Studio Dan

In Frank Zappa's Footsteps


Kleine Zeitung, Otmar Klammer, 2008-11-16

What is said, remains said: “I have never really liked Graz.” Thus spoke the native-born Grazer, Daniel Riegler, knowing that we would not agree with his sentiment. Of course, that was not the reason why he relocated to Vienna as a youth. No, the real and truly mundane reason he left was to study the trombone under Rudi Josel.

At that time Frank Zappa, who always played a “major role” in this young composer's musical view of the world, had unfortunately already been dead for some years. It was, however, still possible to listen to the records made by this US-anti-law-abiding citizen in Vienna. “Studio Tan”, for example, a ground-breaking recording from 1978, after which Riegler was later to name his 17-head ensemble.


As “Studio Dan“ this group, which lives in that agravic space between contemporary jazz and new music, has for the past three years been causing a sensation in our country, particularly since this year when playing their way through Zappa's central Œuvre as Stage Band for the Viennese Jazz-establishment “Porgy&Bess”.

Riegler - who arranged Zappa's works specifically for his band and, as a composer, takes Frankie Boys kaleidoscopic cosmos as a starting point – does not, however, intend to appear as a “cover-band”. His aim is rather, together with the widely varying musical personalities in his ensemble, to follow his vision of a “large orchestral plane with a very specific sound”.

Collective new sound-play

Although Riegler is a founding member and one of the masterminds behind the Jazzwerkstatt Wien, this man with a clear voice is certainly not a jazz-musician in the classical sense. And knowing his “personal affinity for new music” - after all, if one studies Zappa, no path avoids Edgar Varèse - this very specific sound can no doubt be found somewhere in the vicinity of collectively improvised new sound-play. If there is a thread running through the distinct compositions of Daniel Riegler, then he would like this thread to be improvisation, and “often his starting point when composing is already improvisation”. Truly zappaesque.