Band: Hanna Mignano Jazz Quartet
Date: Friday, Sept. 25 at 8 p.m.
Venue: The Peoples Room of Mobile, 78 St. Francis St., thepeoplesroommobile.com
Tickets: $25 available through Eventbrite
While many New Orleans venues still remain silent, several Big Easy artists have been making their way to the Azalea City, including violinist Hanna Mignano. The Hanna Mignano Jazz Quartet has been giving The Peoples Room of Mobile a fresh, exotic dose of traditional and Gypsy jazz sounds accented by her bright, seductive work on the violin. Mignano and her crew have been promoting their eponymously named debut album. This album not only includes Mignano’s translations of classic jazz tunes but also three originals.
Mignano spent a rainy Sunday afternoon chatting with Lagniappe Weekly’s Steve Centanni about the new album ahead of her band’s upcoming show.
Steve Centanni: You’re from Toledo, Ohio. How did you find yourself in New Orleans?
Hanna Mignano: Geez, that’s a long, long story. I had various and sundry adventures and traveled around a lot. I spent some time in California on the West Coast and got integrated into the Gypsy jazz scene there for a bit. My brother is a blues guitar player in New Orleans. He was living down here when I was on the West Coast. He always wanted me to come here. The stars aligned at a certain time in my life, and I came down and have been here ever since. I’ve been down here for two or three years. I came down to play music and fell in love instantly. There’s not another place quite like New Orleans.
Centanni: How did New Orleans influence you as an artist?
Mignano: Oh, wow! There’s just so many other great musicians living there for the same reason. You’re in this concentrated culture of extremely talented people. They’re masters of their craft, as well as creative and artistic. As far as the city itself, it’s the history and the architecture. It’s just the perfect landscape to be creative and draw inspiration from. It’s the perfect conditions to find that creative wellspring and inspiration. It’s endless. New Orleans is a place of endless creativity and a unique kind of beauty that you can’t find anywhere else. As an artist, I’ve definitely grown a lot not only as a musician but also as a person.
Centanni: You have definitely conjured up some great Gypsy jazz sounds. What is it about that form that connects with you?
Mignano: Well, I started getting into Gypsy jazz when I was in high school. So, I had that influence early on, because of the violin. I was seeing this other setting that wasn’t a classical setting, which is pretty much what I was raised on. When I got that in my ears, I couldn’t get it out. The Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli Jazz Manouche stuff kind of seduced me in a way. I stuck to it and learned to improvise. I was crossing over along the way as I was learning, as far as straight-ahead stuff. I got into bebop and Charlie Parker and other avenues of jazz. There’s something classic and timeless about that style. I’ve found with Django and Stephane that they’re playing early trad jazz, amongst other things. I feel like it’s a good crossover, genre-wise.
By no means have I learned the entire New Orleans trad jazz setlist. It’s a weird place for violin to be in because it’s so horn-heavy, but I think that I’ve been finding my groove and my way. Along the way, I’m trying to write more compositions and do more originals and bring my own thing to it that’s outside of the Django book and do something different and interesting.
Centanni: Speaking of Django, your originals on your debut are great. “Django’s Rocket to the Ghost Nebula” is great. What was it like putting that song together?
Mignano: It’s funny when I write. Sometimes, I have to sit down and think about it. Other times, inspiration will come and something sounds cool. I start to weave together ideas and see where it goes. With that one, I had a dream about Django, and it was super spacey and weird. One day, I just sat down and this fifth-stop motif came out. I extrapolated on the melody. We love playing that one. It’s a lot of fun. It’s like interstellar Gypsy jazz.
Centanni: Tell me about the talent that you have backing you in the quartet.
Mignano: Aren’t they great? I’m lucky that most of us are really good friends. Roy Brenc is on bass. We just gelled. We met in New Orleans. He’s just a great technical bass player and a great person. I can throw around creative ideas and get feedback from him. He gets it, and he’s on the same wavelength. It’s the same with Kala Chandra (guitar), who I also play with. I think we’re all in the same creative space and want it to be about the music. Everyone I play with now I met in New Orleans. Sometimes, we have a great guitar player named John Saavedra from the [New Orleans] Swinging Gypsies. He’s a native New Orleans guitar player. It’s easy.
I’m spoiled. It’s just another great thing about New Orleans. There’s so many great players to choose from. When everything was still open, if somebody couldn’t make a gig, then you could run across the street to The Spotted Cat or Apple Barrel or Maison and get whatever you need. We miss that. For this one, we’re actually going to be a trio, unfortunately. Under the circumstances and everything going on, a lot of people are leaving town, but I will have another great bass player named Ben Fox along with Kala. We function pretty well as a trio, too. It’ll be a lot of fun.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).