Jazzcello - Jazzcello

Okkyung Lee (Moers 2006)

Jazzcello describes the role of the cello and its most important instrumentalists in jazz .

In contrast to its “relatives” violin and double bass , the cello was for a long time an exotic instrument in jazz music. At first, the cello was seen in jazz as a kind of "small double bass", because the first musicians to use the cello as soloists were jazz bassists who used it as a second instrument. [1] It was not until the late 1940s, it was Harry Babasin and Oscar Pettiford inserted in the jazz repertoire. Since the 1970s there have been an increasing number of exclusive cellists who also use the cello as a solo instrument in jazz and improvisational music influenced by jazz .

Beginnings - Harry Babasin, Oscar Pettiford, Charles Mingus and Fred Katz

Since the beginning of jazz, string instruments played a role in the instrumentation of jazz music. In the days of early jazz, however, these were primarily violin and double bass , while the cello initially only occupied a marginal position. The first jazz musicians to use this instrument were the bassists Harry Babasin , Oscar Pettiford , Charles Mingus , Fred Katz and Ray Brown . Babasin and Pettiford, like Sam Jones , Ray Brown, Doug Watkins and Ron Carter , tuned - their instruments not in fifths, as is usual for the cello, but as with bass in fourths - only an octave higher. [2]

Harry is your father

Harry Babasin (1921–1988), who had played in the bands of Charlie Barnet , Benny Goodman and Laurindo Almeida , made his first attempts at the cello as early as the 1940s . Babasin became the first jazz bassist to use the cello as a second instrument, for example in his first solo in a recording on December 3, 1947 with the Dodo Marmarosa Trio.

While he initially remained in the role of bassist as a cellist, he took on a bassist on later recordings in order to be able to use the cello as a pure melody and solo instrument. Early titles in which the cello was used included Harry Babasin's version of the These Foolish Things standard . In 1953 Babasin recorded an album with befriended bassist and cellist Oscar Pettiford.

Oscar Pettiford Oscar Pettiford (1922-1960), who was best known in the 1940s for his collaboration with Coleman Hawkins , Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington , had 1949 during his membership in Woody HermanBand suffered a broken arm and found it too difficult to play bass while convalescing; instead he switched to the cello - also for the purpose of rehabilitation - and occasionally played it as a second instrument during performances after recovering from his broken arm. Before that, he had occasionally used the cello in the orchestras of Duke Ellington and Woody Herman and used it instead of the double bass. In 1950 he was heard on the cello in recordings of the Duke Ellington Quartet with Billy Strayhorn ( Perdido ).

In small combo formations, he then began to consistently use the cello as a melody and solo instrument. In 1952 the two “Pizzicato Jazz Cello” pioneers Babasin and Pettiford had a joint session. With his own combos, Pettiford recorded numerous records on the cello. Bassists Charles Mingus, Harry Babasin and Whitey Mitchell ( Red Mitchell's brother ) or later - during his time in Germany - guitarist Attila Zoller took over the bass part. From 1954 he also used the then still young multi-track technique for recordings and played both bass and cello parts.

His better-known recordings as a cellist include his version of the jazz standard " All the Things You Are " from 1959 with Hans Koller (tenor saxophone), Attila Zoller (bass) and Jimmy Pratt (drums).

Charles Mingus

Charles Mingus

Mingus had already played the cello in the jazz band during his school days; he only switched to the double bass in 1938 on the advice of Buddy Collette . [4] His early composition Chill of Death (1944) contained a bowed cello solo. [5] In 1946, during an engagement in Floyd Ray's band , Mingus occasionally played the cello, so he claimed to have played jazz publicly on this instrument before Pettiford. [6] In February 1949 he starred in the recording of He's Gone , which he made with his Symphonic Airsrecorded, a bowed cello, which played alone in the introduction to the ballad, as well as in the final chorus . [7] He can also be heard as a cellist on the Teo Macero album Explorations (1953). From 1952 he worked with a sextet recorded on Debut Records , in which a cellist (first George Koutzen, then Jackson Wiley) was also involved as bassist. In 1959 he put the cellist Maurice Brown on some pieces of his legendary album Mingus Ah Um ; Charles McCracken participates in half of the pieces on Pre-Bird (1960) .

Fred Katz In the mid-1950s, Fred Katz brought the bowed cello to attention in jazz. The band of the drummer Chico Hamilton , in which he was actually engaged as a pianist, caused a sensation from the mid-1950s with new sounds: Katz's cello playing was partly responsible for the success of the combo with one from 1955 to 1958 unmistakable chamber musicSound. Katz played the cello during the breaks during the group's first appearances, and at one point was so absorbed in his playing that he allegedly did not notice the other members of the quintet returning to the very small stage, so that he could no longer go to the Piano came and played the whole set on the cello. So the band developed the new sound, in which the guitar also played a clearly defining role in the ensemble sound. [8] Katz was classically trained - he had studied with Pablo Casals - and used the cello with Hamilton both bowed and pizzicato . He was involved in six joint albums with Hamilton; [9] under his own name he made recordings with Paul Horn (Soul-O Cello ) and with Johnny Pisano before turning to other genres and comparative musicology. [10]

Katz is considered to be the first "non-bassist" in jazz history to appear on the cello with longer solo string passages. In 1957 he was followed by Nat Gershman in the Chico Hamilton quintet . With the cellists of the Hamilton Quintet, the cello received greater attention in the jazz scene.

The 1960s

In the years that followed, bassists Keter Betts , Sam Jones , Ray Brown , Percy Heath and Eldee Young made recordings as cello soloists.

Ray Brown The bassist Ray Brown (1926–2002) caused a sensation in 1960 with his album Jazz Cello ; it is considered to be one of the first albums of mainstream jazz dedicated to the cello. Accompanied by a horn and rhythm section [11] Brown treated the cello as a melody instrument. With the standard " Ain't Misbehavin ' " he showed how the instrument can be set in a big band environment. After introducing an ensemble, Brown plays the melody pizzicato and decorates it with light ornamentation. Brown played a special cello for jazz bassists on this album, which he made with the Kay Musical Instrument Companyand came onto the market as the K 200 model and was also advertised as the “Ray Brown Jazz Cello”. The cello built by Kay has a stronger neck, a wider fingerboard and plastic pegs instead of the wooden pegs. [12] To this day, cello strings in quart tuning are also offered to go with this “jazz cello”.

Ron Carter

Ron Carter; 2008

The bassist Ron Carter was originally a cellist and clarinetist, but switched to bass when he was 17 years old. Carter also made recordings as a cellist in the 1960s, with George Duvivier on bass. Before he switched to bass, Ron Carter had taken classical cello lessons and also used his fifth cello bowed ( Coll'arco ) for recordings with Eric Dolphy, Mal Waldron and George Benson. Later he used a "piccolo bass" built according to his wishes. One of the pieces on the prestige album Out There (1960) in which Carter played the cello was the Mingus composition “ Eclipse". This version recorded by Dolphy / Carter in 1960, like the original recording by Mingus in 1953, uses the cello as a special timbre. [13] "Feather" and the title track of the album; the rhythm section for these titles was formed by George Duvivier (bass) and Roy Haynes (drums). Eric Dolphy borrowed the instrumentation for his second prestige album from the Chico Hamilton Quintet, to which he had previously belonged. Cellist Nathan Gershman could be heard there. In 1961 Carter worked again as a cellist for their joint prestige album Where? together as well as on the similarly cast Waldron album The Quest .

