Franck Avitabile (born 24 November 1971 in Lyon, France) is a jazz pianist who has a master's degree in mathematics from the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon. At nine, he began to study music at the Lyon Conservatoire, including Bach, Mozart and Debussy. At seventeen, he became interested in jazz, particularly Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea. Later, he became the only musician for whom Michel Petrucciani ever produced a record. He is also the composer of 60 published compositions.

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Chronology

Avitabile was born in Lyon, France, son of Alain, an urban architect, who had arrived from Algeria in 1965, and of Francine, born Badak, a civil servant and daughter of a political refugee, who had come from Yugoslavia in 1948. His paternal grandfather is Italian, from Agerola, Naples.

1976 : Shows a fascination for music and astonishingly quickly develops his natural abilities; reproduces TV theme tunes on a toy piano. Associates music with form (spatial synesthete)

1980-1988 : Enters the Conservatoire de Région (CN.R. Lyon) after six months of private lessons. His musical teaching (Mme Thomasson, Mme Poncet) focusses exclusively on the classical repertoire: Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Foret, Debussy.

1985 : Parents divorce ; moves into the Saint-Paul quarter of Lyon, above a Jazz Club run by the pianist Tchangodeï.

1988 : Discovers new horizons with the release of two CD : Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, can't stop listening to it. Finds his classical apprenticeship too strict, where personal interpretations seemed impossible. Having gained his diploma in musical training, he takes a class in introductory improvisation for classical pianists with Mario Stanchev.

1990-1994 : Accepted into the C.N.R Jazz Class. Listens and learns the repertoire of the keyboard masters, impressing successive panels of judges; picking up the gold medal in 1994. The previous year he wins the Rive de Giers Big Band Competition with a duet, piano and drums (C. Perrot).

1993-1995 : Accepted into l'École Normale Supérieure de Lyon for a Masters Degree in Fundamental Informatics, obtaining a Masters in Discreet Mathematics, a D.E.A. (online recognition of series-parallel posets) and a Ph D scholarship. Takes an internship for two months at The IRCAM around the Sieves of Iannis Xenakis.

Goes to live for three months in New York to do an internship at CUNY (City University of New York, USA) with the Russian researcher Victor Pan, who had completely forgotten he was coming! He jams frequently at the Blue Note and Small's, which had just opened, takes lessons (and a big reality check) with Fred Hersch and discovers the music of Bud Powell under the fingers of a young unknown pianist.

1995 : Joins the Collectif Mu, a gathering of young Jazz musicians (Mâcon), founder of Crescent Jazz Club in tribute to John Coltrane.

Records a first tribute to Bud Powell. Fifty copies will be burned unofficially at Cryo Interactive thanks to the kindness of a friend working in the development of video games.

1996 : His departure for military service (Paris, Versailles) allows him for the first time to have enough time to concentrate entirely on music, and to prepare and gain entry to the Conservatoire de Paris. He finishes two years later having raced through his studies at breakneck speed and excelling, gaining a special exemption from the Director. Unanimous winner of the First Prize.

In December wins the competition of Vanves (92) presided by Martial Solal, with the prize being the production of an album, Lumières, and a thousand copies made. In the company of the double bassist Louis Petrucciani (met during a Roy Haynes master class) and the young drummer Thomas Grimmonprez, it contains Franck's first compositions.

1997 : Participates in the project Silent Call, by Riccardo Del Fra with François Jeanneau, Benjamin Henocq and a string orchestra at the Auditorium des Halles and at the jazz festival in La Défense (92).

France Music Radio broadcasts a live concert of the Franck Avitabile Trio, in a program titled "Les surprises de Martial Solal". On this occasion, the latter asks Louis Petrucciani if his brother Michel knows Franck. The response is negative.

The magazine Jazzman cites his name amongst the hundred new talents and awards a *** to Lumières, maximum marks at the time for a non-commercial album : « More than technique already well asserted, Avitabile has got music within him. Intense and personal. »

1998 : Michel Petrucciani listens to a bad cassette copy of Lumières in his brother Louis' car, in the middle of the night. The latter, an enthusiast, convinces Francis Dreyfus to sign him and decides to sponsor and produce his first disc. Finding the compositions needing more work, Michel Petrucciani proposes constructing the album around Bud Powell and giving it the title 'In Tradition'. Franck, hungry for his precious advice, doesn't need much persuading. On release it is a critical and commercial success.

