Francesco Crosara

Circular Motion

oa2 22222


iTunes - $9.99

MUSIC REVIEW BY Arts Editor, Times-Standard


Play what you love - Pianist Francesco Crosara, who is originally from Italy and now resides in Seattle, has a new album coming out mid-month titled "Circular Motion." "I refuse to be labeled a 'straightahead' player or a 'fusion' player," says Italian-born, Seattle-based Crosara.

It's a sentiment widely shared by jazz musicians, though they follow many different roads to get to that place. Crosara, for his part, plays both acoustic piano and Yamaha MODX-8 synthesizer on this absorbing, varied program of original music for three different trio lineups, two of them with electric bass. He cites the influence of Chick Corea, a mentor and family friend, who once wrote to Crosara: "Francesco, your music is wonderful, always has been. Play what you love and saturate the world with it."

Crosara states, "Chick was always innovative in using different bands in different situations. Some of his groups featured jazz legends, others new young talent, or everything in between. I try to do that myself, rather than focus on a single working band, which obviously has its advantages but is also a bit limiting. I'm more interested in discovering new talent and new sounds, and the different approaches to the music that each musician brings."

Crosara debuted with the quartet release "Energy" in 1992; his 1999 outing, "Colors," received four stars in DownBeat. In 2008, he released the "Notes: Piano Solo Live." His first trio release was "Kurama" in 2009, followed by the live trio album "Concerto" in 2011 for a limited Italian release. "Circular Motion" includes fresh interpretations of some of this repertoire, which was composed over a period of 40 years. The goal was to highlight that constant evolution, that circular motion, that occurs when an artist plays the long game as deftly as Crosara.

The four acoustic numbers — "Longing," "Gymnopédie No. 4," "Maktoub" and the title track "Circular Motion" — highlight the rich timbre and presence of double bassist Clipper Anderson and the supple rhythmic flow and texture of drummer Mark Ivester. These are the older heads, seasoned and authoritative in their approach to Crosara's tunes.

"I tailor the songs to the musicians," Crosara says. "'Longing' just calls out for that big resonant acoustic bass, whereas 'Preludio Flamenco' is aching for a guitar-like approach, which Farko Dosumov employs on the five-string electric."

Dosumov and drummer D'Vonne Lewis, the first rhythm section one hears on "Circular Motion," represent the mid-40s contingent. They bring a fluid, contemporary post-Jaco feel to "Julia's Tango," "Passion" and "One Day Honey, One Day Onions," as well as the Corea- and Paco de Luc'a-influenced "Preludio Flamenco" mentioned above.

"Then in the last trio, which has more of a world music approach, we have Osama Afifi on bass and Xavier LeCouturier on drums," says Crosara. "Osama is very different from Farko, much less Jaco-influenced and more in the mold of Stanley Clarke or Anthony Jackson. Xavier is only 24 years old, with really monster technique. At 24 there is a different outlook on life than age 40 or 60.

It's fascinating how so much goes into playing — age, energy, maturity — and you can expect a different result from a musician who has had a great deal of life experience, as opposed to someone fresh off the block." This "world" trio works out on "Kurama" and "Sarava," at the middle and end of the program respectively. The former is an evocation of Mount Kurama north of Kyoto, Japan, adapted from a previously recorded three-movement suite; the latter a Brazilian-themed sendoff, in fact one of Crosara's earliest compositions (from 1981). "Songs go through their own evolution, like people," the pianist says. "In 2019, I took the original form of 'Sarava' after almost 40 years and enhanced it with a new rubato section and tight obbligato parts to support each solo. The new version, a true suite in three parts, is much more complex, while retaining the joie de vivre of the original." On both his instruments, Crosara exhibits a finely honed vocabulary and alert, sparkling touch, locking in creatively with his cohorts in each of the three settings. He dedicates the album to his mother, the one-of-a-kind jazz singer, producer and broadcaster Lilian Terry, who passed not long before this album's release. She and her son co-led a crisp 2003 date, "Emotions," featuring late Chicago tenor legend Von Freeman, who also played on "Colors."

"Vonski was another big mentor for me," Crosara says. "The greatest advice he gave me: Only two things matter in music — timing and space." Crosara is a Seattle area based Italian jazz pianist, composer and educator routinely performing in a variety of formations. Crosara's original music melds an impressive mix of jazz improvisation, a romantic vein from his classical Conservatory training in Rome, bouncy lyrical expression along with strong Latin influences. His main jazz piano influences are Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock. Crosara stands among the European-bred jazz greats, performing over the years with the likes of Lionel Hampton, Freddie Hubbard, Roy Hargrove, Richie Cole, Bobby Shew, Ira Sullivan, Don Menza, Von Freeman, John Heard, Gabe Baltazar, Mayuto Correa, Bruce Forman, Barbara Morrison, Earl Palmer, Lilian Terry and more. His recordings have featured a multicultural and international array of musicians. He has performed at festivals and venues across the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico, France, Spain and Italy. Since 2017, the Pacific Northwest can claim Crosara's talents, too, as he's demonstrated an eagerness to contribute to the local





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