Franco Ambrosetti – Lost Within You – Unit Records UTR 4970 – 72:44 – ****
(Franco Ambrosetti – flugelhorn; John Scofield – guitar; Renee Rosnes- piano; Uri Caine – piano; Scott Colley – bass; Jack DeJohnette – drums/ piano on track #1)
Swiss trumpeter, Franco Ambrosetti, has been on the jazz scene for many years. At age 79, he has 25 albums as a leader. His career goes back to the 1960s. His American presence began primarily in the 1980s, mostly in New York City.
His new album (third for the Unit Records label), Lost Within You, is a welcome addition to his discography. Franco reunites with a dream rhythm section of guitarist John Scofield, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer, Jack DeJohnette. Piano duties are shared by Uri Caine and Renee Rosnes. This is the second time the group has recorded together, going back to the 2019 release, Long Waves. Though with the simpatico caliber of these musicians, Franco would have no worries exploring his musical vision even if they had not played together before.
What makes this recording so special (and needed during these trying times) is that it is strictly ballads.
Ambrosetti is on flugelhorn, which provides a burnished timbre that helps bring out a warm and soothing vibe. In the liner notes, Franco points out that when coming up he felt the need to play “fast” to elicit praise. On an album of strictly ballads, he can be reflective, play “long” notes, stretching out, and using space. Clearly inspired by Miles Davis, the ballad setting provides the opportunity to let the mood develop and linger. It was a skill that pianists such as, Bill Evans and Hank Jones, had that enabled listeners to both concentrate, and appreciate the melody of classic standard tunes.
Recorded over three days at Sear Studio, in NYC, the song list is made up of well known material, with the exception of two originals of Franco’s. There is a mix of trio, quartet, and quintet settings. Composers include Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Benny Carter, and of course, Miles Davis. The acoustics are sublime, with strong credit going out to the engineering and mixing talents of Jim Anderson.
Opening with Horace Silver’s “Peace,” Jack DeJohnette is on piano for the introduction, before switching back to the drum chair. Scofield’s guitar is immediately recognizable as is this tune’s melody. Franco’s tone has a heart melting beauty. Next is a tune made famous by Nat King Cole, “I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Outta My Life.” Recorded as a trio with Renee Rosnes and Scott Colley, its mellow vibe fits right in. The Latin tinged,“Silli in the Sky,” written by Franco for his wife, is up tempo. John Scofield has a brilliant solo.
“Love Like Ours” by Dave Grusin and Alan and Marilyn Bergman, is very romantic, and could be used as a movie theme. Rosnes has a sparkling solo. “Dream of a Butterfly,” written by Franco for his wife, has Uri and Franco playing off each other, before morphing into a New Orleans feel. It has great energy and rises in intensity.
“Body and Soul” is by far the longest track. Uri Caine helps give this chestnut a fresh read, and DeJohnette spurs on the group with assertive stick work. Benny Carter’s “People Time” has Ambrosetti entering the higher register for one of the few times on this CD. It’s always a treat to hear Miles’ “Flamenco Sketches” and it brought a smile to my face to experience Renee Rosnes play the piano intro. It’s a tune made to order for Ambrosetti’s ballad skills. The track was recorded in one take, inspired by DeJohnette’s piano playing of the tune, between takes of the planned roster of songs. Franco explores the flamenco intensity with aplomb.
The closing track is Tyner’s “You Taught My Heart to Sing.” Going from ballad to swing and back, there are solos from Scofield and Rosnes. Franco’s warm choruses are like a warm quilt on a chilly night.
This is an easy CD purchase to recommend. Its comfort inducing ambiance is well needed during our stressful times. The musicians are first class, and the acoustics aid in appreciating Ambrosetti’s trumpet talents, backed by a world class rhythm section.
I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Outta My Life
Silli in the Sky
Love Like Ours
Dreams of a Butterfly
Body and Soul
You Taught My Heart to Sing