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.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.