June 14, 2024

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Interview with Norbert Dalsass: Still – Jazz Fantasy: The band is the same, the spectrum of the music is completely new: CD cover

Interview with jazz contrabassist Norbert Dalsass. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music.  How exactly did your adventure take off? 

Norbert Dalsass։ – Yes, my adventure began at an early age. I actually come from the provinces, i.e. the environment that shaped me in childhood is very provincial. Inwardly, I was always attracted to something special; the sounds of a jazz saxophonist on television late at night aroused my interest. For a long time this fascinated me, although it remained incomprehensible to me. Until one day I experienced a concert by the Art Ensemble of Chicago. All of a sudden my heart opened, I understood what this music was all about. This was the path I wanted to take. As a student of architecture, I still had a few friends with whom I could go this way. Whether I could earn a living with it was not important to me then, nor is it today.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

ND: – “In Search of Lost Time” is the name of Marcel Proust’s novel … so it goes with the eternal search for one’s own sound. At the very beginning, the electro sounds of Weather Report and Chick Corea’s Return to Forever Band had a magical effect on me. But the years of training went back to the roots via classical jazz. Finally, the trio of first Bill Evans, then Keith Jarrett opened new doors for me, especially in the free use of forms and how to discover standards in a new way. At that time I also found the trio Jazz Fantasy. Later, other doors opened for me, namely through the courage to write my own compositions. So I had to try out several formations of bands in between. A phase of my development took place when I noticed, for example, that on the other side of the mountains, south and north of the Alps, in northern Italy and Switzerland, the music and the musicians are much more open than here. The collaboration with musicians from those areas broadened my horizons and ended up in the album “Just Alpin”. Then, in a further step, I also dealt with the connection between music, visual art and spirituality. My work “Chacmools” was more like a book. It contained two CDs, one in trio with guitar and percussion, one in sextet with bass clarinet, soprano sax, guitar, vocal art and drums. But the special thing about the whole thing was the book itself, big as an LP with lots of pictures of me and the percussionist of the trio. The texts about spiritual connections of mentors from my life came from me. Roman Hinteregger, the drummer of Jazz Fantasy was among the mentors. The first performance in concert was a spectacle. The band played in the center of a large square, and three films consisting of the pictures from the book were projected on the walls of the surrounding houses. The audience sat around the central stage, could watch the films running behind them through the band. Simply grandiose. After this phase of exploration, we met again in the trio Jazz Fantasy. The focus of my musical work was and is now again in the Trio Jazz Fantasy with Michele Giro and Roman Hinteregger.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

ND: – Well, my musical practice is on the one hand already playing the double bass to stay familiar with the instrument. But what is far more important for me is to keep my eyes and ears open and to catch the impulses that are the source of inspiration. Then to compose pieces from them and to find myself more and more. This is a different practice from the technical one, but for me it is the more important one. Without the creative impulses from within, any technical acrobatics are only empty appearances.

JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

ND: – What is the most important thing on stage or in the studio? First, to master the material, but on the other hand, to be completely free and open to what wants to develop in the moment. I have noticed that if the music has been fixed too strictly, the concert, or even the recording in the studio, is not airy and loose enough. Persevering on the instrument is one side, but persevering mentally is something else. With the Trio Jazz Fantasy we have discovered just that as our treasure. Those moments when small cracks appear in the performance are the ones that mean a chance to turn around, an opportunity to try something new. This is what it means for me to persevere spiritually.

Our US/EU Jazz-Blues Association Festivals 2023 with performances by international stars: Photos

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2023: Norbert Dalsass, Michele Giro, Roman Hinteregger – Still – Jazz Fantasy, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

ND: – In 1993 we met and found each other immediately. From the beginning, all three of us were very creative, courageous and enthusiastic. The special thing about our band was that we could move back and forth between two opposites. On the one hand, the melodic harmonic vein of Michele Giro gave us a good stability, on the other hand, I was rather attracted by the freer interplays between us. Roman Hinteregger acted as a bridge between the two sides. In this field of tension we moved back and forth, were able to play a wide range of energy fields. We won several international competitions and played at international festivals. We recorded four CDs, Undiscovered Hit’s, Modus, Every Breath We Take and Between, the last two with the participation of the extraordinary Franco Ambrosetti on trumpet. There was then a break in the 2000s. Each of us had to make new experiences, hone our own style, position ourselves more clearly. When we played together again after 10 years, we knew that there was still a lot of potential in the band. Finally we condensed our new ideas in the release of our last CD “STILL”. The music of this CD – also this one with a special artwork – was written by Michele Giro and me. In earlier times Michele played only on the piano. Now we also use electronic sounds that outgrow the mood of the new pieces. As an alternative to the double bass, in two pieces I play a 5 string double bass guitar. The band is the same, the spectrum of the music is completely new.

