Moreno “the blond” Conficconi: “Extra smooth?  Finished (for now)”

Moreno “the blond” Conficconi: “Extra smooth? Finished (for now)”

“Am I the last jedi of smooth dancing? Damn, no one had ever told me this: I really like it. It's true: I am the last custodian of this great musical tradition”, says Moreno “the blond” Conficconi. The name of the 65-year-old musician from Meldola, a small town in the province of Forlì-Cesena, has been compared in recent years to that of Extraliscio, the band – but the definition of “superband” would be more correct – composed together with Mirco Mariani and Mauro Ferrara , who had the merit of having relaunched smooth dancing on a national-popular level also thanks to his participation in the 2021 Sanremo Festival with “Bianca luce nera”, together with Davide Toffolo of Tre Allegri Ragazzi Morti. Few, however, know that “the king of contemporary smooth”, a virtuoso of the clarinet and saxophone who grew up under the protective wing of the great Raoul Casadei, during his career he played with people like Gloria Gaynor, the icon of Latin jazz and mambo Tito Puente and also Maestro Riccardo Muti. “I have dedicated my entire life to ballroom dancing, which I have explored in all ways: from dance halls and festivals to cultured contexts, like when I played together with the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra directed by Muti. With Extraliscio, after Sanremo, I got exposure that I never thought I would get: the Sziget Festival in Budapest, the Hit Week in Miami. Experiences that redeemed fifty years of work that had always remained hidden. Now I'm starting again from a single, 'Salirà', which has just been released and anticipates a larger project, to return to the roots of popular music,” he says.

And the Extraliscio?

“That project was born in 2014, from the artistic falling in love between Mirco Mariani and me. It was Riccarda Casadei, Secondo's daughter, who introduced us to us. Two absolute opposites: recklessness on the one hand, obsessive precision on the other.”

Who was the unruly one between the two?

“He. A brilliant, multifaceted, versatile musician. Unlike me, obsessive in the way of performing smooth music, which is like classical music: it must be played as it is written, even if unlike classical it is a musical genre linked to the earth, to folklore, and therefore must be played with accents and unique ways. Together we made a magical journey. Elisabetta Sgarbi, our manager, was able to see things for us that no one else had seen. And she allowed us to achieve consecration”.

What happened finally?

“At a certain point Mirco and I drifted apart. We had two different points of view, even if we never said it openly: the project simply fell apart.”

So are Extraliscio finished?

“For now yes. But who knows, never say never.”

What projects do you have in mind now?

“In addition to the single 'Salirà', arranged together with E-Wired Empathy, I have just inaugurated the series of activities dedicated to smooth music that I organize every summer in Gatteo a Mare, the capital of smooth music, in the province of Forlì-Cesena: between concerts and holidays, it goes on until September. It's a sort of New Orleans of ballroom music: anyone who wants to come and listen to good ballroom music, the original one, can find it here.”

For ten years you were Raoul Casadei's right-hand man. One of the funniest things related to your collaboration?

“When I finished the arrangement of the Rimini tape version of 'La terra dei cachi' by Elio e le Storie Tese, the one that they then used in the official video of the song. I remember that they arranged to meet us at a motorway toll booth, before their participation in the Sanremo Festival: they gave us the cassette with the demo of the song inside. At the time, we are talking about 1996, there was not yet the possibility of exchanging files in a few moments via the internet. When we put on the song in the minibus in which we were traveling together with Raoul, panic broke out: the musical level of 'La terra dei cachi' was very high, with changes in tempo, tonality, genre, style. Raoul told me: 'Moreno, go to the studio immediately and prepare the arrangement'. It was a wonderful challenge.”

How did it go with Tito Puente?

“It was 1998. Raoul put a cassette in the bus to let us listen to a song, 'Traballero': 'But we need a percussionist of a certain type'. Someone suggested the name of the great Tullio De Piscopo. Others mentioned names that I don't remember today. At a certain point one of the dancers who performed on our stages came out with an unlikely: 'But why don't you try calling Tito Puente?'. It seemed like an impossible task.”

But you did it.

“Exactly (laughs). We left together with Carolina Casadei for New York. His manager told us: 'The maestro works like this: he only does one take, the first one is good. Take it or leave it: he won't do another one.' Carolina and I looked at each other perplexed. We tried. The first one, however, was truly unlistenable. We didn't know how to get out of it. In the end he convinced himself to do it again. And a beautiful friendship was born, which has continued over the years. It was a sort of new baptism for me: from that collaboration I began to see my music in another dimension. The one Raoul always told me about. He told me: 'Know that we are the number one in this world and we deserve to play in the same championship as the number one in other genres'”.

And what happened with Gloria Gaynor instead?

“He was a guest at the Balamondo festival in Rimini, dedicated to world music. It was still 1998. We played his classics together. Until at a certain point Gianni Morandi showed up.”

Gianni Morandi?

“Yes (laughs). She was under the stage. I told him: 'What are you doing there, get up!'. I was leading Raoul's orchestra, the great Augusto Martelli on the piano (composer for Mina, Iva Zanicchi, Ornella Vanoni, as well as author of soundtracks for films such as 'We are all in liberty provisional' by Manlio Scarpelli and 'The student ' by Fabio Piccioni and theme songs from TV programs such as 'Ok, the price is right' and 'Casa Vianello', ed.), Gloria Gaynor and Gianni Morandi”.

Practically a superband.

“It was an extraordinary, legendary thing: the people under the stage were in disbelief.”

Did you ever hear from Gloria Gaynor again?

“He returned to Italy shortly after, to make his own version of 'Romagna mia'. Except that in the meantime I had left Raoul's orchestra to become a footballer.”

The soccer player?

“Yes, at 40 (laughs). With the National Singers. The technical commissioner Sandro Giacobbe invited me, with the approval of Enrico Ruggeri, Eros Ramazzotti and Morandi himself. I'm still part of it, with pride.”

Who is among your unsuspected fans?

“Laura Pausini. I watched her grow. Her father, who played in piano bars, always took her with him: a girl from Romagna who made it on a world level, making us all proud”.