As a small country (there are only 8 million of us), Switzerland does not present a large market and it is therefore difficult for Swiss (Jazz) musicians to earn a living from music. Being successful abroad is necessary, but also means winning against strong competition on their home turf. Hence, Switzerland has and always had a strong amateur Jazz music scene.
But here is one which could easily have made a living from the music. But he chose to go to the office every day and to keep Jazz as his hobby.
He even gave away a scholarship at Berklee, because he did not want to dedicate his entire time to music!
What might sound completely mad becomes very rational if one knows that the day job was managing a very succesful industrial group founded and built by his father.
Despite being a businessman first and a musician only second, he still has left very important marks in the history of (Swiss) Jazz and can certainly be considered as one of the best Hardbop trumpet player in Europe.
We are talking about Franco Ambrosetti here, one of the first important modern Jazz musicians in this country.
Around 1960, the leading incubator for modern Jazz music in Switzerland was a café called the Africana which was also a Jazz club. A bit like Minton’s Playhouse in New York, there were always musicians there, locals but also foreign stars, playing together and pushing each other to new limits. Ambrosetti was a keen guest of the Africana.
To the contrary to the majority of the Jazz musicians at that time, which had no musical formation, he had enjoyed a classical piano education. However, at the beginning of the sixties he had already switched to the trumpet, later he would also play the flugelhorn.
Ambrosetti’s career is closely interlinked with George Gruntz‘, to whom he would refer to as “being like an older brother”. They played together already in the Africana and in 1970 they launched the orchestra The Band, which later became the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band.
In the 1970, Ambrosetti worked with people like Phil Woods, Dexter Gordon, Cannonball Adderley, Joe Henderson, Michael Brecker, Mike Stern, Hal Galper and Kenny Clarke. As a band leader he played with Michael Brecker, Kenny Kirkland, John Scofield, Ron Carter, Bennie Wallace, Phil Woods, Dave Holland, Kenny Barron, Victor Lewis as well as Seamus Blake.
Franco Ambrosetti is still active and plays roughly 40 concerts a year. More information on him can be found here http://www.francoambrosetti.com.
To allow you to get to know him a bit better, here a few examples from his extensive discography.
Sleeping Gypsy with Eddie Daniels, Joe Beck, George Gruntz, Barry Miles, 1979
Tentets with Michael Brecker, Alex Brofsky, Steve Coleman, Tommy Flanagan, Dave Holland, Daniel Humair, Howard Johnson, Michael Mossman, Lew Soloff, 1985
Movies with Geri Allen, Michael Formanek, Jerry Gonzalez, Daniel Humair, John Scofield, 1986
Ambrosetti’s tribute to the Third Stream – Music for Symphony & Jazz Band with Alfredo Golino, Simon Nabatov, Greg Osby, Daniel Schnyder, Ed Schuller, Vladislav Sendecki and the NDR-Symphony Orchestra Hannover, 1990