Buy from here – New CD 2023

Still - Jazz Fantasy, Norbert Dalsass - Qobuz

JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

ND: – I was musical director of the club Dekadenz in Brixen between 1986 and 2021. I organized over 300 concerts there during that time. What was my criterion to invite a band? The music must flourish the soul, otherwise it leaves no traces in the people. And that is a pity in a time when the mental outweighs the soul. And music is first of all food for the soul.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

ND: – Again and again I realize how important it is to feel the audience as a co-determining part of the whole performance. Energetic impulses flow back and forth. What is also important is authenticity. The audience understands immediately if we are just “playing” something to them. And they also respond to it. Maybe not with whistles or rotten tomatoes, but with inner turning. They turn their attention away from the stage. And the musicians notice this in turn. We offer them our emotions through the music, they can resonate with them if they want to, or not….

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

ND: – A unique experience was the participation in the Malta Jazz Festival 2000. We had won the first prize of an international competition in Italy. The prize was participation in the Malta Jazz Festival. A week later we were on the plane there. The stage was in the harbor, the audience was not only sitting on the prepared chairs, but also from the arriving ships they participated in the concert. Simply great.

Both as a concert organizer and with Jazz Fantasy, I have always been touched by how humble great musicians are. The meeting with Franco Ambrosetti, for example. We were still young at the time and Franco was a myth to us. But he always encouraged and spurred us on, gave his all and recognized us as his equals. Greatness combined with humility is a truly beautiful quality.

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

ND: – I don’t know if there is a quick way. Getting involved with music means learning the tool or instrument once, but then getting to know your own creative side. And that’s something completely different. What I see in videos is mainly a showcase of technical skills, who is the fastest, who can play even more incredible melodies on the bass that only a violin can otherwise. Is that music? I think that such examples discourage rather than encourage. There is only one Bottesini, all the others are at best good copies. But do we want to be copies? One can only inspire by truly being oneself. In my musical career, be it as a musician or as a music organizer, the answer has been very clear. It is not a question of whether the pieces are standards or original compositions, but whether the musicians are completely and utterly identical with their music. Whether the intention is to gain recognition or simply to let their soul speak through the music. Only that really touches.

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

ND: – My wish would be to have more opportunities for live music. In the 80s, we had a lot of small promoters, such as bars and bistros, who regularly had jazz bands play. But the increasing bureaucracy made it difficult for both sides. The promoters had higher requirements and greater bureaucratic expenses, and the musicians got smaller fees, if any. There were many opportunities to try out, to show ourselves. We musicians were motivated to practice, to compose new pieces because we could always play them again in front of an audience.

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

ND: – I was in Madrid last week and heard a nice latino-fusion concert, beautiful melodies, strong percussion, brave guitars, good groove…. Then, Mozart I always like to listen to, also contemporary music, Giacinto Scelsi for example …

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

ND: – As I said before, music is food for the soul. Our soul thirsts for peace, for love. When we let good music penetrate into us, it lifts our spirits, our radiance becomes lighter. And our charisma then affects others. The effect can spread further and further … a small amount for a better world.

JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

ND: – My question is: why are you doing this job? Can your soul be fulfilled in it?

JBN: – Yes, of course! Jazz and Blues musics are my life!

JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

ND: – Yes, several times. The last one was two years ago. My wife and I took over the care of two refugees from Ethiopia. To finance the time of our sponsorship I organized a benefit concert in which several other musician colleagues of mine participated. The proceeds enabled us to provide the refugees with a dignified place to stay. We and all the other participants knew exactly what was happening with the money and who was being helped with it.

What I expect from this interview? That someone reads it, even inspires it, maybe many. Maybe someone has questions, which I will of course be happy to answer. Maybe someone would like to invite us for a concert 😉

Thanks for the interview, Norbert Dalsass

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Seit 30 Jahren gemeinsam unterwegs, Jazz Fantasy (v.l.n.r.): Michele Giro (Klavier), Norbert Dalsass (Kontrabass) und Roman Hinteregger (Schlagzeug).

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