systematic work on the dance repertoire for bagpipe and diatonic accordion in Central Calabria. He presented at international conferences, such as ISIM Conference and Festival (Toronto 2016), Sound Thought (Glasgow 2016), The Improvising Brain (Atlanta 2017) and was invited to lecture on Calabrian folk music by the University of Cosenza Unical in 2016. He is the Scientific Coordinator of Felici & Conflenti, a residential event on folk music in Central Calabria that focuses on researching and passing on the traditional music from the region.