The term Renaissance man is thrown around too loosely these days. But Carlos Franzetti really is one. He is a composer, arranger, conductor, vocalist and pianist who moves at will across the theoretical borders separating classical music, jazz, film scores and the folkloric traditions of his native Argentina.
This album continues two long-term Franzetti collaborations: one with his wife, Allison Brewster Franzetti, a classical concert pianist, and one with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The program contains three works by Franzetti, including a concerto and a set of interludes from a ballet. There are also two tangos by popular 20th-century Argentinian composers (Horacio Salgan and José Dames), and a new commissioned concerto by Grammy-winning composer Claudia Montero.
Luminosa is not the first Franzetti album a jazz fan should buy. That designation goes to Steve Kuhn’s Promises Kept, from 2004, with flowing, lush arrangements by Franzetti, a rare successful example of jazz piano with string orchestra. Luminosa is a strict formalist project, with a distinctly classical sensibility. Still, nothing Franzetti does is narrow in reach. Dames’ “Nada” is magnified by a philharmonic orchestra, yet contains the particular, personal human yearning only a tango can express. The first of Franzetti’s three ballet interludes, “Dante Noir,” is haunting like film noir. (Franzetti released a whole album called Film Noir in 2008.) And this music always includes, at surprising moments, jazz chords and progressions.
There is a more universal appeal: Luminosa is profoundly pretty. The liner notes, by producer James Fitzpatrick, even reference easy-listening formats. To be sure, all the pieces here have an alluring surface and a life-affirming lilt. But the intellectual refinement with which Franzetti assembles his projects, and the depth of his emotional content, gives Luminosa qualities that easy-listening music lacks, like brains and balls.Originally Published