Interview with Daniel Studer: The discussions, the speaking about music is important for me: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz bassist Daniel Studer. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Daniel Studer: – When I was three my parents moved from Zurich to the countryside where we grew up.

We had some LPs ad home who gave me like an imprint: “Dreigroschenoper” from Brecht and Weill, “Bilder einer Ausstellung” from Mussorgsky played by Horrowitz. Some peaces from Vivaldi and a LP from Sidney Bechet.

When I was about 13 years I heard “Imagine” from John Lennon. I decided to build a rock/pop band. I changed my instrument from classical guitar to electric bass, because nobody wanted to play the bass. I also sang in this group. So I made my own experiments in composition, improvisation, chords, rhythms ecc . I heard bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Yes, Jimmy Hendrix, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Grobschnitt, Novalis, Circus, ELP, Jethro Tull …

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the your musical instrument? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the your musical instrument?

DS: – I had a teacher (a good studio guitar player) who showed me the basics of standards. He told me to take the double bass and take lessons by Peter Frei a young and very good Swiss Jazz bass player. So I did after leaving the Rock Band.

I heard for the first time LPs like “Exploration” from the Bill Evans trio with Scott LaFaro. This music and mainly the interplay I liked very much. Also “Kind of blue” had a big impact.

In 1981 (till 1995) I moved to Rome where I learned more about Jazz, Improvisation, classical music. I had a lot of concerts in very different groups. First Jazz standards, then more and more music of my friends (Riccardo Fassi, Danilo Terenzi and others) and finally my own music (in the duo with Riccardo Lay, compositions in the Braxwood orchestra…). In the end of the 80 I had my first experiences in improvisation without any prefixed tools with Sebi Tramontana, then with Giancarlo Schiaffini and in the beginning of the 90 my first string trio Coen-Penazzi-Studer with different kinds of concepts, compositions and improvisations. I worked a lot with Giancarlo Schiaffini who opened my mind to all directions of music.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

DS: – Perhaps influenced by Scott LaFaro I like a quick and strong attack. Quiet a virtuosic playing, not a fat deep bass sound. A little bit like a deeper cello. I had always some problems with the affirmation that a musician has to find his own sound. I always was attracted by possibilities of sound, also in the pizzicato playing. When I deepened my bowing techniques, the possibilities get multiply and with the different preparations I had a feeling of the endless possibilities of sound. A sound has inherence energy. This world I continue to explore.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

DS: – When you play the double bass you need force to get a sound, but also flexibility to make it seem easy. So I have some exercises for pizzicato playing and also bowing exercises for this two aspects. Further I play a lot of classical pieces: Fresobaldi, Bach, all this repertoire pieces like Bottesini, Hindemith up to more modern pieces. I play a lot with the Bill Evans trio and Miles Davis for endurance (?) and practice about walking bass, harmony, rhythm and improvisation with standards.

An important part of practicing is my thinking and discovering the bass and the music by playing without any prefixes or also giving me some concepts to follow. This can be exercises about sound, time, movement, form…

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

DS: – Mainly I prefer to discover different possibilities to be in or around harmonic conditions. I like very much the “in and out” playing as for example Eric Dolphy showed in the sixties. In improvisation without prefixed tools, the harmonic, rhythmic and sound “Systems” become another direction. But also here I like to concentrate, to select, as you can hear in the cd “suspended” with Markus Eichenberger.

I also like to exclude totally the melodic-harmonic aspects. Playing with sounds give you this possibility.

JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you of 2017 year?

DS: – I’m very bad in “news about music”. I hear what comes in by friends, in concerts etc. So I hear a lot of different kind of music, but often “to late”.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

DS: – The differences are in the working processes, between rehearsal, concert and thinking about the concert or better listening and have discussions about it. Thinking in concerts can be like a “braking” (?). Best is when in concert there is a flow between the musicians and you don’t have to think about music. It gets “through you”. This kind of situation don’t happen always, but when its happen you express the deeper regions of your soul, without censorship of intellect.

The discussions, the speaking about music is important for me. With my colleagues we do it often (Trio Kimmig-Studer-Zimmerlin or Kontrabassduo Studer-Frey or the Duo Eichenberger-Studer). So there is a important relationship between intellect and soul.

