Teacher and indeed ambassador of the ukulele in both its promotion and history in his very own Italy to Hawaii and beyond, Francesco Albertarazzi unmistakably has the tenor ukulele skills to match his passion.
His new album “Ready For A Long Trip” is a journey through a contemporary ukulele sound bringing modern jazz fusion, light rock and almost atmospheric pieces skillfully together backed by a refined pianist and an accomplished band in the performance of eight original tunes.
That distinct jazz style is immediately established with A Shot Of The Sun, rock drums pushing along some sweet ukulele picked riffs ably backed by a sensational flurry of fretless bass guitar very much in the mould of the late great Jaco Pastorius. Indeed that whole fusion side to the album leans towards the sound of the American 70’s and 80’s band Weather Report.
Men Of The Mountains then shows us the different timbre, a compassionate approach of melody and rhythm blended beautifully with a wonderfully restrained piano resulting in a truly elegant and almost pictorial piece of music allowing the mind to take its own expedition of artistic impression, something that perhaps is at the heart of all truly great music. Happy Birthday returns us to the fusion tone with outstanding parts from every member of the band. Whether drum solo, nimble rumbling bass line, swirling organ or flourishing ukulele melody the quality of musicianship here is highly distinguished.
And so this question and answer of alternating character between the eight individual pieces continues. For Hey Man… The Last Embrace (dedicated to Francesco’s good friend the late Marko Van der Horst) again brings us down to uke and piano, no less driven but exhibiting a delicate tactility to every note and indeed every space which creates a truly graceful sound. The concluding four songs then follow this rotating pattern finishing with The Old Carrillion, synthesized strings adopting the supporting role in lieu of the piano whilst the ukulele continues to take the melodic focus.
As a coda to the album we are given two bonus tracks in the shape of live versions of pieces we’ve already heard, recorded live at the Grand Southern Ukulele Festival and arranged solely for uke and piano. The songs have a very natural timbre, perfectly played and it’s nice to hear The Old Carrillion arranged for piano rather than strings giving it a lighter feel.
Eminently talented, Francesco Albertarazzi has produced an instrumental work in a modern style that radiates creative flare, elegantly performed with a masterful and seductive touch.
This review first appeared in the fabulous UKE Magazine Issue 7 (September 2016).