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Dominique DiPiazza


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“A New Vision and a New Heart”


By Phil DiPietro

To many fans of adventurous jazz music and more specifically, it’s low end portions, Dominique DiPiazza is looked upon as having turned in the greatest one-off performance in electric bass history, his virtuoso turn on John McLaughlin’s Que Allegria. Recorded in 1991 and released in the Spring of 1992, it contained, literally at its center (track 5 of 10 of the CD, or, if you were a cassette holdout, the ending of side one) what was, up until that point, (ok, excepting Jaco’s recorded output) arguably the quintessential two minutes in the instrument’s short history- the neo-classical display of technical mastery, lyricism, and emotion- “Marie”. The remainder of the album highlighted Dominique’s contributions very strongly, including the title cut, which featured a melody doubled on bass and a long, astoundingly fluid solo section for Dominique. Successive world tours followed with the trio, a format McLaughlin has revisited throughout his career with resident trio percussionist Trilok Gurtu and a dizzying array of star bassists, beginning with Jeff Berlin, who was in turn succeeded by Jonas Hellborg, Kai Eckhardt and finally Dominique.

John moved on to the next thing, while fans the world over waited patiently, but expectantly, for Dominique’s next offering. None came. After a period of a couple years, whether you were a player, or an intense follower of the scene in magazines or via the internet, you noticed the question starting to pop up, consistently, and repeatedly, “Does anyone out there know what happened to Dominique DiPiazza?”

Not a person I spoke to did, until last year. Matt Garrison, John’s last bass player (in the Heart of Things project), who I had the pleasure of interviewing for this site, knew. He told me what Dominique had been up to, and that indeed, he was still playing music, and strongly encouraged me to follow up. Matt, who is a walking personal rolodex of virtuoso musos the world over, kindly gave me an email address, one of those old numerical ones, which never panned out. Finally, early this year, news came that Dominique was visiting the west coast, which led to a mysterious French cell phone number, which got me a correct email address. Success! Unfortunately, Dominique was out west for a period of only a few days before his return to France, and did not return to the states until this June. The opportunity to actually make face-to-face contact would mean an impossible road trip, so emissaries were put in place to do the work for me.

Hence, the following list of “Thank Yous” to all who made this happen, starting with Matt, (who would have done the whole thing himself if he weren’t on the road with Herbie) who basically hooked me up with the following folks. We’ll start with San Diego’s John DiMaggio of Bass Alone (, and move back east to the Bass Collective and Warren Brown of the collective proshop who generously coordinated and donated playing space for Dominique and young phenom (he’s 22) Janek Gwizdala an incredible bassist in his own right, who initially agreed to ask all my questions, but displayed the mind-blowing maturity and good sense to just to sit and play with Dominque. This segues nicely into the final acknowledgement, Dominic Chiaverini, (, Dominique’s good friend and fellow bassist, who did the meat of the work on this one, methodically asking all my questions and adding a few more of his own for good measure, providing the source tape for this interview.

So here’s the revelation, which will be explained more below. After the tours with Mclaughlin’s trio, while utterly at the very top of his game, Dominique elected to leave the music world for a period of time. It turned out to be seven years, during the first four which he did not touch an instrument! The positive, uplifting part of the story, is that he did so out of personal choice, not because we lost him to some tragic, yet, all-too-common, diversions of the jazz life, such as drug or alcohol addiction, or domestic family strife. Nor did the jazz world lose him due to the harsh realities of the music biz - increasingly unresponsive and unenthusiastic towards prodigious instrumental music. No folks, Dominique left music to become a Pastor, which he is today, at a church in southern France. He conducts bible studies, plays music in church weekly (or more often), and with his church, focuses on work with orphans throughout the world. Family and his duties as a pastor are preeminent, with music coming next, which is the way he wants it- how refreshing is that? Dominique summarized his thought process regarding this shift profoundly and succinctly earlier this year, on the excellent French jazz site Jazzbreak, with the following exchange:

Jazzbreak: “Dominique, you have stopped music for about 7 years, to turn yourself toward religion... what motivated you to start playing again?”

Dominique DiPiazza: "First, I would like to say that I did not turn myself toward religion, but toward God... It is not easy to explain in a few words why I came back, because I would have to also explain why I stopped... but it was the time. There is a time for each thing, like the Bible says, and it was the time for me to stop, to dedicate myself a little to the writings - now it is true that I am also a Pastor, so I have two activities - and it was the time, in my walk with God, to start again, with, of course, a new vision and a new heart.”

photo copyright Cathy Caraveo - used by permission of

He picked up the instrument again in 1997, an effort which has recently resulted in, believe it or not, the release of one of last year’s top fusion CD’s, as evidenced by it’s capturing the equivalent of a grammy in France.Front Page (CD Emarcy/Universal 549045-2) consisits of the dream power trio of Bireli Lagrene (guitar), Dennis Chambers (drums) and Dominique on bass, and includes a guest appearance by McLaughlin himself. Contributing to Dominique’s cloak of mystery in America, this cd is only available as am import, with the two best sources being Audiophile Imports ( and Amazon’s French version. Dominique was light years ahead of his time, anyway, so it comes as no surprise that his playing hasn’t missed a step. The funny thing is, Dominique is emphatic that his playing has improved since the release of Front Page, and I wouldn’t doubt it- as Janek said to me, the day after playing with Dominique, “He is executing things on the bass I did not believe were possible”.

