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New School: Olivier Babaz

Olivier Babaz

Olivier Babaz is a bassist who pushes his technique to expand his musicality, even if it means playing several instruments at once. The bassist first caught our attention in a video where he plays bass, kalimba, and shaker all at the same time.

Born and raised in Paris, Babaz moved to Canada in 2010. Besides working on his own music, the bassist plays in the Akoz Duo with violinist Julie Salamagnou and composes film scores.

What makes you new school?

Olivier Babaz with electric upright bassI guess what makes me “new school” is my attempt to be innovative in my playing, whatever the style, and the music I play. For me, the double bass opens a lot of possibilities when being slightly diverted from its typical jazz or classical playing.

I spend a lot of time developing a modern arco playing that allows me to play jazz, rock and blues lines. I love arco, particularly in non-classical music. It offers a a huge palette of articulations and sounds. You can have that fat electric slide guitar sound that I love to use in jazz solos.

I had the idea of mounting a kalimba on my bass when I was living in Reunion Island, but never took the time to really develop it. When we arrived in Canada, we created the the Akoz Duo (Viola & Double Bass), and I started developing this because it allowed us to open our sound and explore new textures.

Finally, my own electric bass playing influences a lot my acoustic playing. The switch between electric and acoustic helps keeping fresh sounds and rhythmic ideas.

How did you discover your new school style?

Playing a lot of different styles with a lot of different musicians opened – and still opens – my ears to new sounds and rhythms. Discovering and trying to emulate master musicians both on the electric and acoustic finally got me to develop my own thing.

I studied classical and jazz bass playing both in conservatoire and universities, but I always tried to keep a self-taught approach to [my playing]. Technical and musical challenges help in developing new ideas while building tools to realize them.

Composing and playing in the Akoz Duo with Julie – a great classically trained violist – is a great experience, and the cultural difference between us makes me realize my own strengths and limitations. It’s a great everyday reality check that gives me great practicing directions.

Share some of your videos with us

Here are a few. The first two are among my filmed solo studio work. The last two include concert performances with with Akoz Duo.

You can also check my website for film music, mainly demos, samples and essays.

I had lot of fun studying music composition for films and I had the opportunity to develop creativity within the recording process.

What kind of gear do you use?

I try not to be too much of a gear addict!

I have two double basses, one plywood for concerts and an old, very fragile German one that does not go out so often.

My main electric is a 5-string Yamaha TRB from the 80’s. It has piezos under each string, neck-thru construction, and I string it with a high C.

For amplifiers, I use an Acoustic Image for the acoustic and Markbass for electric bass.

I love effects pedals, and I just set up a nice Ableton Live rig I use for practicing and composing.

What kind of gigs do you get with your new school style?

My main gig, where I can explore creative playing, is Akoz Duo. We play often in the Montreal area and will be touring in France this summer.

I also have a jazz duet (with piano or guitar). I love playing duets – it gives lots of space for each player and you must constantly be on the edge to renew the sound, especially while improvising.

I also play in the Sylvain Ransy Trio. He’s a great jazz pianist from Guadeloupe. (Check him out here)

Studio work for short films and video based composition gives me the opportunity to explore with multiple instruments (mainly strings and percussion) and allows to create unique instrumentations (overdubbed string section parts, mix of acoustic and electronic…)

Olivier Babaz with upright

Any traditional playing gigs?

Sure! I play mainly jazz gigs these times but regularly play funk and prog studio and live, even a little classical chamber music from time to time.

Due to my Reunion Island background, I play also very often African and world music. Montreal is a very nice place for that !

Do you have albums where we can hear your new school style?

We’ll be recording the first Akoz Duo Album this spring! Stay tuned!

I have a lot of my own recorded music on my website, and I’ll be recording as well a piano and bass duet album soon.

Where can we find you on the web?

What’s next for you?

The Akoz Duo is developing nicely here in Quebec. People react very positively to our music. We’ll record and release the album soon, then tour France this summer.

We are writing new material and hope to tour more and more in Canada and Europe and maybe come to the U.S. one day!

What else do you want to share?

Love the bass, and great gigs for everyone who plays it!