The world at large has experienced a life altering event throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of which have touched nearly everyone in some way. There hasn’t been as far-reaching an event since the Second World War in terms of emotional impact on the population. Carlos Franzetti has turned to the optimistic torch songs of the 1940s and 1950s to bring listeners out of their pandemic induced gloom on his new recording, In The Wee Small Hours.
The great Argentine-American pianist, composer, and arranger experienced the full brunt of COVID-19’s destructive energies during the pandemic. Franzetti contracted the COVID virus. One of the effects of his infection was a loss of coordination, leading to several falls. When he couldn’t remember the changes to “All the Things You Are”, he knew something was wrong. CAT scans showed a subdural hematoma.
Three brain surgeries and months of physical rehabilitation brought Franzetti’s coordination back. He also saw firsthand what the solitude of quarantine meant, as he wasn’t allowed to see anybody, including his wife, for 10 days while he recovered in the hospital.
Once he was able, Franzetti felt motivated to not only prove his musical chops were still there, but he also wanted to make music emblematic of the struggles that people had gone through during this unforgettable time. Franzetti brought longtime collaborator, bassist David Finck, and the excellent drummer Billy Drummond in for a recording session at 360 Sound Studio in Orange, New Jersey in late May 2021.
The material that Franzetti chose to record was a mixture of pieces that were evocative of longing and separation from the decades surrounding the Second World War. The pieces were composed during a troubling and confusing time but instilled bits of hope in their listeners, messages of reunions and overcoming obstacles. Many of the pieces are ballads, but they are not somber. Franzetti explored material that he typically wouldn’t choose to play but that felt right under his fingers and in their message.
The recording begins with a poignant take of David Mann and Bob Hilliard’s “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” Franzetti showing off his delicate touch over the rhythms section’s subtle momentum. The performance of Eubie Blake and Andy Razaf’s “Memories of You” is inspired by Frank Sinatra’s timeless rendition, the trio’s easy swing is infectious. Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is The Ocean” is quietly insistent as Drummond’s drums push the band. The Gershwin classic, “How Long Has This Been Goin’ On,” follows in a sultry but introspective vein, while Charles Strouse and Lee Adam’s “Put On a Happy Face” stirs up the positivity in a gleeful dance.
The rhapsodic take on Bill Evans’s “Time Remembered” is a perfect addition to the emotion filled program. The gorgeous version of Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” is tearfully optimistic, while Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz’s “Alone Together” is bright and swinging. A second takes on “How Deep Is The Ocean” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” show the depth of the trio’s depth of interpretation and interplay.
Carlos Franzetti put the program to In The Wee Small Hours together to inspire some much needed hope, and emotional balance, to listeners using the wonderful torch songs of the past. Hopefully, the songs will be able to deliver as much solace now as they did in their heyday.
released January 28, 2022
Carlos Franzetti - piano, Fender Rhodes, conductor (track 12)
David Finck - bass
Billy Drummond - drums
Allison Brewster Franzetti - celesta (track 12)
The City of Prague Orchestra (track 12)