Franck Amsallem, Summer Times

Charles Farrell

By Charles Farrell

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Simply put, it’s beautiful.

Franck Amsallem is a technically formidable pianist from France who, on “Summer Times,” manages to nicely distill a brisk, single-line post-bop style influenced by early Chick Corea with some of the harmonic language found in the compositions of fellow countrymen Debussy and Ravel. This hybrid is a breezy one, but its lightness is leavened by the always instructive drumming of Joe Chambers, one of the great drummers in modern jazz. It's a rare treat to hear this master in a trio setting; his intelligence informs every bar of group play. And ultimately, this is the factor that elevates “Summer Times” from an enjoyable album to something better. On the tune “Summertime” itself, the drumming foments an undercurrent of toughness, adding just the right amount of steeliness into the behind-the-beat 5/4 playing of Amsallem and the impressive bassist Johannes Weidenmuller. A nearly subversive track; below the languor there's a heart of some darkness. It's beautiful. Another Gershwin tune, “The Man I Love,” is stripped of its pathos and transformed into an edgy, swinging piece with hints of calypso. “Bud Will Be Back Shortly” is homage to Monsieur Powell, who spent a number of happy later years in Paris. No imitation, this tribute is about the emotional response one fine pianist has to another. Bassist Weidenmuller takes a thoughtful solo on this one. The program ends with a coy, slightly deconstructed “You're My Everything.” Amsallem cleverly channels just enough Red Garland to put the listener in mind of the Miles Davis version of the tune, and then Chambers gently pushes him ahead.