First magazine covers : Jazz Notes, Blablah Thema, and record of the month on FIP radio, who fall in love with the young unknown artist.

Wins Second Grand Prize for the Martial Solal International Jazz Piano Competition in Paris which helps to finance his Steinway.

1998-2000 :

Resident at the Cité Internationale des Arts, on the banks of the Seine in the Saint-Paul quarter (Paris 4°).

1999 : Wins a Django d'Or in the Best Prospect category.

The death of Michel Petrucciani affects Franck who since then has played one of the pianists compositions at every concert.

This year is highlighted by the number of concerts and festivals, including the Parc Floral de Paris, Nice Jazz Festival, San Sebastian Jazz Festival in Spain, Le Printemps des Arts in Monaco... Stops his teaching activities (Limay, 78) to concentrate entirely on being a concert pianist and composer.

An anecdote that made the front cover of Lyon's newspaper Le Progrès: It happened on July 6 at Troisgros, the famous three stars restaurant. No sound mixing or concert involved, but a feast of delights for Avitabile, a lunch with a very tasty story. A few days earlier the young jazzman had been interviewed on the French radio Europe 1 by Dominique Souchier, a journalist from the town of Roanne. He didn't know that one of his most faithful listeners was none other than the ex minister Jean Auroux. The Mayor of Roanne then learned that the big hope of French jazz had composed a piece called Troisgros. Avitabile added that he dreamt of going for lunch at the famous restaurant (of the same name). The next day, the town's first magistrate offered Avitabile to come to Troisgros in Roanne, which he gladly did!

2000-2001 :

Records his second opus for Dreyfus Jazz : Right Time in the company of the legendary Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (last album of N.H.Ø.P) on double bass and Roberto Gatto on drums. He publishes several compositions. The album receives **** reviews in the American publications Down Beat, Jazz Times, All About Jazz, Jazz Journal International, as it does in France. First concerts abroad: Bologna (Italy), Warsaw (Poland), Grenada (Spain), Portimao (Portugal).

Concerts with Wynton Marsalis, Herlin Riley, Leon Parker at Jazz in Marciac, Steve Grossman in Paris and live on France Musique. With a Jazz trio at Ramatuelle, l'Opéra de Lyon, the Château de Grignan, and the Théâtre de Hyères. He is promoted to Talent in Midem and appears on the news at 1pm and 8pm on TF1 French Television.

2001 : Jazzman magazine publishes a long interview with Franck about his system of discreet reharmonisation which allows you to hear an old record like a brand new composition. He is named artist of the month.

Records an album The Paris Jazz Quintet in Holland for TCB Record (Swiss label), directed by Alex Tassel & Guillaume Naturel, with André Ceccarelli on drums.

2002 : The producer and director Claude Berri calls him for original music in his film Une Femme de Ménage (Jean-Pierre Bacri, Emilie Duquenne). Records improvisations around the music of the composer Frédéric Botton.

2002 : Records a third opus for Dreyfus Jazz : Bemsha Swing with the old double bassist Rémi Vignolo and the Belgian drummer Dré Pallemærts, who make up his working trio. Introduced to a new concept of trompe l'œil. Concerts in Switzerland, Greece, Belgium, Canada, France.

2002 : Violently attacked just before the release of Bemsha Swing leaving him completely unable to work for fifteen days.

2003 : Mezzo TV broadcasts a documentary on the life of Franck Avitabile, '88 touches de plaisir' directed by Patrick Savey. The magazine Télérama attributes TT to this programme.

2004-2008 : Decisive encounter at Manège Theatre (Maubeuge) with the electric bass guitar player Pino Palladino and the drummer Manu Katché following the withdrawal of the guitarist Dominic Miller to go on tour with Sting. Formation of the group Manu Katché Tendances, with about a hundred or so concerts worldwide. Franck also plays with a Fender Rhodes and a Nordlead, the repertoire subtly flirting with electro jazz.

