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Dieter Ilg

Bassist Dieter Ilg is regarded today as one of a handful of European musicians who make their unmistakable musical style a valuable contribution to the projects they work on. Whether it is as a internationally well-respected sideman or as band leader of his own ensembles: Ilg always combines the quality of the bass as a musical foundation with a graceful ease and expression that is rarely heard on a technically difficult instrument such as the double bass.

It is sometimes assumed that there are two kinds of bass players: those who “groove” and accompany (serving mainly as a rhythmic presence) or those who – freeing themselves of the serving role – strive to explore their artistic heights as a soloist (displaying their versatility as virtuoso improvisers). Unlike many Dieter Ilg combines the two ends of this spectrum.

His versatile, individual, passionate and tasteful voice has become a valuable contribution to the international jazz arena.

At the age of six Dieter Ilg – then an experienced recorder player (in kindergarten) – learned to play the violin and the viola before deciding to play the double bass at the age of thirteen. After four years of lessons at the music school in his home town Offenburg Ilg went on searching for new teachers. He studied with Norbert Brenner ( solo double bass player of the SWR Orchestra Baden-Baden) and later on attended Jazz courses in Burghausen, Remscheid and Tübingen, working with a wide variety of instructors and professionals.

From 1981 until 1985 Ilg refined his practical skills as well as his theoretical knowledge with Prof. Wolfgang Stert at the Musikhochschule Freiburg. Winning the Fulbright scholarship then enabled him to study at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City (1986/1987).

At this time he was already skilled enough to understand the art of musical structure as it was conveyed to him by such masters as Eddie Gomez and Miroslav Vitous. It was also then that he made his further experiences on the stage as a member of the Joe Viera Sextett (1981 – 1984) as well as with his first trio-project, co-founded with Klaus Ignatzek. Not before long he had built up a busy schedule performing with such players as Bobby Watson, Roman Schwaller or David Liebman. It was Liebman who significantly influenced Ilg’s decision to stay on in New York for a while when he invited him to join the John Coltrane Memorial Concert in NYC in January 1987. The future began to look exciting.

Seizing the moment Ilg founded his first Trio with guitarist John Schröder and drummer Wolfgang Haffner shortly after returning from New York. He also became a member of the Randy Brecker Quintet. Suddenly things were on a roll and he was awarded with the Baden-Württemberg Jazz Prize. The press said: “The brilliance and expression of his tone, the originality in the concept of his ensemble and his individual approach to harmony are fascinating.”

Regular performances with the WDR Big Band, a tour of Spain with Bennie Wallace and a new line up to his own trio – this time including pianist Marc Copland – is what followed. These collaborations resulted in the production of three CD’s featuring drummers Bill Stewart, Ralph Penland and Jeff Hirshfield.

The 90’s were a time of musical friction as well as for making decisions.

Daily business on one hand went well:

Since 1991 Ilg had toured with Germany’s renowned Jazz formation, the Mangelsdorff/Dauner Quintet. The Goethe Institute sent him round the world playing with Christof Lauer and the working relationship with Copland had resulted in evermore interesting facets of sound. Ilg ventured into jazz-rock with the French-Vietnamese guitarist Nguyên Lê and drummer Danny Gottlieb, also the list of performances as a sideman kept growing longer and longer.

The only thing missing was the kind of recognizable and characteristic project that comes straight from the heart.

In searching for music that represented his roots Ilg finally found what he had been looking for in his work on Folk Songs (1997), Fieldwork (1998) and LIVEILG (2001). The idea was a simple and obvious one: where else – other than your own native country – would you discover your cultural origins?

Ilg began exploring and arranging old German folk songs with his musical companions Wolfgang Muthspiel on guitar, Steve Argüelles on drums and – to begin with – Benoit Delbecq on piano.

The project was a huge success and toured for four years – so much so that in the end even the musicians themselves nearly got bored with songs like Im Märzen der Bauer and Winter Ade.

At last the German press caught attention and Dieter Ilg was recognized in his home country as the instrumental master that he was.

Still – even at this point labeled as a newcomer – he already brought new talent under way teaching at the Musikhochschule Freiburg (1995 – 1997, 2001ff).

It was European cuisine amongst other things that prevented him from locating in the USA permanently.

He developed a passion for culinary pleasures of a certain standard, which now has become a personal character trade. He gained a reputation as a chef and goutier, his recommendations for restaurants were highly esteemed and a “dinner at Dieter Ilg’s” achieved cult status.

When this became known to the magazine “Jazzthing” it offered him a regular column. Apart from his love for regional cuisine (Southern Germany as well as Italy) Ilg is a passionate supporter of his local soccer team in Freiburg.

Remaining faithful to his home soil Ilg organized new projects as for example with Charlie Mariano. In 1998 he had already produced the album “Savannah Samurai” with the charismatic saxophonist – this was followed by a number of tours with his band.

Out of this relationship, which is based on mutual respect and appreciation they developed their magnificent “chamber-music” duo. The lable “fullfat” was founded which allowed Ilg to release numerous albums independently – not abiding by the politics of major and minor companies. Check out: