"Musica Nuda means naked music. In being naked, there's something true."
So says Petra Magoni, the vocalist for the Italian duo Musica Nuda that will perform twice in Charleston as part of this year's Spoleto Festival USA. On stage, singer Magoni is joined by bassist Ferruccio Spinetti, and together they're currently touring in support of their sixth studio album, Little Wonder.
"Little Wonder for us means the surprise that we still feel when we play together," says Magoni. "After 12 years, there's always a surprise, in the music but also in the little-big goals we've reached. When we met, we never could even imagine that one day we'd be playing around the world like we are doing now."
Magoni and Spinetti had a serendipitous start. They met in 2003, just when Magoni was about to begin a tour of Tuscan clubs with a guitarist friend. When that friend fell ill on opening night, Magoni faced a choice: cancel the tour or find someone to fill in. She asked bass player Spinetti if he could sit in, and the rest, as they say, is history.
From the beginning, it was clear that the pair had chemistry. They played jazz covers of old standards, at first by necessity and later by choice. "We met on stage in a jam session and we started playing, so we were forced to ask to each other, 'Do you know this song?'" recalls Magoni. "This is what a 'standard' is about: it's something that allows musicians to play together even if they never met before, without rehearsals. This is also what jazz is: listening to each other and finding music together."
Their standards are slightly different than your average American jazz classic, though. This is no Frank Sinatra cover band. "Of course, we are Italian, European, and born in the '70s," Magoni says. "So for us, our 'standards' are also the Beatles, or Lucio Battisti, or Prince and Madonna."
Thus, at a Musica Nuda show, you can find the two playing songs like Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," The Beatles' "Come Together," and the Edith Piaf classic "La Vie En Rose." They also sing their favorite songs in their native Italian tongue — "Un Vecchio Errore" and "Al Freddo Al Freddo," to name a couple.
When they come to Charleston for Spoleto, the duo says, they'll have no set plan for what to play and how to play it. Says Magoni, "We need to feel the venue. We believe that a concert is not made only of the people on stage, and that everything around us can make a wonderful concert." The singer likens it to riding a horse. "It's about trusting who holds the reins, but at the same time the rider must respect the horse," she adds. "It's 'trust me, I know the way,' and not only using a whip. Each audience, like each horse, is different, and it's presumptuous and egotistic to forget it, and to pretend to be the one and only who decides where the music goes."
One thing you can count on, however, is that you can expect to see something cool. Something exciting. A single voice and a single bass, merging together to become something other.