Franck Amsallem

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Franck Amsallem
Franck Amsallem, c. 2012
Franck Amsallem, c. 2012
Background information
Born (1961-10-25) 25 October 1961 (age 62)
Oran, French Algeria
Occupation(s)Composer, bandleader, musician
Instrument(s)Piano, Vocals
Years active1976–present
LabelsSunnyside, Naïve, Nocturne, jazz&people,

Franck Amsallem is a French-American jazz pianist,[1] arranger, composer, singer and educator. He was born in 1961 in Oran, French Algeria, but grew up in Nice, France.[2]

Early years[edit]

Amsallem was born in Oran (Algeria) to Elie Amsallem (1922-2019) and Sylviane Cohen Amsallem (1929-2022). He started learning the piano at age 7 and also took up the classical saxophone at the local conservatory. Early in his studies he was able to hear on stage such artists as Thad Jones, Count Basie, Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Sonny Stitt and Stan Getz live at the Nice Jazz Festival, who all had a profound impact on his future. Amsallem started gigging in 1976 at the age of fourteen, and by high school was playing in dance bands throughout the Cote d'Azur and featured in the INA documentary La Leçon de Musique as a student of John Lewis. He was then awarded a full scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music[3] in 1981-84, to study composition and arranging with Herb Pomeroy and Michael Gibbs.

New York City[edit]

After Boston, Amsallem moved to New York City in 1986 to earn a Masters in Jazz composition at the Manhattan School of Music. He went on to study with Bob Brookmeyer from 1986 to 1990, all the while continuing his classical piano studies with Phillip Kawin. Amsallem has augmented his formal education by participating in the BMI Jazz Composers' Workshop under the direction of Manny Albam & Bob Brookmeyer. He then played or collaborated with Gerry Mulligan, Joe Chambers, Gary Peacock, Bill Stewart, Joshua Redman, Maria Schneider, Jerry Bergonzi, Charles Lloyd, Bobby Watson, Roy Hargrove, Kevin Mahogany, Ravi Coltrane, Bob Brookmeyer, Bob Belden, Sonny Fortune, Tim Ries, Gary Bartz, Rick Margitza, Joe Roccisano, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Harry Belafonte.

In 1987, Amsallem played a weeklong duo session with bassist Jay Leonhart at the Knickerbocker Saloon, New York. In 1989, Amsallem's composition "Obstinated" was performed by the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, now known as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. His 1990 recording debut, "Out a Day", featuring Gary Peacock on bass and Bill Stewart on drums, was recorded at the famed Clinton Recording Studios in Manhattan. The album was very well received by the international jazz press and highly praised by the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, which gave it its maximum rating (four stars).[3] He has since written, conducted and recorded big band music for the Köln Radio Jazz Orchestra (WDR), the Orchestre National de Jazz (ONJ) (France), chamber cross-over music for the Prism Saxophone Quartet, Chicago's chamber ensemble Fulcrum Point, and cross-over symphonic pieces as well as big band music for the Mancini Institute. His composition "Nuits" for String Orchestra and Jazz soloist has been performed in various soloists including Bireli Lagrene, Philip Catherine, François Theberge & Don Menza. He has taught or given workshops at Roosevelt University, New York's 92Y, Paris' CNSM, CRR, the Royal conservatory in Den Haag, and in many other countries. To date, he has recorded 11 albums as a leader.

Amsallem has received several awards, including a 1989 Composition Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the 1989 Fondation de la Vocation Award from France, the 1991 ASCAP award for Young composers, the second prize at the 1992 Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition, and the 2010 FAJE Award (French American Jazz Exchange). Amsallem's compositions are included in the Real Book Vol. III and in the European Real Book. Touring with his group and as a sideman launched him into the major jazz music scene, and he has played at the North Sea Jazz Festival, Pori, Molde, Paris, Antibes Juan-les-Pins, Nice Jazz festival, etc.


