Eleonora Strino

Italian Jazz Ace
Eleonora Strino
Eleonora Strino: Riccardo Piccirillo.

Eleonora Strino is making waves in the jazz world as both guitarist and media-savvy artist. Through her videos and online presence, Strino has gained a following for her serious old-school jazz chops, interpretations, and compositions. Her new album, I Got Strings, is a trio recording of swing and bebop material with elegant guitar work out-front. VG checked in with Eleonora from home in Italy.

You favor that timeless jazz style of Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis, and Jim Hall.
I fell in love with Jim Hall’s music when I was 15; he was the reason I decided to play jazz guitar. Then I studied all the great guitarists, like Barney Kessel, Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, Chuck Wayne, and Kenny Burrell. My favorites in the moment are Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, and Peter Bernstein, but I am always trying to develop my own style. My next album will be the culmination of this recent work and will only contain original compositions.

How did you get started in jazz?
My father was a great figurative painter, so I come from an artistic family, though there was no jazz at home. I decided to become a jazz guitarist because I heard an album when I was young – the boyfriends of my sisters loved jazz, and they brought albums in the house. I heard Missouri Sky by Pat Metheny and Dave Holland, and Undercurrent by Jim Hall and Bill Evans. Soon after, I had no doubt what I was supposed to do in my life.

Did you ever play rock?
I never played rock guitar. I tried to transcribe some Jimi Hendrix solos once, but that doesn’t make me a rock guitarist (laughs)!

You mix chords with single-note phrases.
When studying great guitarists, I started to concentrate on other instruments, especially piano players. For sure, my first influence is Thelonious Monk, who changed the way I looked at the guitar. Then, I studied Hampton Hawes, Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Sonny Clark, and many others. I like the idea of pushing the limits of the guitar, technically and musically, even imagining that it’s a different instrument, like voice, piano, saxophone or drums. Yet I always want to retain the bluesy and country nature of the instrument.

Talk about the session for this new album.
I recorded it in just one afternoon with two of my favorite musicians, the gifted Greg Cohen on bass and Joey Baron on drums. I was nervous because the album was going to be recorded on analog tape, with no possibility to edit anything. Fortunately, I felt good and had so much fun, trying to focus on the music rather than my guitar.

What I really like about this album is the sound of the trio. Joey told me about how Jim Hall got his tone when recording; apparently he tried to get an acoustic sound out of his guitar, which I also prefer.

“Il Postino” mixes chords with fast-picking improvisation. Your solos are essentially songs unto themselves.
Thank you! Improvisation is an instant composition and I think melody has a leading voice over everything. I also love trying to tell a story when I solo, that’s why I often mix chords with picking phrases. One of the best-constructed solos is pianist Hampton Hawes’ improv on “Blues The Most,” from Hampton Hawes Trio.

Which guitars and amp did you use, and do you roll back the Tone knob on your guitar?
I used a Gibson L-7 from 1933, an old Fender Deluxe Reverb, and no pedals. I can’t roll back the Tone knob on my old Gibson because there is none; I can only adjust the volume.

You’re part of a new generation of great Italian guitar players, including Matteo Mancuso and Pasquale Grasso. Have you noticed a guitar revival there?
I can’t talk about myself, but surely I can say that they are inspiring other generations, and I’m very happy to witness them making their way into the international scene. Pasquale (VG, November ’21) is a real maestro and Matteo (see page 30) is another great talent. Both have amazing technique.

As a 21st-century musician, you are exceptionally good at social media.
Actually, I am quite a disaster when it comes to organization (laughs). I recorded a video a few years ago, playing guitar in my pajamas, and it became viral. From that point on, I started to gain success on social media and it helped get my music known to other parts of the globe. I am so glad that many people follow me – it inspires me to become a better musician day after day, and enhance my music.

This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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