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Fabrizio Sotti: The Key to Music

Fernando Rodriguez By

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Invited to perform at the 16th edition of the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, this past November, guitarist Fabrizio Sotti was sitting on the beach in Cabarete, along the country's north coast, when this interview took place.

Sottis' most recent release, Inner Dance (E1, 2010), was almost his third release, following the guitarist's This World Upside Down (BCI-Eclipse, 1999), but a hard drive crash on his computer scuttled what was to be his sophomore release, originally to be titled Against All Odds. Inner Dance features slightly different personnel, with organist Sam Barsh replacing bassist James Genus, alongside a twin-percussion salvo of drummer Victor Jones and percussionist/drummer Mino Cinelu. Moving between harder-edged, fusion-esque electric and more lyrical acoustic guitars, it may have been a tough slog getting there, but Inner Dance definitely delivers the goods.

Sotti was born in Padova, Italy. By age five, he was taking classical piano lessons, and at nine switched to the guitar as his interests in music went from Bach and Chopin to trumpeter Miles Davis, saxophonist John Coltrane, and guitarists Wes Montgomery and Jimi Hendrix. After a stay in the USA in his mid-teens, he returned to New York City permanently and launched his jazz career after a brief stint in the mid-90s in the Italian Air Force. Since then, Sotti's career has included collaborations with some of jazz's best musicians to writing/producing for hip-hop and pop superstars.

In addition to his own recordings, Sotti has produced and performed on two Blue Note albums for Grammy Award-winning vocalist Cassandra Wilson—2003's Glamoured and 2009s Closer To You: The Pop Side. He has toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe and worked with an impressive group of A-listers including trumpeters Brian Lynch and Roy Hargrove, saxophonists George Coleman and George Garzone, bassists Steve LaSpina and Mark Egan, percussionists Sammy Figueroa and Mino Cinelu, drummers Al Foster and Jeff "Tain" Watts, guitarist Mick Goodrick, and pianists Rachel Z and Andy LaVerne.

Expanding his musical palette into the world of hip-hop and R&B, Fabrizio has played with, written and produced tracks for everyone from Dead Prez, Q- Tip, Tupac (the posthumous "If I Fail") and Ghostface Killah to Jennifer Lopez, Whitney Houston, Foxy Brown and Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon.

Sotti says that: "I agree with Duke Ellington in his assessment that there are only two kinds of music, good and bad, and I choose not to discriminate by genre."

All About Jazz: In your own words, who is Fabrizio Sotti?

Fabrizio Sotti: I'm a jazz guitarist/musician who doesn't discriminate other genres of music.

AAJ: How did you get to New York?

FS: The first time I came to New York I was 16 years old. I came to New York City because I wanted to play and learn from the best jazz musicians in the world. I told my mother I was going to the US for a short vacation, but I knew I wasn't going to go back home.

Fabrizio Sotti—Inner DanceAAJ: How and when did you start playing?

FS: I started studying classical piano at the age of five, learning from my grandmother to write and read music. At age nine I picked up the guitar and also my musical preferences started to change.

AAJ: How did you get into jazz?

FS: In Padova, where I grew up, there weren't any jazz schools when I started, so I took some private lessons from local teachers, studied American books and listened to a lot of vinyl.

AAJ: What were your studies like? Where?

FS: The majority was in Padova, with locals teachers; occasionally, I attended seminars by American guitarists visiting Italy like Joe Diorio and Mick Goodrick.

AAJ: What have your experiences been in Italy, Europe, and now in the US?

FS: In Italy, when I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to play with great musicians like [bassist] Ares Tavolazzi, [drummer] Mauro Beggio, [drummer] Francesco Lomagistro, [bassist] Christian Lisi and [bassist] Nicola Sorato. With them, I played standards and some of my original tunes. With these musicians we played all over Italy. As well as playing with jazz groups, I was also working as a session musicians for Italian pop artists to make some more money.

Because I came to the US so young, I really feel that I almost grew up there. I have discovered Europe later, being able to go there to play concerts, coming from New York City where, all of a sudden, I was basically considered to be an American musician. I came to the US at age 16, and then I left at 19 for two years to join the Italian Air force; back then the service was mandatory. Then I came back to New York City in September 1996 and never left.

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