2004 : "Victoire du Jazz" Awarded in category Revelation of the Year (Frank Tenot Prize). Deuville.

2005-2006 : Records his fourth and fifth opus for Dreyfus Jazz from two successive piano solo albums: Just Play and Short Stories. Both obtain the CHOC from Jazzman magazine. Télérama even awards - for the first time - all four clefs (ffff) for the second solo album. The newspaper Le Monde dedicates a full page to him on his birthday. RTL Radio describes the first solo album as astounding. Guest of Philippe Lefait, France 2 (Les Mots de Minuit). Franck manages to establish more and more his independence and prominence in the highly competitive and cluttered French Jazz pianists scene.

2007 : Arièle Butaux commissions a Quintet entitled Opus 52 to Franck who collaborates with the Modigliani String Quartet for a first performance at the Petit Palais (Paris). A movement from the Schumann Quintet is also on the programme.

2007-2009 First gigs with Aldo Romano and Diego Imbert for a repertoire based on Michel Petrucciani. His trio continues working together with Franck's original compositions.

2008 : First solo tour of China and the Piano aux Jacobins festival. Beijing, Shanghai.

Moves to Issy les Moulineaux (92) and marries privately.

DVD release of the Dreyfus Night recorded at the Monte Carlo Jazz Festival. In the company of Steve Grossman, Bireli Lagrène, André Ceccarelli, Rosario Guliani, Diego Imbert, ...

2009 : Records his sixth album for Dreyfus Jazz, Paris Sketches with electric bass guitarist Pino Palladino and the drummer Manu Katché. It's the first time that an entire album is constructed solely from Franck's compositions. Guest on the Arte Television show One Shot Not. This opus firmly establishes Avitabile as a superb composer, few of his French contemporaries have got his sense of melody.

2010 : Ambassador of Cavalaire sur Mer Jazz Festival.

Franck has played in around thirty countries. He has performed with Pino Palladino, Manu Katché, Jan Garbarek, Wynton Marsalis, Steve Grossman, Bireli Lagrène, Martial Solal, Bendik Hofseth, Trygve Seim, Niels-Henning Ørsted-Pedersen, Aldo Romano, Laurent Vernerey, Lisa Ekdahl, Sheila Jordan, Elise Caron, Kim Thompson, Herlin Riley, Leon Parker, Alex Tassel, Guillaume Naturel, Minino Garay, André Ceccarelli, Daniel Humair, Stéphane Huchard, George Brown, Roberto Gatto, Tony Rabeson, Riccardo Del Fra, Cesarius Alvim, Eric Le Lann, Sylvain Luc, Louis Winsberg, Olivier Louvel, Stefano di Battista, Rosario Giuliani, Manuel Rochman, Baptiste Trotignon, Daniel Huck, David Linx, Jean Loup Longnon, Yves Rousseau, Maria Schneider, Rick Margitza, Gene Perla, Gildas Boclé, Diego Imbert, Frank Agulhon, Lemon Minassian, Christophe Monniot, Jérôme Regard, David Sauzay, Hadrien Feraud, Henri Texier, Yodelice, Géraldine Laurent, Marcela Roggeri, Modigliani String Quartet, Louis Petrucciani...

Awards

First Prize - Vanves Piano Jazz Competition (Martial Solal, Jury President) (1996),

First Prize - Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris (1998),

Second Grand Prize - Concours International de la Ville de Paris - Martial Solal Piano Jazz International Competition 1998,

FIP Selection (CD of the month) for the album In Tradition 1998,

Django d'Or - Best First Record Album, France 1999,

Talent MIDEM & Européen Django d'Or Nomination 2000,

INDISPENSABLE Jazz Hot Magazine for the album Bemsha Swing 2002,

Talent Jazz & Electro ADAMI 2003,

Victoire de la Musique - Revelation of the year 2004,

CHOC Jazzman Magazine for the album Just Play 2006,

Coup de coeur Télé Loisirs for the album Short Stories 2006,

Best Album Jazz Magazine for the album Short Stories 2006,

MUST TSF Jazz Radio for the album Short Stories 2006,

CHOC Jazzman Magazine for the album Short Stories 2006,

FIP Radio CD of the month for the album Paris Sketches 2009