Raphael GualazziView in iTunes
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Best known for re-introducing Italy to the Eurovision Song Contest stage, singer/pianist Raphael Gualazzi is also one of his country's most accomplished jazz-blues musicians. Born in the walled city of Urbino in 1981, his authentic sound is a result of his pianoforte studies at the Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro, his subsequent research of early-1900s ragtime blues and New Orleans jazz, and a love of more contemporary acts like Jamiroquai, Stevie Wonder, and Ben Harper. In 2005, he released his debut album, Love Outside the Window, and produced a Piano Jazz compilation for Wagram Music three years later, but it was his 2009 cover version of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" that introduced him to a wider audience thanks to its use on a TV ad campaign for energy company ENI. After signing a deal with Sugar Records, he participated in the 2011 Sanremo Festival, where he won the Giovani (New Generation) award and was chosen by a six-member jury to represent his country at Eurovision with his self-penned bilingual song, "Follia d'Amore." The track, Italy's first entry since 1997, finished second behind Azerbaijan with an impressive 189 points, and became the breakout single for his sophomore effort, Reality and Fantasy, which also included collaborations with French DJ Gilles Peterson, Italian trumpeter Fabrizio Bosso, and British soul singer Rox. ~ Jon O'Brien