Amsallem, Franck

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Amsallem, Franck

Amsallem, Franck, jazz pianist; b. Oran, Algeria, Oct. 25, 1961. Amsallem was raised in Nice. He had early music lessons from an old woman who was a friend of the family, but at 14 he wanted to play an instrument seriously. The Nice Cons, thought he had started too late to play classical piano, so they suggested the saxophone, which he played while he continued to play piano on his own, working with dance bands. Amsallem attended a jazz class at the conservatory and won the saxophone prize. Around 1980, he led a trio at the Hyatt Hotel in Nice where he accompanied musicians from the festival in jam sessions, among them Richie Cole and Jerry Bergonzi, who convinced him to attend the Berklee Coll. in Boston. Upon his graduation in 1981, he began studies at Berklee, supported for three years by a French scholarship. He studied writing with Herb Pomeroy, and worked on some classical piano music. Leaving Berklee at age 22, he settled in N.Y., where he earned a Masters in composition at the Manhattan School of Music and developed associations with Bob Brookmeyer (studying under him in a yearlong BMI composers workshop), Tim Ries (in a touring quartet since around 1985), Gary Peacock, and Charles Lloyd. Amsallem worked at the Village Vanguard and and at La Villa in Paris, and toured Brazil with Gerry Mulligan. He won second prize at the 1992 jazz piano competition in Jacksonville, Fla., and has won awards from ASCAP, the NEA, and France’s Foundation de la Vocation. He receives commissions to write for a variety of groups in the U.S., France, and Canada. Amsallem wrote a suite called “Nuit” for the Flandres-Wallonie Orch., which is a chamber music orchestra, with a rhythm section and Bireli Lagrène as the soloist. He has given master classes in Albi, Nice (both 1997), and elsewhere.


Is That So? (with Tim Ries; 1990); Out a Day (with Gary Peacock; 1992); Years Gone By (1997); Live at the Blue Note (working title; rec. April 1997; unreleased).

—Lewis Porter