Franck Amsallem – Franck Amsallem sings, Vol II
(FRAM OO2. CD Review by Frank Griffith)
Jazz singers didn’t really emerging onto the forefront of the music until well into the 1940s with stylists like Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme. Since then the tide has completely turned, and singers are the most popular leading lights in jazz today. Or, as the cynic would have it: “how many singers does it take to sing Black Coffee? Apparently all of them”.
Moving along quickly, the internationally recognised French jazz pianist, composer and arranger, Frank Amsallem, born in Algeria, raised in Nice and – after two decades in the US – currently resident in Paris, has released his second vocal CD which features an ecclectic collection of largely American popular standards along with Jobim’s Dindi and the leader’s own Paris Remains in My Heart. Franck’s eloquent, yet propulsively emotive and striking piano is joined by the sturdy but lyrically sensitive basswork of Sylvain Romano and the subtly driving drumming of Canadian émigré, Karl Jannuska.
What I find the most special and unique about this offering is the perfectly matched trident of original arrangements, trio concept and fluid vocals throughout. The equal sharing of these three disparate components bring about a winning alchemy resulting in a musical sum greatly outreaching its parts.
Amsallem’s voice is free of pretence and the need to “jazzify” or unnecessarily affect or decorate the written theme, both melodically and lyrically. Essentially delivering the song as the composer intended while taking many liberties with the harmonies and rhythmic undercurrents. Both of which are very much the province and preserve of an arranger of which Amsallem is one of the highest order. Excellent examples of this are on the slower more ruminative songs like Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now Johnny Green’s Body and Soul and Henry Mancini’s Two For The Road, all of which score highly from Franck’s understated interpretations.
It is my contention that the two most important aspects of a jazz singers’ craft are their rhythmical treatment of the melody and lyric, and the sound and tonal colour of the voice to suit the song’s message. Amsallem captures this to the hilt and effectively sums up his approach with a sentence from his brief liner note. “Indeed, unlike many of my contemporaries, I adore singers and their songs”. Indeed, indeed.