The early deceased bassist Doug Watkins is one of the cellists of the 1960s . For his prestige / new jazz album Soulnik , which he recorded with Yusef Lateef in 1960, he also used the cello in several tracks; Herman Wright played the additional bass . Similar to Pettiford, trombonist David Baker's health reasons forced him to record experiments with the cello for a short time in 1962. Since then he has also recorded cello pieces with Charles Tyler and Nathan Davis with his own 21st Century Bebop Band .

The jazz cello in the 1970s and 1980s

Abdul Wadud im Studio Rivbea NYC, July 1976

Bassist Dave Holland (* 1946) used the cello (in projects with guitarist Derek Bailey and bassist Barre Phillips , both in 1971). Influences from Pettiford and Ron Carter, but also from classical composers like Bach and Kodály, the bassist Dave Holland processed on his cello solo album Life Cycle , which he recorded for ECM in 1982. At the end of the 1960s he had also used the cello in the short-lived formation Circle . In 1982 Life Cycle was his first album with unaccompanied compositions for cello.

The bassist Peter Warren (* 1935) also appeared as a cellist in 1981; The album Solidarity was created for the German Japo label with his long-time colleagues John Scofield , Jack DeJohnette and John Purcell . In the 1990s he switched to the steel cello.

The Canadian cellist Tristan Honsinger (* 1949), who lives in the Netherlands, is at home in free jazz as well as in new improvisational music. In Central Europe, since the mid-1970s, initially in his duo with Maarten Regteren Altena at the Total Music Meeting in 1976, he made clear the importance of the cello for the further development of creative music; He became known through his collaboration with Alexander von Schlippenbach , Derek Bailey and Misha Mengelberg . Honsinger also plays with great intensity physically, which he supports by panting and screaming. In a concert with Cecil Taylor, for example, he fff flageolet textures fought until the horsehair of his bow waved like whipped sugar cane fibers around his cello ”. [14]

The classically trained cellist David Darling worked in particular between 1970 and 1978 in the Paul Winter Consort , in which Eugene Friesen was his successor. Darling also presented several solo albums, where he also included nature sounds in his cello playing. In addition to the traditional cello, he also uses an eight-string instrument with a massive body that he designed, which he amplifies and whose sound he can process electronically live.

The cellist David Eyges , who worked with Gunter Hampel and Bob Moses , recalled the role of the bass as a rhythm instrument on his own albums with his pizzicato; the winds were given the solo position. Eyges, who also worked with Hamiet Bluiett and Jaki Byard , represents the presence of the cello in smaller ensembles of the jazz avant-garde together with Abdul Wadud ; So in 1981 he played his composition "Crossroads" in a trio with Byard Lancaster (alto saxophone) and Sunny Murray (drums). With Jeanne Lee he released the duo album Here and Now(1993). He was the first to experiment with an electrically amplified cello.

The Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger 2007 at the Moers Festival

The cellist Abdul Wadud (* 1947) came to New York in the late 1970s and soon became part of the avant-garde scene there, playing with Cecil Taylor , Lester Bowie and Arthur Blythe . At that time he was considered one of the few jazz cellists who did not use it as a second instrument; In the opinion of Joachim-Ernst Berendt, Wadud is one of the few jazz musicians who introduced the cello - alongside the bass - as an equal solo instrument. He is equally familiar in classical and jazz contexts; so he worked with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra or with Arthur Blythe. In 1980 he recorded the composition "Body" on Julius Hemphill's album Flat-Out Jump Suite .[15]

The Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger (* 1954) has been an outstanding figure in new improvisation music since the 1980s, he has played in projects with Louis Sclavis , Trilok Gurtu , Yo-Yo Ma , Derek Bailey, Misha Mengelberg's ICP Orchestra, and the Gerry Hemingway Quintet , the Amsterdam String Trio, the Arcado String Trio and the Trio Clusone with Michael Moore and Han Bennink .

