Whether it’s writing, producing or recording straight ahead jazz records for himself or for other artists, Fabrizzio Sotti has done it all.
But when it comes to his latest album, Right Now, Sotti does something completely different from anything he’s ever done before. Included among six brand-new, original tracks are songs that have inspired the guitarist since his youth.
They are classic songs that have been re-worked into mesmerizing jazz-pop gems, including Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary,” Bob Marley’s “Waitin’ In Vain" and U2’s “One."
Sotti is joined on Right Now by R&B powerhouse Melanie Fiona, reggae superstar Shaggy and hip-hop icons Ice T and M-1 of Dead Prez. The album’s cohesive sound stems from the band, which is made up of Sotti on electric, acoustic and classical guitars, Tony Grey on bass and Mino Cinélu on drums and percussion.
I spoke with Sotti about the new album and more in this exclusive interview.
GUITAR WORLD: What sparked the idea to do a project like this one?
When I first came to the States as a child, my goal was originally to be a jazz guitarist and to make records and go on tour. Eventually, I started getting involved in producing and writing for other artists in different styles, but I always kept those things separate from my own playing. Because jazz guitar playing is totally different than the more pop style of music. I’ve been lucky to have a great career and be able to work with a lot great artists.
Over the past 10 or 15 years, I’ve noticed that some of the artists I’ve looked up to, like Herbie Hancock, would sometimes put together a trio or quartet and then record with a bunch of singers and create different arrangements; and it didn’t necessarily have anything to do with jazz. That gave me the strength to do my own take and do a project that would relate to everyone. It was an experiment, something different from what I've done before.
What made you choose which songs to do?
There’s a reason I chose these songs. Each of them takes me back to my childhood and the years when I was growing up. When I was a kid, I was exposed to everything. The songs from these artists interested me when I was growing up.
What was it like collaborating with the guest artists on Right Now?
I’ve worked with many of them in the past, but this was the first time where I wasn’t the producer or writer. This time, I was actually the artist in the studio, and they came in to sing with me. I took them out of their element and they really trusted me. When I started recording the album, I had no idea just how cohesive it would be; it had elements of hip-hop, R&B and jazz. I think with my trio of Tony Grey (bass) and Mino Cinélu (drums), it really added to the cohesiveness. If you listen to the album from start to finish, it makes sense. Even though the artists come from much different places.
Let’s talk about your musical background.
I actually started out playing piano when I was really young. In the beginning, I was playing mostly classical because that was the only thing that was available. When I was 9, we moved to a new home and the place we moved to didn’t have a piano. So my mother gave me a guitar, and that’s when I started playing and my influences began to change. I started listening to Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis and John Coltraine. From there, I evolved into what I am today. Before I came to the US at 16, I already had a mini-career in Italy working in a trio and with some pop artists. So I think the duality of me having my own career as an artist and also having interest in doing other things was there right from the beginning.
How did you practice?
I didn’t have a set structure as if I had gone to a school. I had private teachers that showed me proper theory: harmonizing, major/minor scales and all of the modes. I studied Hendrix and the blues masters like B.B. King and Robben Ford.
What advice would give to someone who is just starting out?
In music, everyone has big dreams of what they want to become. Patience is important. Don’t be discouraged and always listen to your own voice. Believe in yourself. Most importantly, you really have to love the craft and work hard. It doesn’t matter what instrument you play; the results won’t come unless you put in the work. Dedication and passion for what you do is the key to success at the end of the day.
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Photo: Marco GlavianoJames Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.