Studio Dan

Sitting on fences


Der Standard, Andreas Felber, 2009-09-04

Vienna – “In retrospect, I’m glad it took so long. I think the CD came out well partially because we’ve been playing some of the pieces for years and because we’re familiar with the material. You can make a CD quickly these days; for just that reason you’ve got to be precise,” comments Daniel Riegler on the double CD Creatures and other stuff (JazzWerkstatt/Lotus) from his large ensemble, Studio Dan - one of the most exciting groups to come out of the JazzWerkstatt Wien (a successful collective of young Viennese bandleaders which has spawned emulators in Graz, Bern and Berlin since their coming-out in 2005).

Behind Studio Dan lurks a 20-piece sound machine that maneuvers between all genres with ease. There are rifflike big band themes, colorful, pulsing chamber-musical structures and sharply cut patchworks à la John Zorn as well as sound improvisations in the spirit of John Cage, altogether an impressive compositional visiting card: “The music of Studio Dan is a mirror of my musical socialisation.”

The 32-year-old completed a course of study in classical and jazz trombone in Graz and Vienna and has practical experience in both improvisational ensembles and the likes of the Klangforum Wien. The compositions of Giacinto Scelsis (the source of notated improvisation and as such for Riegler a bridge between the two worlds) have also influenced Studio Dan’s music, he says. The ensemble’s name, by the way, is inspired by another great genre-buster: Frank Zappa, specifically his 1979 album Studio Tan.

“In my opinion Zappa didn’t settle on a specific sound or style. The consistence with which he refused to settle is unique, especially since his music never really drifts into simple eclecticism or crossover,” says Riegler. He also sees a connection between his own ensemble and the Vienna Art Orchestra, a group that has mutated into a jazz chamber orchestra in its latest incarnation: “The musicians are more versatile and better educated. After all, for simple economic reasons it’s almost impossible these days to focus on only one thing, like jazz or classical music. And there are less and less people who want that.”