Francesco CrosaraCircular MotionOA2/Origin Records

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Pianist/Composer Francesco Crosara to release new recording “Circular Motion” featuring musicians from 3 generations and going full circle with new versions of original compositions created and revamped over a span of 40 years

Francesco Crosara – acoustic piano, synthesizer (3,9,10)

Clipper Anderson – acoustic bass (2,4,5,8)

Mark Ivester – drums (2,4,5,8)

Farko Dosumov – electric bass (1,3,7,9)

D’Vonne Lewis – drums (1,3,7,9)

Osama Afifi – electric bass (6,10)

Xavier Lecouturier – drums (6,10)

About Circular Motion

From a lifetime of music creation, Seattle-based Italian pianist and composer Francesco Crosara selected 10 of his compositions from the last 40 years with the idea of highlighting the nexus between early work, with its simplicity and youthful appeal, to later works where he expressed richer harmonic textures and possibilities. Always close by are the influences from his early mentoring in Rome from Chick Corea and Dizzy Gillespie, through his move to the US and the program at USC. Three different rhythm sections bring his music to life, each adding varied sonic textures and rhythmic vitality to the whole. Bassist Clipper Anderson and drummer Mark Ivester swing and float; the vibrant grooves of electric bassist Farko Dosumov and drummer D’Vonne Lewis lend a modern momentum; and the youthful eclecticism of bassist Osama Afifi and drummer Xavier Lecouturier adds yet another dimension.

“I refuse to be labeled a ‘straightahead’ player or a ‘fusion’ player,” says Italian–born, Seattle–based pianist 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 beautiful 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 we hear 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 Lucía-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 muses. “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. Described by writer and friend Raul Da Gama as “a peripatetic Italian ambassador of jazz,” Terry recorded for Soul Note with Tommy Flanagan (1982) and Dizzy Gillespie (1985). 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 recalls. “The greatest advice he gave me: Only two things matter in music—timing and space.”

You can hear how that formative advice has shaped Crosara. Along with Von Freeman, he knew Gillespie, Corea, Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln and many of the jazz legends in his mother’s orbit. His rhythmic instincts, his improvisational grace and his expressive range make clear that his contact with jazz from the very source informs every note he plays. Circular Motion tells that wondrous story of continual artistic growth. — David R. Adler

About Francesco Crosara

Francesco 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 USA, 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 scene. Francesco was selected to perform at the 2021 Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle and has been featured two years in a row in the trend-setting Earshot Jazz: The Second Century series for his bold and innovative music composition and video editing work. Equally adept with acoustic and electric jazz concepts, Crosara routinely headlines trios and quartets with the area’s top musicians.

Francesco has produced 6 international jazz albums over the last three decades ranging from straight-ahead to fusion and Latin. Featured guest artists include Von Freeman, Lilian Terry, Dave Marr, Rusty Jones, Paulinho Garcia, Dean Taba, Noel Okimoto, Yasushi Gonjo, Larry Marshall, Miles Jackson, Eric Kurtz, and more. His 2000 album Colors received 4 stars from DownBeat magazine. Crosara also serves as Vice President and Education chair on the Board of Directors of the Music Discovery Center (MDC), a non-profit organization based in Bremerton, WA, dedicated to creating an inclusive space for community members to experience, explore, and contribute to the world of music through education, performance, and mentorship