Hank Roberts in the Jazzhaus Stadtgarten, Cologne (March 2008)

The cellist Hank Roberts (* 1955) fuses different styles of jazz, classical rock and folk music in his work. In the 1980s he often worked on projects with Bill Frisell , including his early ECM album Lookout for Hope , on which he can be heard on the track “Little Brother Bobby”. In 1989 he founded the Arcado String Trio with bassist Mark Dresser and violinist Mark Feldman .

The jazz cello in the 1990s and 2000s

After the early innovations of the 1960s, a new generation of cellists such as Erik Friedlander , Daniel Pezzotti , Diedre Murray and Gideon Freudmann emerged. Diedre Murray played with musicians like Leroy Jenkins , Muhal Richard Abrams and the Henry Threadgill Sextet in the 1980s . Gideon Freudman has been a cross-genre cellist since his album Fellini's Martini , who uses the term cellobop for his style and incorporates loop effects into his performances.

In the 1990s, the cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm (* 1962) worked in the areas between jazz avant-garde and experimental music. After studying with Anthony Braxton and Morton Feldman , he played in the New York avant-garde scene. After moving to Chicago in the late 1990s, he played in Peter Brötzmann's Tentett and with Ken Vandermark . In 2007 he published Terminal Valentine , with ten compositions in different stylistic areas between free jazz and new improvisational music .

Erik Friedlander

Erik Friedlander (* 1960) also comes from the New York avant-garde scene, who plays the cello alone as the main instrument and has worked on projects with John Zorn , Laurie Anderson and Fred Hersch . Erik Friedlander uses the cello in both improvised jazz and contemporary music. With the name of his trio he refers to one of the founders of the cello tradition in modern jazz, Oscar Pettiford and his beginning with playing this instrument. In 2008 Freidlander's Broken Arm Trio published a contemporary interpretation of cello ensemble playing in jazz. His team-mates are bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Mike Sarin.

Mention should also be made of the cellist Matt Turner , who works in various styles of jazz, rock, and country music , but also works in experimental projects; Peggy Lee (* 1963), who is active in both jazz and improvisational music; she worked in formations with her husband Dylan van der Schyff as well as with Wayne Horvitz , Dave Douglas , Nels Cline and Bill Frisell .

Vincent Courtois (2007)

The French jazz cellist Vincent Courtois (* 1968) is one of the representatives of the cello of the younger generation in Europe; he worked with Christian Escoudé , Martial Solal , Michel Petrucciani , Rabih Abou-Khalil , Pierre Favre , Yves Robert , recorded film scores and leads his own formations.

Other cellists in jazz

Irène Aebi, Juni Booth, Jean-Charles Capon, Todd Coolman, Tom Cora, Pierre Cullaz, Friedemann Dähn, Paolo Damiani, Lars Danielsson, Johannes Fink, Larry Gales, Denney Goodhew, Richard Grossman, Percy Heath, Abdullah Ibrahim, Marc Johnson, Kash Killion, Okkyung Lee, Udo Moll, Glen Moore, Buell Neidlinger, Daniel Pezzotti , Martin Schütz , Henning Sieverts , Alan Silva , Peter Trunk , Tomas Ulrich , Huw Warren and Colin Wood , Eric Longsworth , Daniel Brandl, Stephan Braun , Adrian Brendell, Marcie Brown, Rufus Cappadocia, Max Dyer, Robert Een, Eileen Folson , Gideon Freudmann, James Hesford, Anka Hirsch, Wolfram Huschke , Stephen Katz, Ina Kemmerzehl, Erich Kory, Aaron Minsky, Boris Rayskin, Sera Smolen, Jeff Song, Gunther Tiedemann , Jörg Brinkmann , Susanne Paul, Veit Steinmann ,Elisabeth Fügemann and Nioka Workman .

