Fabrizio Sotti has created a beautiful fusion of musical worlds on his latest full- length solo album, Right Now.
The world-renowned Italian jazz guitar virtuoso, producer, and songwriter successfully strikes a delicate balance between jazz and pop. It's only natural given his legacy of diverse musical collaborations—which spans writing, producing and playing for everybody from Cassandra Wilson, Dead Prez, Q Tip, Foxy Brown, K’Naan, Melanie Fiona, Tupac and Jennifer Lopez to Whitney Houston and Gipsy Kings. However, on his latest record, the gap is effectively bridged as his impeccable chops meet irresistible melodies. Encompassing interpretations of six classic songs as well as six originals, he paints an intimate portrait of his personal history, and he also provides a glimpse at the future. After releasing the highly acclaimed collaboration Another Country with Cassandra Wilson, he began working on Right Now in early 2012 with a fresh perspective. Since first moving to New York from Italy in 1991, he's solidified himself as a premier presence in the jazz world with solo releases including 1999’s This World Upside Down, 2004's Through My Eyes and 2010's Inner Dance. He's worked with prominent genre stalwarts including Al Foster, Randy Brecker, Roy Hargrove, John Patitucci Geroge Garzone, Cassandra Wilson,Claudia Acuna to name a few. However, from the moment he started the sessions for Right Now with bassist Tony Grey and drummer Mino Cinelu, he knew that this collection would stand out from his extensive body of work.
"I've been blessed to have two careers, but they were always separate" he admits. "My career as a songwriter and producer has been primarily based in popular music, while as a recording artist, I've focused on the jazz field. Another Country prepared me to break some ground this time. I tried to write jazz with a pop feel. This came out of a spiritual necessity for me. I wanted to open up. It's very different from my previous work as an artist, but it's also very honest."
As he captured that honesty, he invited some notable friends to join him in the studio. On a heartfelt reimagining of Bob Marley's "Waitin' In Vain", his nuanced and intricate acoustic guitar playing matches up with smooth and soulful delivery from Shaggy and Res. The track holds a place in Sotti's heart for a myriad of reasons.
"Everybody loves Bob Marley," he affirms. "I had to do something special for this though. In the mid-nineties, I joined the Air Force in Italy because it was mandatory. They stationed me on the border of Yugoslavia in the middle of the war. 'Mr. Boombastic' came out, and people were blasting Shaggy all the time. The song comforted me during a very dark and tense period. I wanted Shaggy to do this with me because of that. He performed from his heart, and the track shows a different side of him. Also, Res sounds both fragile and communicative. Everything comes together really well." The same could be said for the swaggering collaboration with Ice T and M1 of Dead Prez on Pink Floyd's "The Wall". His elegant musical arrangement stirs a potent brew of hip-hop and classical, fortified by flashes of instrumental fireworks.
"I've been listening to 'The Wall' since I was seven-years-old," he remembers. "I was an outcast because all I cared about was music. Everybody in Italy thought I was crazy. That song resonated with me so much though. I was also 14-years-old when the Berlin Wall fell. It was an historical moment when two worlds came together, and Germany was united again. Ice T and I wanted to tap into those social and emotional elements. It speaks for itself."
A few dreams came true for Sotti when he got to record "Someone Else's Tears" alongside Italian icon Zucchero. It marked Zucchero's first collaboration with a jazz musician since working with Miles Davis, and the lyrics were actually penned by none other than U2's Bono.
"In Europe, Zucchero is like Bruce Springsteen," he goes on. "The duet he did with Miles, “Dune Mosse”, blew me away. Seeing an Italian singer with my jazz idol always stayed on my mind. I reached out to Zucchero when I was doing this album, and he suggested we do 'Someone Else's Tears'. It was a huge honor to say the least."
Elsewhere on the album, Melanie Fiona teams up with him for an uplifting acoustic interpretation of Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary," while Isabella Lundgren, recently signed to the artist's label Sotti Records, joins him for a bluesy and sweet reimagining of U2's "One."
He continues, "I used to watch the VHS tape of Rattle and Hum all the time. It tells the story of when U2 went to America. I dreamed every day of taking my own trip to the United States. A few years later, I did. It was incredible to work on the song with Isabella. I believe in her immensely, and we have great chemistry."
Then, there's the galloping original instrumental "Prancing Horse." Handclaps punctuate his passionate finger-picking as he lithely commands the fretboard. Expanding his sonic palette, it's also his very first flamenco-style tune ever.
"I dedicated it to Enzo Ferrari," he smiles. "Growing up in Italy, you learn to recognize a Ferrari before you can spell. Then, you become a successful musician and can actually own one and race it. There's all of this adrenaline, passion, beauty, and sophistication associated with that machine. I wanted to convey that emotion and dedicate it to a fellow Italian." As a whole, Right Now encapsulates a certain ethos for Sotti. As the world continues to speed up and fret about what's ahead, he's urging the exact opposite. He concludes, "Where society is at the moment, everybody is freaking out about the future. I want people to immerse themselves in a peaceful journey when they hear this album and try to enjoy living in the moment. I'm hoping everyone can join me there Right Now."
Right Now will be released May 14, 2013. It was recorded at Fabrizio’s Sotti Studios in NYC and mixed at Piety Studios in New Orleans by legendary engineer John Fishbach. Fabrizio produced and arranged all of the songs on the album.