MUSIC & BANDS
Thinking Of … Stefano Scodanibbio
Barre Phillips (US) – Double bass
Joëlle Léandre (FR) – Double bass
Christine Hoock (DE) – Double bass
Mark Dresser (US) – Double bass
Barry Guy (GB) – Double Bass
Daniele Roccato (IT) – Double bass
John Eckhardt (DE) – Double bass
Tetsu Saitoh (JP) – Double bass
Sebastian Gramss – Double bass / Composition
Dieter Manderscheid (DE) – Double bass
Hakon Thelin (NO) – Double bass
“THINKING OF …”
is an international collaboration project of 11 renowned double bass players from around the world dedicated to Stefano Scodanibbio. The CD, produced and composed by Sebastian Gramss, was released in 2014 for the label WERGO, and can be ordered through their website. Everyone contributed for free. Respecting the wish of Stefano’s widow, Maresa Scodanibbio, all the proceedings from the album will be transferred to Rassegna di Nuova Musica (founded by Stefano). One of the goals of the association is to edit and release Stefano’s complete work as a composer.
Thinking of THINKING OF …
Sebastian Gramss: I met Stefano for the first time in 2008. We spent some days at my place in Cologne sharing Italian pasta recipes and walking in the woods talking about the bass and life, in our evenings off playing the bass, sharing compositions, listening to music and hanging out at the rehearsal room in my garden. On other occasions, we had some duo concerts in the area, and collaborations and recordings with players like percussionist Stephan Froleyks and flutist Dorothee Oberlinger.
This record is a very special part of his works. Apart from the visionary contemporary explorative side, it is also connected to Stefano’s early musical roots as an electric rock bass player. Roots that include the great Jimi Hendrix, which was turned into one of his later works & Roll, as he pointed out in our conversations.
Later on I met Stefano several times on various occasions. Unfortunately, all plans for further cooperation were interrupted by his sabbatical due to health issues. On 8 January 2012, he passed away much too early at the age of 55, after a battle with ALS.
In 2013, inspired by John Cage’s Time Length Pieces (Martin Schmidt/Gligg Records) I started thinking about a memorial project – both a tribute to Stefano’s work as a bass player and composer, and a personal continuum of the bass explorations he stood for. The question was finding the proper setup – appropriate for the mastery of Scodanibbio.
Finally, I found an answer in Stefano’s work Oltracuidansa – a multitrack recording with dozens of layers of double bass tracks – and decided to use the same approach but with 11 players. The incredible international team gathered for this project is connected either because they knew Stefano and/or they knew his work very well. Each player has a unique and outstanding voice in the wide field of contemporary and improvised music and very different personal musical backgrounds. Apart from what they could contribute to the written work, I also wanted to include their individual solo contributions.
The first meeting about the project and how it could be done was with Dieter Manderscheid and Barre Phillips in April 2013 in Cologne. It was Barre who came up with the perfect title for the project. As he pointed out, THINKING OF … is a very open title – it is clearly connected to Stefano, and it leaves space for thinking of … what? Thinking of … music? … the bass? … the inspirational sources? … developing traditions? … emancipation of the double bass? … of a bass continuum?
The music I wrote for this recording in winter 2013/14 was, first of all, a sum of the many musical encounters and my personal biographic roots in jazz, improvised and contemporary music. But obviously it is truly influenced and refers to many of Stefano’s bass explorations and is inspired by some of the composer friends of Stefano’s generation like György Ligeti, Luciano Berio, Morton Feldman, John Cage, and Iannis Xenakis.
Each of the 11 bass players contributed for free. Respecting the wish of Stefano’s widow, Maresa Scodanibbio, all the proceedings from the album will be transferred to Rassegna di Nuova Musica (founded by Stefano). Apart from their annual festival in Macerata, Italy, one of the goals of the association is to edit and release Stefano’s complete work as a composer.
Thinking of … – CD 18.50€
Macerata, Italy, June 18, 1956 – Cuernavaca, Mexico, January 8, 2012
Stefano Scodanibbio occupies a central place in the overall history of the double bass and the most prominent place in the history of modern double bass by contributing, as a performer, and especially as a composer, to the revival of the instrument for more than three decades. His work, unprecedented and exemplary, consists of charismatic interpretation of a varied repertoire for the double bass in contemporary music festivals; the release of dozens of works written for him by Bussotti, Donatoni, Ferneyhough, Frith, Globokar, Sciarrino or Xenakis; creation of original bands for improvisation and interpretation – duo with the cello player and improviser Rohan de Saram, duo with the trumpet player and composer Markus Stockhausen, duo performances with Terry Riley, and recitals of music and poetry with Edoardo Sanguineti; and an ability to give the double bass an unerring basis for a truly new music.
