Italian jazz-guitar hero Fabrizio Sotti may have been better known for his hip-hop productions rather than his own music, but that should change with the release of Inner Dance. Sotti has recorded everyone from Ghostface Killah, to Foxy Brown, to Whitney Houston. But his truest passion in jazz, with a particular nod to the great Wes Montgomery.
The original version of Inner Dance was actually a completely different album. All of the material was recorded in a fairly traditional trio format. Evidently there were gremlins in Sotti’s computer who wanted something different, because the hard drive crashed and burned one day, resulting in a total loss. He started over, and introduced some new elements to the mix.
Inner Dance opens up with “Blue Whisper,” a gently swinging number, featuring some nice interplay between Sotti and Hammond B-3 organist Sam Barsh. The B-3 is a crucial component, for it has a sound unlike any other. Jimmy Smith used the B-3 on his classic LP with Wes Montgomery, Dynamic Duo (1966). The trademark tone of the organ is so far out of date today as to sound positively antique. That is one reason it works so well here. “I Thought So,” and “Last Chance” are a couple of other tracks that hearken back to the classic Smith/Montgomery archetype.
Another facet of Fabrizio Sotti’s playing is his fluency in Spanish-style acoustic guitar. “Kindness In Your Eyes,” is a superb example. It is played in a trio format with Barsh holding down the bass, and Victor Jones with some tasteful drums. One of the more interesting tunes is “Innerdance,” which features the harmonica of Gregoire Maret. The play between Maret and Sotti makes for a distinctive combination on this mid-tempo piece. The only vocal on the album comes courtesy of Claudia Acuna, who wrote and sings the words to “Amanecer.” Sotti’s Spanish guitar complements the Chilean vocalist nicely.
Fabrizio has also taken the opportunity to salute a couple of his mentors. “Brief Talk” was written for sax legend Michael Brecker, shortly after Sotti’s final encounter with him. “For T.M.” is dedicated to Thelonoius Monk, and displays yet another side of his guitar playing. Somehow, Sotti manages a fair replication of Monk’s post-Bop piano style, on the guitar. The basic trio of Sotti, Barsh, and Jones swing hard all the way through.
The finale’ is really just a 1:26 solo acoustic coda, and yet it is essential. “We Are What We Are,” seems to sum up Inner Dance, as if all of the styles and voices on the record were leading up to this conclusion. The song also reminds me of an almost completely unknown acoustic piece by Frank Zappa titled “Sleep Dirt.”
It would be impossible to place Fabrizio Sotti as a big time hip-hop producer based on the music of Inner Dance. His comments on the dichotomy are pretty straight forward, “I agree with Duke Ellington in his assessment that there are only two kinds of music, good and bad,” he says.
I understand the sentiment, and for my money, Inner Dance definitely belongs in the “good” category.