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What the youngster certainly did absorb, was the whole world of American novelties and movies that came flooding in after the war.
Naturally this also meant plenty of jazz, very early on through American G.I. bands but then also through records and all the great performers that came on tour. It seems that it was an uncle of his that first introduced him to this world, but later his love of all kinds of jazz became a true obsession. So much so that he would eventually end up something of an expert and quite curiously, in his early twenties, called upon to represent his country in an international quiz in Oslo, taking an honourable third place.

1.2 Conte the jazzman

During all this time he was, of course, still completing his education, eventually to qualify for a law degree at the University of Parma, but he had also begun to study and play a little jazz on an amateur and then semi-professional level. He formed a number of bands, all with names betraying his young enthusiasm for the legendary American jazz world: Barrelhouse Jazz band, Taxi for Five, The Lazy River Band Society and the most fortunate of his groups, the Paul Conte Quartet. With these he generally played the vibraphone, performing mostly in his local surrounding areas and reaching a high-point in 1962 with the recording for RCA of an EP entitled The Italian Way To Swing, a collection of standards which, however, the local critics damned with faint praise. He also participated with various artists on an LP for Ricordi entitled Lo Swing.

1.3 The Italian music scene

Naturally, growing up in Italy through the 40's and 50's entailed also many other forms of musicality and in any songwriter's formation there is always a certain amount of "light music", simply because it is always on the radio and on everyone's lips. However at a certain point popular song had become for Paolo Conte more than just a casual interest. Furthermore, as was the case for much of Italy's more discerning listenership, his sympathies were not confined just to the media friendly Sanremo-style song that had been increasingly popular since the end of the war. They extended to include also the more localized vernacular forms and among these Neapolitan music would have figured quite highly. Naples overshadowed all others in this area because, as it had proven throughout the century, the richness in folklore and popular sentiment bore no comparison with anyone else's, but also because it had always attracted many of Italy's finest songsmiths in both its modern and more traditional styles.

Yet, regardless of the quality of some Italian music, what was still lacking at the time in the peninsula was the special kind of dry wit and cynicism, and the very particular flavour that would be supplied by the great french singers and singer-songwriters. Aznavour, Brel, Brassens and the like became a fair source of interest to the Italians, and the lawyer has mentioned how he soon became captivated by them, also managing to attend a few concerts.