The issue of interpreting – composing was central to Scodanibbio, who thirty years ago founded Rassegna di Nuova Musica, an annual festival held in Macerata, Italy, that emphasizes the indispensable dialogue between the contemporary composer and performer. The performer-composer binomial was essential at the beginning of Scodanibbio’s career as an emblem in front of the audience, but in his years of greatest artistic evolution this represented an obstacle to giving more visibility to his creative output and became a good reason to reduce repertoire from other composers and increase the interpretation of his own work in concerts. That Scodanibbio’s living artistic conflict between the performer and the composer can be seen through the outside perspective of other authors, such as John Cage, who said:
Stefano Scodanibbio is amazing. I haven’t heard better double bass playing than Scodanibbio’s. I was just amazed. And I think everyone who heard him was amazed. He is really extraordinary. His performance was absolutely magic.
While Cage distinguishes the performer, Conlon Nancarrow, a regular member of the audience at Scodanibbio’s concerts in Mexico, appreciates even more the composer and expresses it with characteristic frankness:
When I heard Scodanibbio’s concert, I was impressed by his music, constantly discovering unpublished sounds of the bass and that is much more interesting than the repertoire addressed, because it surpasses anything known.
Stefano Scodanibbio also occupies a crucial place as a creator of a large catalog that day by day gains more meaning and importance: although his work was ultimately dominated by sting instruments, during his last 20 years he enriched it with reeds, percussions or keyboards, he explored electronic or radiophonic creation, he added the singing or narrating voice to move closer to opera, to dance and to video. Because of its indelible quality, the music history has years ahead to continue to nurture the artistic essence of his full body of work. (Julio Estrada)
All About Jazz (US) ***** – Eyal Hareuveni
“The late Italian double bass master Stefano Scodanibbio, who died untimely in 2012 after a battle with the ALS disease, was a unique artist. A musician who expanded significantly the vocabulary of the double bass, exploring its almost infinite timbral range, and inventor of many extended and experimental techniques. He was also a unique composer and interpreter of of 20th century ground-breaking compositions by such composers as John Cage, Giacinto Scelsi and Iannis Xenakis and a role model for forward-thinking double bass players coming from the fields of free jazz, free improvisation and contemporary music.
This suite was recorded by each of the musicians in his home base, following Gramss’ loose instructions. Due to the unpredictability of the players’ contributions, Gramss decided not to write long, continuous movements, but to create a number of shorter combinable modules, which were connected after the recording was done. This impressive composition celebrates Scodanibbio’s musical vision in two ways. It leans on his major compositions and work—mainly his Voyage That Never Ends (New Albion, 1998) and the multitrack Oltracuidansa (Mode, 2010) and emphasizing the influence of composers Morton Feldman, Conlon Nancarrow and György Ligeti on his compositions—and explores his new forms and approaches of playing the double bass, recreating anew the sounds and timbral range of this instrument even further. The inspired performance of this demanding, multi-bass compositions succeeds in shedding light on Scodanibbio’s innovative and profound vision.
The second part of the album offers short solo impressions by the eleven double bass players of the art of Scodanibbio, reflecting on their own personal connection, influence and inspiration by Scodanibbio’s art. These imaginative and poetic masterpieces explore even further the surprising vocabulary of the double bass. All the musicians, each in their own distinct way, refuses to play the double bass only as a double bass and all explore different aspects of their own musical world, expanding on Scodanibbio’s innovative techniques. Gramss’ “Voyager” highlights his work with the bow as a percussive means and is simply spellbinding. Barry Guy plays the double bass on “Outside-Inside” as if it was a lute, a Japanese koto or a harp, blurring any distinction between these string instruments and the double bass. Christine Hoock abstracts Scodanibbio’s tribute to Jimi Hendrix’ “Foxy Lady”—”& Roll”—with her “Rock! Nella Nebbia,” a much gentler yet infectious rhythmic work with the bow. Léandre storms with a minimalist, emotional “For Stefano.” Daniele Roccato demonstrates his fascinating, poetic bow work on “Breaking Glass.” Håkon Thelin magical exploration of overtones and multiphonics on “h-Moll/D-Dur” is a beautiful conclusion to this chapter.
