Studio Dan

Warum einfach, wenn's schöner kompliziert geht


Abendzeitung, Ssirus W. Pakzad, 2011-11-21

“Music That Makes You Think Better” is the promise on a poster advertising the Austrian large ensemble “Studio Dan”. There’s some truth to it; the wheels start spinning in earnest when you listen to the sounds of this 6-year-old ensemble.
The brain first has to deal with the fact that here, whole musical worlds are colliding – very much in the spirit of Frank Zappa, one of the band’s conceptual compass points. It’s no accident that the name is a reference to the album Studio Tan recorded by the brilliant composer and guitarist, who died in 1993.

“It’s almost de rigueur these days to call yourself subversive and avoid a clear stylistic definition,” says Studio Dan founder Daniel Riegler. “But almost no one has managed to marry diametrically opposed elements as consistently as Zappa did.” Well…except, perhaps, for Studio Dan. “It’s about combining things that often exist in complete isolation from one another,” continues Riegler. “We’re not a jazz big band in the classic sense, nor are we a contemporary classical ensemble or a rock band – but things mingle in our music that are normally seen as not belonging together. I think the different genres that we deal with can only profit from one another. It doesn’t hurt jazz a bit to be a little more precisely orchestrated instead of just having a few lines jotted down on paper. And contemporary classical music could sometimes benefit from a little spontaneity; it’s important that everything not always be decided at the composer’s desk.”
Trombonist Riegler – who works with Studio Dan very much under the motto “why do it simply if it can be complicated?” – draws from a generous pool of about 20 musicians; the exact instrumentation depends on the project at hand. Noteworthy, too, is the large percentage of women in the band – no accident, says Riegler. “I wanted to strike a certain balance. The dynamic in an ensemble depends partially on whether or not it’s monogender.” He stops short and laughs: “Is that even a word?”
Words often fail the listener as well, when confronted with this unpredictable mixture of borrowings from jazz, contemporary classical music and rock riffs, when the headily intellectual takes a sudden turn into pure body music – hip hop, for instance, or drum’n’bass. “Studio Dan is very much a child of our time. The musicians in the band have dealt with all kinds of music since they began – and each of them is capable of bridging stylistic gaps if necessary. We’re well-practiced in quickly switching thought patterns to match changing situations.”

That may also be of help in working with Elliot Sharp. The New York guitarist and saxophonist is a confirmed avant-gardist who occasionally allows himself a detour into elemental blues. He recently celebrated his 60th birthday and composed “In The Pelagic Zone” for the occasion, a commission for Studio Dan, with whom he will perform in the Unterfahrt. Riegler: “He’s also one of those who can combine a lot of opposing things.”