Discographic notes

Fred Lonberg-Holm

Solo albums by cellists of jazz and new improvisation music

  • Abdul Wadud: By Myself (1977)
  • Erik Friedlander: Volac
  • Rufus Cappadocia: Songs For Cello (2006)
  • Ernst Reijseger: Colla Parte
  • Joan Jeanrenaud: Metamorphosis
  • Dave Holland: Life Cycle (ECM)
  • David Darling: Cello (ECM, 1992)
  • Fred Lonberg-Holm: Anagram Solos
  • Lucio Amanti: Jazzcello
  • David Eyges: Wood
  • Tristan Honsinger: A Camel's Kiss
  • Tom Cora: Gumption In Limbo
  • Daniel Brandl: Solo

Further recordings with jazz cellists

  • Ray Brown: Jazz Cello (Verve, 1960)
  • Vincent Courtois/Marc Ducret/Dominique Pifarély: The Fitting Room (Enja, 2001)
  • Eric Dolphy/Ron Carter: Out There (Prestige/OJC, 1960), Where? (Prestige, 1961)
  • Duke Ellington/Oscar Pettiford: Great Times! (OJC, 1950)
  • David Eyres/Jaki Byard: Night Leaves (Brownstone, 1997)
  • Erik Friedlander: Topaz (Siam, 1997)
  • Erik Friedlander: Broken Arm Trio (SkipStone, 2008)
  • Dave Holland/Derek Bailey: Improvisations for Guitar and Cello (1971)
  • Diedre Murray/Fred Hopkins: Firestorm (Victo, 1992)
  • Oscar Pettiford: Vienna Blues: The Complete Sessions (Black Lion, 1959)
  • Hank Roberts: Black Pastels (JMT, 1987)
  • Mal Waldron/Eric Dolphy: The Quest (OJC, 1961, mit Ron Carter)
  • Stephan Braun Trio: The Raid (ATS-Records, 2008)
  • Daniel Pezzotti: Cellobration (TCB, The Montreux Jazzlabel, 2008)
  • Gunther Tiedemann - David Plate Duo: Live (CBR, 2010)




  1. Christopher Washburne Miscellaneous Instruments in Jazz In: Bill Kirchner (Hrsg.), The Oxford Companion to Jazz Oxford 2005, S. 653ff., hier S. 662
  2. Bill Crow, The Bass in Jazz In: Bill Kirchner (Hrsg.), The Oxford Companion to Jazz S. 668ff., hier S. 677
  3. ^ Harry Babasin and the Jazz Pickers. 1957 with Harry Babasin (cello), Terry Gibbs (vibraphone), Dempsey Wright (guitar), Ben Tucker (double bass) and Bill Douglas (drums)
  4. vgl. Brian Priestley: Mingus. A Critical Biography. London 1984, S. 19–24.
  5. Priestley, S. 26
  6. Priestley, S. 42
  7. Charles ‚Baron‘ Mingus West Coast 1945–1949 #17 sowie Priestley S. 49
  8. Buddy Collette, Jazz Generations. London 2000, S. 133f.
  9. The last of these albums ( Reunion ) was made in Milan in 1989, where the original Hamilton quintet came together again.
  10. In 1996 he still played in Collette's Friendship Suite , cf. Collette, p. 189
  11. Instrumentation: Ray Brown (cello), Don Fagerquist (trumpet), Harry Betts (trombone), Med Flory (alto saxophone), Bob Cooper (tenor saxophone), Paul Horn (flute), Jimmy Rowles (piano), Joe Mondragon (bass) , John Cave (horn), Bill Hood (baritone saxophone), Dick Shanahan (drums), Russ Garcia (arranger, conductor)
  12. Kay
  13. The cellist Jackson Wiley, with whom Mingus had worked together as early as 1952, was involved in the original recording, as can be heard in the introduction to Paris in Blue . Eric Dolphy, who was involved in the second recording of the piece by Mingus ( Pre-Bird ) in 1960 , played the clarinet here.
  14. Markus Müller, Liner Notes zu Honsinger Quintet: Map of Moods
  15. Other musicians were Olu Dara (cornet) and Warren Smith (percussion)