For this third recording on the Swiss-based Unit Records label and 25th overall in his long and illustrious career, trumpeter-composer and bandleader Franco Ambrosetti demonstrates his soulful command of ballads on Lost Within You. Coinciding with his 79th birthday, this all-star outing, which finds the Swiss jazz icon once again in the company of guitarist John Scofield, pianist Uri Caine, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Jack DeJohnette (all of whom appeared on Ambrosetti’s 2019 Unit release, Long Waves) has Franco concentrating strictly on flugelhorn as he digs deep on a beguiling program of ballads by such jazz greats as Bill Evans, Horace Silver, and McCoy Tyner, along with a couple of well-chosen standards and two new Ambrosetti originals. Pianist Renee Rosnes also appears on five songs, including Tyner’s “You Taught My Heart to Sing” and the delicate Bill Evans-Miles Davis composition “Flamenco Sketches.” The leader imbues each of the nine tunes on Lost Within You with a golden tone, his signature lyricism and a depth of feeling that comes directly from the heart. Combining all of those inherent qualities with a masterful sense of storytelling, he is able to pull heartstrings throughout the affecting program.
“As a young man, my goal was to play fast,” recalled the Lugano native. “Then slowly but surely I started to discover ballads, and Miles Davis was one of the great inspirations for that. From listening to Miles play ballads I started to understand and I was able to go inside the ballad and play these long notes that he was playing. Miles showed me how you stretch the notes out like you’re really singing or crying, and I think I can express my feelings better that way.”
Ambrosetti’s “less is more” approach to ballads has served him well for five decades. That refined approach was particularly evident on 2018’s lavish orchestral production, The Nearness of You, and it plays out in sublime fashion again on Lost Within You. In a relaxed, unhurried environment at Sear Sound Studio in midtown Manhattan, he and his stellar sidemen rise to the occasion with some highly interactive, conversational playing throughout their three days of recording. Drumming great DeJohnette turns in a rare piano performance on Horace Silver’s delicate “Peace,” a tune where Scofield makes his sixstring presence felt. The guitarist also contributes an outstanding solo on Ambrosetti’s Latin-tinged “Silli in the Sky,” named for his wife.
Franco delivers a particularly lyrical touch on poignant readings of the Cy Coleman-Joseph McCarthy torch song “I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Outta My Life” and Dave Grusin’s “Love Like Ours,” both performed in an intimate, revealing trio setting with Rosnes and Colley. Pianist Caine provides the perfectly syncopated backing on Franco’s wistful “Dreams of a Butterfly,” which opens with a fragile ascending figure before setting into an insinuating New Orleans flavored “Poinciana” groove on the kit by DeJohnette, inspiring some of Ambrosetti’s boldest playing on the record. Caine also sets the mood for a relaxed, expansive quartet take on Johnny Green’s “Body and Soul,” then plays with graceful restraint as a trio with Franco and Colley on Benny Carter’s melancholy ode, “People Time.” Rosnes brings a luminous quality to a delicate reading of “Flamenco Sketches,” the innovative modal closer from Miles Davis’ 1959 classic, Kind of Blue, co-written by Miles and Bill Evans. And she alternates between delicacy and light swing on the tender closing number, McCoy Tyner-Sammy Cahn’s “You Taught My Heart to Sing,” which features searching, expressive solos from Scofield and Rosnes and showcases Ambrosetti’s golden, alluring long tones.
Intuition and trust played a major role throughout the three days of highly interactive sessions for Lost Within You. As the leader explained, “Musicians of this caliber, you want them to play what they are. I can explain the form and what is happening in terms of the solo order and everything. But then I tell them, ‘What you do behind that, it’s up to you.’ They know exactly what to do. We think the same way so I trust them completely.”
The venerable jazz master holds the reigns loosely on this inspired outing, demonstrating the power of ‘less is more’ in his beautiful restraint on flugelhorn and his remarkable chemistry with some of greatest names on the jazz scene today. Lost Within You is his sublime triumph, a healing balm for tense times.
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