Conversation With Yves Carbonne
If you’ve seen a picture of Yves Carbonne with his bass, you’ve already gained insight to this man’s non-conformist approach, as his main axe is a 12 string fretless. But all those strings are there for the most musical of reasons, and he’s shown on countless occasions that the “music” is always first and foremost in his approach.
Carving a unique voice out, especially on fretless, is absolutely a formidable task these days, but Yves has no problem being identified, as well as having the ability to place that voice in the right place at the right time to enhance whatever type of musical setting he’s involved in. (Another fairly formidable task I might add). Credence to that statement is easily ascertained by listening to his contribution on the bass trio CD “Carbonne-DiPiazza-Manring”. His musicality shines as he blends in effortlessly with these two very renowned bassists’ to help create a very beautiful and definitive trio bass CD, a format we rarely get to hear.
Beyond that, you can hear the depth of his musical abilities as well on his debut solo CD “Seventh Wave”, where once again he displays his innate sense of compositional architecture within his playing, and shows an equally impressive talent for writing as well. Yves is quite simply a very matured and musical bassist, as well as musician, and is definitely worth hearing.
Jake: I know you spent time at an early age on acoustic upright, and then moved on to electric bass and studied with Alain Caron and Dominique Di Piazza. What were some of the concepts that both of these stellar players presented you, and how did that affect your playing at that point?
Yves: I had the pleasure to meet Alain Caron in 1984. I was 17, and I was really impressed with his fretless playing. I spent a lot of time studying his style, particularly the melodies, and his chordal approach. I recommend him on fretless as well as Jaco, Gary Willis and Carlos Benavent.
I’ve personally known Dominique Di Piazza since 1993. I had a great deal of admiration for the work he did in John McLaughlin’s trio (with Trilok Gurtu). I took some lessons with him, and learned a lot about rhythm, improvisation and virtuosity.
Jake: Knowing a bit of your history, you’ve been on an extended range instrument for quite some time, right up to your present instrument, a Jerzy Drozd fretless 12 string. What were your musical motivations for developing your seriously extended range approach?
Yves: For me, playing bass is first off about playing the bassist’ role. The instrument we play, the bass guitar, is a guitar (as the name indicates). So we are all guitarists as well! I love being a bassist, this is my main job in my band Seven Waves, but I also enjoy using my instruments as tools to create my own music. I wanted to open up the possibilities for myself, which developed into moving on to a seriously extended range bass. The Jerzy Drozd Legend XII YC has a range of 8 octaves, like a Grand Piano. I enjoy having that type of range available to me. But this is the absolute limit. Any more wouldn’t make sense to me musically, or physically.
Jake: Along those same lines, as far as improvisation is concerned, what in general have you focused on, and out of pure curiosity, how are those ideas affected when you approach them in a 12 string context?
Yves: Everything affects my decision to play the 12, my other basses, and more specifically, my music. And it’s not just the music, but also all the emotions I experience in life! The discussions you have before going on stage can affect your playing, even what you’ve eaten!
I don’t listen to that much music these days, because I love silence. I’m used to living in the countryside with a very abundant amount of silence, and I need it. I don’t understand people who always need to “hear” something. Beyond that, when I do listen to music, I’m not necessarily listening to bass players; I’m just listening for music that means something to me emotionally.
One of the things I do enjoy about the fretless 10 and the fretless 12 string is that it’s still new for me. I have to approach how I play particular things differently on these instruments— it’s difficult, but also exciting. I’ve been playing the 10 string for 2 years, and I’m finally starting to get comfortable with it.
I’ve been playing the 12 for 1 year, and it’s still very difficult physically. I’ve learned that I must be in perfect physical shape to play it, and I can’t play it for more than 2 hours each day as I’ve found it could be dangerous for my hands.
Jake: In my interview with Dominique in this issue, he speaks about how it’s a tough road being different from the norm as far as having a unique approach to the instrument is concerned. I imagine you can certainly relate to that point.
Yves: I completely agree with Dominique, it’s very difficult. Some people just love me because I play a 12 string bass, and some others (hopefully not a lot) seem to hate me for the same reason. It’s very strange for me, and makes me think that a lot of people aren’t really able to just listen to “the music”. Some people seem to just judge you for your look, or your instrument. They don’t realize that instruments are just tools for making music. You can have 1 string, or 20 strings, but that should not be the criteria for whether you’re playing good or bad music!
Jake: Tell me about the trio CD you recorded with Dominique and Michael Manring, as I’m sure that was a very special musical event to be involved with.
Yves: At the beginning it was just a jam after a dinner, and we got the idea to record this trio.
Working with Michael and Dominique was a great experience for me— I’ve learned a lot playing with them. I like the album we’ve made because it’s not only a bass album, but also an album for music lovers. Each one was able to play in their own style, and bring in some original compositions, and without it being a competitive situation. A great experience!
Jake: You studied classical piano in your youth, and I’m curious if the time you spent studying on piano had an impact later on the direction you took on your instrument, as well as musically in general.
Yves: Yes, definitely. Piano helped me to develop my ear, as well as my passion for harmony.
Jake: On your new CD “Seven Waves”, which received a great review in our February issue, you worked a great deal with vocalist Guillaume Eyango. What inspired you to take this direction on your debut solo CD?
Yves: For my debut release, I didn’t want to make a jazz-fusion– all bass/boring type of CD. I wanted something different, something that would be more reflective of my life and my emotions. Working with Guillaume helped me achieve this because his voice is very soulful, and it’s perfect my music. He’s very talented! I believe this is the beginning of a long collaboration.
Jake: What projects are you currently working on, and where can we look to catch you performing, or as a clinician, which I know you are also busy at?
Yves: My current project is touring with my band Seven Waves, with Guillaume Eyango (vocals), Brenda Della Valle (Backing vocals), Sébastien Demeaux (backing vocals), Camélia Ben Naceur (keyboards), Antony Breyer (drums) and Pascal Ricard (sound). I hope we will be able to tour soon in the US.
I will return to the studio this year with Guillaume for a new recording with the same crew as Seven Waves, and also some new guest artists.
I’m doing more and more master classes these days, most recently in UK, as well as working on a complete bass solo album. There are other CD and DVD projects in the works, but it’s a bit too soon to talk about them.
Thank you so much Jake for the opportunity to do this interview.
Jake: My pleasure
For more information, visit online at www.yvescarbonne.com