An acclaimed virtuoso jazz guitarist in his own right, Fabrizio Sotti is also a team player. His respect for other artists has driven the New York-based, Italian-born musician to collaborate with an enviable diversity of popular-music heavyweights in recent years, including French-Spanish combo Gipsy Kings, Dire Straits co-founder David Knopfler and the late, great soul songstress Whitney Houston.
On his most recent album, 2013’s Right Now, Sotti enlisted the talents of R&B smash Melanie Fiona, reggae superstar Shaggy and hip-hop icons Ice T and M-1 of hip-hop duo Dead Prez, among others. What’s more, alongside Sotti’s own compositions, Right Now features mesmerizing jazz-pop reimaginings of classic tracks like Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Jimi Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary and Bob Marley’s Waitin’ In Vain.
“It was the first time that I’ve covered other people’s music, other than some jazz standards, on an album of my own,” says Sotti, whose respect for other musicians is clearly reciprocated – Sotti is in great demand in the music industry as a producer and songwriter. “Such songs have such strong melodies and lyrics, and they had real impact on me during my upbringing and in my development as a musician.”
According to Sotti, the works he chose to reinterpret on Right Now are by artists who, he believes, transcended the boundaries of music.
“Jimi Hendrix was one of the greatest guitarists that has ever existed, but he was also one of those people that I think of as prophets – people who came to Earth for a bigger purpose than just music,” Sotti says. “They touch the lives of millions. Bob Marley was not the best guitarist in the world but he was one of the most amazing artists ever to have existed. Such greats only come along once in a while.”
Despite Sotti’s accomplishments as a jazz guitarist, that instrument and that genre were not his first choices when a youngster growing up in the Italian city of Padua. “When I was about five years old, I began studying piano,” Sotti recalls. “In Italy, in those days, the only choice was classical music. But then, when I was nine years old, we moved apartment and there was not enough space for a piano, so my mother said, ‘You’ll have to switch to guitar now.’
“Around the same time, my aunt gave me some cassette tapes for Christmas – of Hendrix, of Jeff Beck and others. Also, I was always digging through my grandmother’s record collection. She had lots of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and other great jazz musicians, so I gave up on classical. I fell in love with jazz.”
In the early 1990s, at the youthful age of 16, Sotti headed across the Atlantic. Once ensconced in the Big Apple, the inquisitive young Italian found himself drawn to hip hop music that, thanks to acts like Tupac, Biggie Smalls, A Tribe called Quest and Naughty by Nature, was rapidly gaining in popularity.
As a producer, as a musician and as a music consumer, Sotti adds that fidelity and integrity of sound that is essential. “When I’m playing a concert, when everything is right – with the right equipment, the right amplification, the right monitors – then my performance is much better because I have control, and that makes the experience pleasurable,” he says. “It’s the same when I’m listening to music.”
To that end, Sotti is a vocal fan of KEF LS50 speakers “They have been my companions for pretty much every production I have made in the past two years,” says the guitarist, who in 2014 will release an album featuring new arrangements of his finest compositions of the past 20 years, this time in collaboration with a full symphony orchestra. “With the LS50s I can work for 10 maybe 15 hours without my ears getting tired at all. The sound is so rich and I can find space for all the instrumentation in those speakers.”