Friday, 10 June 2011

Frank Ricotti - The Unsung Hero of British Music

It was the late summer of 1980, that I made a short acquaintance with, a then young unknown percussionist, Gary Wallis. He was playing ‘for the ride’ with English funk band ‘Central Line’ as they toured Europe’s top discos. Somewhere in a short chat the name Frank Ricotti cropped up- as Gary put it ‘the man’!

Kingsway College, Kings Cross, London 1966, a young Alex (me), is more or less attending classes, with no direction to his future; parallel, in the same college, the son of an Italian restaurant owner, is already a leading performer with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.The young teenager was Frank Ricotti, and he knew where he was going! So you can imagine how my mouth dropped when Gary mentioned Frank as one of his mentors.
The Frank I remember was an easy going, friendly character- we had an old piano in our students’ common room, and he sometimes would play some of the new chords he had learnt. But his real friends and life was outside the college gates, in the world of music. At the time, Frank was not only playing with the NYJO, but also gigging with the great blues man Alexis Korner, a fact he never mentioned. All ready here, the over-shy Frank, was avoiding the lime light- which he still does to this day!

The fact that he has added ‘the final touch’ to more hits than, dare I say, any other of his counterparts, he has shunned the fame and popularity that surround colleagues, such as Ray Cooper and Gary Wallis. A fact, which has led to his name being misspelled or totally omitted in the credits! And if you do try to fit in all of his credits- well, he leaves his co-musicians standing! Please note in the following example- “and many many others”:

“THE MUSICIANS :Pip Williams Guitar, Frank Ricotti Drums [worked with BJH, Pet Shop Boys, Rick Wakeman, Gerry Rafferty, Chris Spedding, Leo Sayer, Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Evelyn Thomas, Mike Batt, Bjork, Blood Sweat And Tears, Clannad, Curved Air, Roger Daltry, Julia Fordham, Peter Frampton, Elton John, Joe Jackson, Nick Kamen, Mark Knopfler, Meatloaf, Freddie Mercury, Van Morrison, and many many others.]Geoff Westley- Keyboards [played on "Level Headed" by Sweet,Dave Markee- Bass Bob Young- Harmonica [Status Quo / Micky Moody related]Michael Giles Drums”.
From the album cover of Rocking in Rhythm.Rec.1978

I spent more time looking for the right clip for this post than writing it! From ‘Pet Shop Boys’, Elton John, to Status Quo and Freddy Mercury- I could still be searching- look at this list, then you’ll see what I mean. In the end I chose Grace Jones’- ‘Slave to the Rhythm’, which presents not only Frank’s mastery of percussion, but also his talent as arranger.

The turn of the century, and Frank is also changing his direction from recording studios to film sets- and you’ve got to love the man, he does it again! Becoming number one in this field as well! Films from ‘Bourne Ultimatum’ to ‘The Constant Gardner’ receiving the ‘Ricotti’ touch. Again, the list is too long to post, but if you’re interested follow this link.  Here as well, I found credits missing; I know for a fact that he worked on the film ‘Kingdom of Heaven’; but in keeping with Frank’s shy character I’m not surprised.

Frank Ricotti is a musicians’ musician- in the top enclave of the world’s jazz men Frank is considered to be one of THE xylophonists to be heard! Check out this video
If you ever on your travels should meet a shy man called Frank Ricotti, remember, you’ll be meeting music history.

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1 comment:

  1. Well worth mentioning are tow jazz flavoured telly things:

    The Beiderbecke Trilogy, which Ricotti wrote the music for. Ditto "Doggin'

    He made an appearance playing at the Limping Whippet, aka The Village Vanguard, in series three of Beiderbecke.