Here a citation of Bill Evans I like very much: “… It is just a so complex relationship and such a quick relationship and it passes moment by moment by moment, so you know that no one could be aware of it and manage it. Therefore it has to exist at a deeper level and a level of inconscious ability. And you build this ability trough years and years of dedicating yourself through hours and hours and hours every day of dedicating yourself to this particular art …”

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

DS: – I don’t know where I should start … sorry!

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

DS: – I’m not very good in advices:

having always some good musicians to play with, to share musical ideas, making projects together, making experimentations.

following your own ideas, your musical instinct also when you have doubts.

To be open versus ideas of others, but to be also clear when you don’t like them.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

DS: – Jazz is a business with so many faces. The music, the projects I make with my friends is such a small business that we all have jobs as teachers or other jobs, also outside the music. So it’s a very individual way to find your individual balance.

JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?

DS: – As an apprentice there were some special concerts: playing with Barney Kessel and Gianpaolo Ascolese, or the concert with Lester Bowie, Kirk Lightsey and Don Moye. There were no questions, the music flew.

Working with Giancarlo Schiaffini a learned his personal and very natural approach to all directions of music. This gave me confidence in my musical thinking.

So in 1993 I founded the String Trio Coen-Penazzi-Studer, with a mixture of compositions, concepts and improvised music. It was finally my way to make music.

Back in Zurich in 1998 the Kontrabassduo Studer-Frey with the double bass player Peter K Frey (since 1998). We still make music and several projects together. One is the Bassquartett with double bass player Christian Weber and the ebass player Jan Schlegel, or the Quartet with Hans Koch and Giancarlo Schiaffini.

The trio with Mischa Käser (composer, voice and different instruments) and Urs Haenggli (recorders and different instruments). We made a lot of projects with dancers, text, film: Mischa is a marvelous composer. I worked in several of his musical theater projects.

The collaborations with Markus Eichenberger. With his Domino Orchestra or now the duo with him.

And in the last years all the beautiful projects and collaborations we made with our Trio Kimmig-Studer-Zimmerlin. We played a lot as Trio, made a double cd “erzählend nah” and last year “Im Hellen” on the label hut(now)ART (HatHut). Collaborations with many musicians as Gerry Hemingway, Phil Minton, Elliott Sharp, Jacques Demierre, Vinz Vonlanthen, Paul Lovens and many others.

A special collaboration is the Trio Kimmig-Studer-Zimmerlin with John Butcher. We had a lot of concerts on important festivals made the cd “raw” (Leo Records).

Now we make a new collaboration with the Trio Kimmig-Studer-Zimmerlin the dancers Lilo Stahl and Michael Schumacher.

In all this collaborations we try to have

Figure out a common language

Be aware about a balance between individual and collective expression.

Experimentation for new solutions in music.

Open for different kinds of collaborations.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

DS: – Standards are an expression of a certain period. I think the musicians have to know about musical history and also play some important basics of different periods. Standards are one of them. Standards are based in different musical forms as Blues, Lied and developed in newer forms. Having a knowhow about standards or blues and rock helps to develop improvisation (rhythmical, harmonically, melodically).

In classical music education it is normal that you play pieces from different periods that are much older than 50 years.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

DS: – Music for me is a possible expression, communication and also a game, a work an experimental field.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

DS: – I hope that people use more their own brain and heart, and don’t believe in simple solutions as we see know in a lot of political or religious leaders. Understanding, solidarity are important human qualities and basics for free expressions.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

DS: – I don’t know.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

DS: – Continuing my bass playing, also the solo playing. Go further with the groups I talked above, mainly the Trio Kimmig-Studer-Zimmerlin the Kontrabassduo Studer-Frey and the duo with Markus Eichenberger. And the more “jazzy” group with the piano player Gabriela Friedli and drummer Dieter Ulrich.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

DS: – I was never so much interested in world music or folk music.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

DS: – I don’t understand the question.

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

DS: – Which setup. I don’t understand the question.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

DS: – It could be nice to be in some concert situations I couldn’t be in, hear and feel how was the energy from the music and the audience. So for example concerts with Charlie Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Miles, Coltrane…

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

DS: – Not really a question, but an observation. Filling in this answers to your questions I have not a really discussion partner. The direction is one way. I prefer interview with skype, when questions and discussion goes in different directions.

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers.

DS: – But anyway. THANKS  A LOT!!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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