Amsallem returned to France in 2001, settling in Paris, where he has collaborated or recorded with local greats Stephane Belmondo, Elisabeth Kontomanou, and Sara Lazarus.

In 2009 he released his first solo piano album, "Amsallem Sings" featuring himself on vocals.[4]

He was invited to conduct and compose for the WDR Big Band in 2011.

He has performed all around the world (United States, the Netherlands, Israel, Algeria, China, South Africa, Portugal, South and Central America, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sénégal). He toured throughout 2011 in South America, Europe and Asia, and performed at the Java Jazz Festival, on its way to solo concerts in Vietnam and in the Emirates.

In 2019, his new quartet, featuring Cuban saxophonist Irving Acao, released "Gotham Goodbye" for the jazz&people label, to unanimous critical acclaim.

For the past 10 years Franck has been frequently featured at the famed Duc des Lombards jazz-club in Paris.


An asterisk (*) indicates that the year is that of release.

As leader/co-leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
1992* Out a Day OMD Trio, with Gary Peacock (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)
1993* Regards Freelance Quartet, with Tim Ries (sax), Scott Colley (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)
1996* Is That So Sunnyside Trio, with Tim Ries (tenor sax), Leon Parker (drums, percussion)
1997* Another Time Challenge/A Trio, with Gary Peacock (bass), Bill Stewart (drums), reissue of Out a Day
1999* Years Gone By Challenge/A Quartet, with Tim Ries (sax), Riccardo Del Fra (bass), Daniel Humair (drums)
2000* On Second Thought Naïve With Tim Ries (alto sax, soprano sax), Johannes Weidenmuller (bass), Marc Miralta (drums)
2003 Summer Times Sunnyside Trio, with Johannes Weidenmuller (bass), Joe Chambers (drums)
2004* Out a Day (reissue) Nocturne Records Trio, with Gary Peacock (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)
2005 A Week in Paris Nocturne Records Duo to sextet, with Rick Margitza (tenor sax), Stéphane Belmondo (trumpet), Darryl Hall (bass), Elisabeth Kontomanou (vocals), Dré Pallemaerts (drums)
2009* Amsallem Sings Fram Solo piano and vocals
2014* Franck Amsallem Sings Vol. II Fram Trio with Sylvain Romano (bass) and Karl Jannuska (drums)
2018* At Barloyd jazz&people Solo piano
2019* Gotham Goodbye jazz&people Quartet with Irving Acao (tenor sax), Viktor Nyberg (bass) and Gautier Garrigue (drums)

As sideman[edit]


  • 1981-1983: Full scholarship from Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres (France) to attend the Berklee College of Music
  • 1983: Count Basie Award, Berklee College of Music.
  • 1983-1984: Full scholarship from Ministere de la Culture (France) to attend the Berklee College of Music
  • 1984: Oscar Peterson Award, Berklee College of Music.
  • 1986-87: Scholarship award to attend the Manhattan School of Music
  • 1989: Fondation Bleustein-Blanchet pour la Vocation Award (France)
  • 1989: National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship to compose works for string orchestra.
  • 1990: ASCAP Award For Young Composer.
  • 1992: Great American Jazz Piano Competition (2nd prize)
  • 2010: FAJE Award (French American Jazz Exchange)


  1. ^ "arts24 - Music show: Franck Amsallem's jazzy tribute to the Big Apple and the USA". France 24. 2019-12-02. Retrieved 2023-10-09.
  2. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2002). The Penguin guide to jazz on CD. Penguin. p. 38. ISBN 0-14-051521-6.
  3. ^ "Take Five With Franck Amsallem". All About Jazz. 2010-01-28. Retrieved 2010-09-08.
  4. ^ Lindsay, Bruce (2010). "Amsallem Sings". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on 2012-07-19. Retrieved 2010-09-08.


  • Richard Cook & Brian Morton. The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, 8th Edition, London, Penguin, 2006 ISBN 0-14-102327-9
  • John Swenson. Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide, 1999

External links[edit]