The album ends with a bonus track. The previously unpublished Scodanibbio composition, “Virtù,” recorded live as a duo of Scodanibbio and Gramss from the Altstadtherbst Festival in Düsseldorf in 2008. This masterful performance, as well as all the compositions and tributes to Scodanibbio portray beautifully the late master as true force of nature, a prominent figure in the history of the double bass in modern times. A great farewell to a great master.”
“Das Projekt „Thinking of…“ ist eine Hommage an den italienischen Bassisten Stefano Scodanibbio, der 2012 mit 55 Jahren jung verstorben ist. Ein Bassist und Komponist, der die Rolle des Kontrabasses – weniger im Jazz, sondern eher in der modernen Klassik – neu definierte und aus dem gelegentlichen Schattendasein in Ensembles befreite.
Zum Enjoy Jazz Konzert in der Alten Feuerwache Mannheim hat Gramss eine große Besetzung mitgebracht: 12 Bass-Kollegen, bekannte Namen darunter, wie Dieter Manderscheid, Dietmar Fuhr, André Nendza, Christian Ramond, Achim Tang und Volker Heinze und junge Bassisten, vor allem aus der Kölner Szene mit Reza Askari, Stefan Berger, David Helm, Stefan Schönegg, Jacob Kühnemann und Florian Herzog.
Das „Thinking of…“ wurde zu Beginn des Konzertes leicht abgewandelt, zu Ehren des im Juli verstorbenen Bassisten Charlie Haden formierte sich ein Bassquartett vor dem eigentlich vorgesehenen Programm. Dietmar Fuhr, Sebastian Gramss, Achim Tang und Christian Ramond spielten eine bewegte und bewegende Hommage an den großen Bassisten.
Sebastian Gramss hat sich für das Scodanibbio-Projekt mit vielen Bassisten national und international vernetzt um in dessen Geist Musik zu spielen. Das sind in vielen Fällen Zwiegespräche im Duo, mit Bassisten wie Philipp Barre, Tetsu Saito und Mark Dresser aber eben auch Großformationen bis hin zur schon allein organisatorischen Meisterleistung dieses Jahr in Moers, wo er an Pfingsten fast 50 Bassisten auf die Bühne des Festivals brachte.
In Mannheim, auf der Bühne der Alten Feuerwache, hat er 11 seiner Mitspieler in einem flachen Halbkreis vor sich aufgebaut, nur Dieter Manderscheid steht als Solobassist frontal zum Publikum, gemeinsam mit Sebastian Gramss, wenn der selbst zum Instrument greift.
Häufiger ist Gramss allerdings an diesem Abend als Leiter des Ensembles und als Dirigent zu sehen. Den tieftönenden Klangkörper nutzt er nicht weniger einfallsreich als im Solospiel. Seine Gesten haben mit traditionellem Dirigieren wenig zu tun – er lenkt eher das Geschehen mit großem Freiraum, fährt mit ausgestreckten Händen von links nach rechts und zurück, lässt damit mal die eine, mal die andere Seite von der Leine, bändigt die Dynamik oder lässt ihr freien Lauf, verlangsamt das Spiel oder gibt ihm eine dynamische Beschleunigung. Er türmt die Hände über den Kopf und lenkt das Ensemble in höchste Basshöhen oder wirft einer ausgewählten Gruppe mit federner Geste einen imaginären Ball zu, worauf diese ein wohldosiertes homogenes Zupfen ins musikalische Spiel zurück gibt. Oder er schüttelt dem Tutti dynamisch die Hände entgegen und das antwortet mit ruppigen Basschlägen.
Der wildbewegten Bassmasse entgegen stellen sich die virtuosen Solopassagen von Dieter Manderscheid oder Duo Passagen mit Sebastian Gramss an seinem dunklen „Kowald-Bass“ – Atempausen für das Großensemble, das sich aber alsbald wieder ins Spiel schleicht.
So großartig die 13 Bassisten die Möglichkeiten ihrer Instrumente nutzen, weit über Zupfen und Streichen hinaus mit Klappereffekten, spuckebefeuchtetem Herumreiben auf den Instrumenten, unorthodoxem Einsatz der Bögen – es sind nie Effekte um des Effekte Willen, vielmehr wirkt das in jedem Moment stringent und folgerichtig – ein virtuoses Spiel mit Klang, Rhythmus und Melodie, das zurecht vom Publikum frenetisch gefeiert wurde.”