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Algerian pianist Franck Amsallen (b. 1961) is an accomplished, exceedingly thoughtful player who studied at the Conservatory in Nice, Berklee College in Boston and received a Masters Degree in Composition from the Manhattan School of Music. Now a resident New Yorker, his curriculum vita boasts on-the-job training in the bands of Gerry Mulligan, Dave Liebman and Bob Brookmeyer. On record, he's probably most familiar to listeners from such recent Blue Note compilations as New York Stories, Yule Be Boppin' and Bob Belden's Shade of Blue.
Another Time is a reissue of Amsallen's 1990 debut, Out A Day and, thanks to a new label and worldwide distribution, this impressive outing is getting attention at the same time as his more recent and also well-distributed quartet recording, Years Gone By.
As the titles suggest, Amsallen is clearly interested in things temporal. It greatly benefits his angular, yet exceedingly attractive compositions too. Like Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley and, to a lesser degree, Bill Evans, Amsallen is something of an intellectual player: leaning often toward classical rather than jazz influences (Chopin and Debussey to these ears) and clearly well educated hands are finessing such engaging changes. He's the kind of player that could easily entertain a hotel lobby crowd and still have hand fulls of unique commentary for those paying attention too. Pleasingly, his compositions don't proceed through predictable changes either; so they benefit repeated listening and reward upon casual or concentrated hearings.
On these tracks, eight Amsallen originals and Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean", the pianist is accompanied by then-newcomer drummer Bill Stewart (best known now as part of the John Scofield group) and legendary bassist Gary Peacock (whose equally intellectual bass has buoyed memorable work from Bill Evans, Paul Bley, Michel Petrucianni, Don Pullen and, most notably, Keith Jarrett's celebrated Standards trio). Peacock is afforded a great deal of the spotlight here, and makes the most of his celebrity role. Stewart is very subtle and gives the other two plenty of creative room to share their often-interesting ideas.
Highlights include the exotic, nearly classical (and surprisingly catchy) "For The Record," the oddly-titled "And Keep This Place In Mind..." (suggesting a tribute of sorts to Jarrett by miraculously fusing his gospel and classical flourishes into one neat package), the Evanescent "Running After Eternity," and the standard-worthy "Affreusement Votre (Horribly Yours)" (another interesting title).
If Another Time is any indication, Amsallem could prove to be an important voice in jazz. There's enough variety, complexity and uniqueness here to suggest that Amsallem could be quite the innovator. He's a clear-headed composer who creates with an ear toward invention and a pianist who can capture an idea in an easily appreciated manner. That's quite a feat. Another Time is such a disc.
Songs:Out A Day; For The Record; How Deep Is The Ocean; ...And Keep This Place In Mind For A Better One Is Heart To Find; Running After Eternity; Dee; On Your Own; Affreusement Votre (Horribly Yours); A Time For Love.
Players:Franck Amsallem: piano; Gary Peacock: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.