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La Casa del Jazz: A house is a home

Four top sound engineers have upgraded a Rome jazz venue’s recording set-up

La Casa del Jazz (the House of Jazz), built in the 1930s, is located in Villa Osio in Rome. Its three constituent buildings stand in a beautiful six-acre park which also hosts concerts during the spring and summer months.

CdJ’s main building features a multifunctional 150-seat auditorium, an AV archive and a library of rare publications, while its smaller premises reveal rehearsal, recording and accommodation facilities, and a restaurant.

Recently, before being restored by Zètema Progetto Cultura, the villa was confiscated from the boss of one of Rome’s most infamous criminal gangs. (In fact, there is a commemorative plaque at the entrance with the names of mafia victims.)

As well as concerts by top international artists, the 150-seat CdJ auditorium is a true home for cultural activities in the Eternal City. Seminars and listening sessions, press conferences and presentations by record companies and publishers, educational activity by top music schools, readings – all have been undertaken in the auditorium.

Management and operation of the recording facilities were recently taken over by four top Italian sound engineers – Ascanio Cusella, Simone Saccomandi, Stefano Del Vecchio and Roberto Lioli – who upgraded and overhauled the entire set-up.

Saccomandi explains: “Ascanio has been at CdJ since it opened and I joined a couple of years later as his assistant. We suggested to (CdJ technical manager) Marcello Fagnani the idea of managing the studios with two sound engineer friends and, since the initial trial period, the four of us have recorded numerous top Italian artists and international names there.”

Based in L’Aquila, Cusella has worked with a comprehensive list of artists during his lengthy career as a live and studio sound engineer, but he has also found time to work as a recording studio designer and production manager on live events. His CV includes top jazz festivals such as Umbria and Lugano, and work with international stars including Ornette Coleman, Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek and countless others in the jazz, pop, classical, ballet and dance worlds.

He explains: “When we began work, the venue had a single control room, with an Audient ASP8024 desk, some outboard units, a Pro Tools 7 HD2 system and three recording rooms. Thanks to Fagnani, the PT system was upgraded to HDX and Simone redesigned the set-up, which now features more recording rooms and – alongside the existing Audient analogue suite – a digital control room, which is also used for mastering and, if necessary, as a further recording room.”

As well as his lengthy experience as FOH engineer, system engineer and FOH manager on festivals and with a multitude of national and international artists mainly in jazz and classical music, Rome-based Saccomandi also has considerable experience with Rock and Electronic artists.

He says: “Taking pride of place in the analogue control room is the 36-fader/72-channel ASP8024 console. The audio team can follow every nuance of the mainly acoustic recordings thanks to Quested 3208 and sub, Yamaha NS10 and sub, Genelec 1030, Dynaudio BM6, Tivoli Audio and Meyer Sound HD-1 monitors.”

Nominated in 2012 as Italy’s best jazz sound engineer by Jazzit magazine, Roberto Lioli has served as a sound engineer for years with pianist Stefano Bollani. In 2015, he founded the Encore Jazz label, for which he also works as producer.

Lioli says: “The CdJ venue is now able to count on three control rooms – the third is used in the auditorium for recordings – and up to seven recording rooms, including the auditorium, all fully cabled and interconnected via AV.” As well as the main 8 x 6m room and 4 x 3m grand piano room (both with variable reflection panels) there is a 4 x 3m absorbent drum room, a 4 x 3m reflective room with variable reflection panels and a 4 x 2m multipurpose room.

Del Vecchio has in-depth experience on live events (including a considerable number of musicals), in studio and on television broadcasts. His recording work has included a Nino Rota tribute by the London Symphony Orchestra and the Fabrizio Bosso quartet recorded at London’s Air Studios. Del Vecchio is in charge of audio at Icarus Music School in his home town of L’Aquila and technical manager and personal sound engineer for several top Italian artists.

He explains: “We fitted out the rooms, adding personal mixers and CCTV and carrying out an in-depth overhaul of the existing equipment. We now also have two external Pro Tools systems and, pooling our resources, put a really incredible range of microphones as artists’ disposal. The digital control room hosts a Digidesign Control 24 control surface and monitors are Meyer Sound 833 plus subs, Genelec 1030, Dynaudio BM6, Tivoli Audio and Meyer Sound HD-1.”

As well as an impressive array of outboard units in the control rooms, thanks to an agreement with longstanding Rome MI retailer Ciampi, CdJ also has a beautiful Yamaha C7 grand piano in the studio, a C6 in the auditorium and, when necessary, a Steinway and a Fazioli grand concert piano.

Close collaboration with backline rental firms, through the foursome’s live contacts, and with CD duplication companies, now enables CdJ to follow the entire creative process, from start to finish. It’s not just a house for jazz – it’s a home.

Top: (L-R) Stefano Del Vecchio, Roberto Lioli, Ascanio Cusella and Simone Saccomandi. Bottom: The main auditorium