Fabrizio Sotti: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make a Great Album
FS: I've been searching for that tone for years, trying to find the biggest sound possible. I live in two different worlds with my guitar work: the acoustic world and the electric world. For me, the acoustic guitar is a little limited in the variety of tones I can get out of it. It's kind of like a mini piano. There really isn't that much I can do sound-wise, but with the electric I can add effects and manipulate the sound to get the big tone that I'm looking for.
AAJ: Tone and timbre are really important when playing with a keyboardist, especially an organ, which shares a lot of the same range as a guitar. How do you approach playing with an organist, and does it differ from your work in a trio setting?
FS: There's definitely a different vibe with the organist playing the bass note and the chord, as opposed to a bassist just playing the bass note. I really love playing with an organ trio, and where my playing is right now in my career, I feel that what I'm going for musically is really clicking with a the organ trio format.
AAJ: Besides having solid tone, your sense of time really jumps out as being right in the pocket. Who did you study when you were coming up, to try and develop your time feel and groove?
FS: Time is one of those things that musicians don't really work on. They overlook it because they're practicing harmonic and melodic material all the time. My time feel changes depending on the tune and the style I'm playing. If it's a swinger I'll lay back on the beat a bit, and if it's more of a modern vibe I'll get right on top of the beat to really drive the groove home.
One of the people who taught me a lot about time, and who I miss a lot, was Michael Brecker. He taught me about playing right on the beat, playing on top of the beat or behind it, depending on the situation. He really taught me a lot, and I'm grateful for the time I had working with Michael.
AAJ: Besides working as a jazz guitarist and releasing the new album, you're also busy working as a producer in the hip-hop world. How did you get started with that part of your career?
FS: When I moved to the U.S. 20 years ago, my focus was to be the best guitarist I could be and find my own voice on the instrument. I did that for many years, but at a certain point I became interested in working behind the scenes, about producing and arranging. That led me to start writing songs and doing some work as a producing. In hip-hop, I think there's a certain freedom when you create beats, because you want to get people up and dancing, but how you do that is up to you. You can use any instrument or setup; as long as you get people up and dancing, you're doing it right.
I had a chance to see Miles Davis in Italy, about a year before he died, and he had DJs on stage with him as well as a full band. It was interesting for me to see him doing this. I really didn't understand it at the time, but the more I got into hip-hop, the more I understood how much freedom and expression there is in that music. So I began to explore it more, and it led me to start working as a writer and producer in that genre.
AAJ: Do you find that your jazz background will creep into your hip- hop writing and vice-versa?
FS: I don't think so. When I do a beat or track with a hip-hop or pop music song I think my jazz influence comes out a lot, but not vice versa. I like to keep these two different worlds separate. I appreciate both of them, but I like to keep them really pure.
When I'm a jazz guitarist, I want to be a jazz guitarist in the deepest sense, though I might bring some other influences to the table, and when I work on hip-hop material, I keep it true to that genre.
Fabrizio Sotti, Inner Dance (E1 Music, 2010)
Cassandra Wilson, Glamoured (Blue Note, 2003)
Fabrizio Sotti, This World Upside Down (BCI, 1999)
All Photos: Courtesy of DL Media