One request to all reading along. When reading Dominique’s replies, keep in mind he speaks more than a few languages very well, and speaks English with the classic French accent, but deliberately. Somehow this contributed to, for me, making the interview all that much more profound.

AAJ: From my experience in this country, anyway, most people think you appeared on only one release “Que Allegria” by John McLaughlin. Every year, every month, on the “Bottom Line” a bass players forum, or “One Word” John McLaughlin e- digest, or on “Fusenet”, the fusion lovers digest, people ask, “What happened to Dominique?” You most definitely captured the interest and imagination of the fusion and bass lovers community with only that one release, and it has lasted for the intervening ten years. How does that make you feel, that so many people have so enjoyed and been so influenced by that single release?

Of course, it is a great honor. To take myself back to that time, of course, I was extremely happy, as every musician is when they work extremely hard to make something happen-and you have a kind of acknowledgement. So, of course you are happy for the great encouragement. But now, I have a totally different view of it.

AAJ: We will eventually get to the beginning, but please indulge me for a moment by telling the fans and readers about your seeming “disappearance” from the music world. At any time during your hiatus did you quit playing music altogether?

Yes, I quit the music “business” for seven years. I did not play at all for the first four -I did not touch an instrument. I sold everything… no musique! I left to pursue the study of God, the study of religion, and am now an Associate Pastor.

AAJ: To precede the questions around what happened, perhaps you can first enlighten us as to what that deep religious commitment means to your music, during the periods preceding your decision to leave music, and now, subsequent to it. Certainly, your past playing reflects a commitment to the musical craft and a burning spirit within. Has the intensely spiritual period, coupled with your “musical sabbatical” accentuated the music?

Of course, because, in a way, I rested. Since I did not play for so long I rested my ears. Now, I am more inspired.

AAJ: Does this concept of this “devotion” to the Lord and to being a pastor carry over into the compositional realm and how you approach music now?

In a sense, yes…in a sense. I can break it down into two sections. The instrumental part is what it is, eh…but when I write songs- for instance I am going to do a record in Europe with a French singer- I am thinking about God or the Bible or the grace of God, or look there for inspiration. But when I play, when I improvise, I just play. For instance, I have a repertoire I play on guitar, that I play at church. When I play hymns or spiritual songs, of course-this music was created to make you sing and lift up your spirit and help you to sing about God. So there’s Christian music and then there is jazz...they are totally different. But still- my playing is the same, only my heart is different. Another major change is that maybe I have returned to or reinvestigated the more melodic approach, with more conventional harmonies, like I practiced when I first started playing. I do not like music that is too aggressive or too altered sounding. Through the years, more aggressive or altered sounds found their way into my music and playing, but now I have gone back to the source; melodies, harmonies with a sweeter know...not as heavy, lighter rhythmically, more syncopated and quick feel-wise.

AAJ: How do you, or any musician, hope to evoke religious (or any) imagery or feeling into the music? Or does this even enter your mind when composing?

When there are no words or no lyrics, there is no message, per se. You can say whatever you want. As always, I can play a tune for one person and it will evoke something totally different than in the next. That’s the great part… not a problem.

To get specific with religious thoughts, you have to have the words, I think. I got saved by listening to lyrics coming from the word of God. One has to go the words, the text, for that. But the music helped me to listen to the words-the message- and it helps others. When Jesus came, he did not play harp-or guitar or bass-just the words. Ah, that is a good one (laughs).

AAJ: Your solo project appeared out of nowhere this year. Did you have this concept and these tunes for quite a while, now, or is this is something you’ve only worked on relatively recently? This project sounds like a band project, not like a one CD deal.

Oh yeah. This is a collaboration. But we had this group back in the early 90’s (91 or 2) at a festival in France (Agrillon).We were supposed to make a record and do a tour then.

AAJ: So, who initiated the current get together, the current Front Page recording and tour?

Honestly, I can say that the true story is that I received the promise of God that this would happen, years ago, after the festival appearance, and during my leave from music, when I was working in a factory. I kept in touch all along with Christian Pegand ( who is a producer and John (McLaughlin)’s manager. This culminated with one call, when I said, “I am ready to do a record now”, and he said, “OK! Tomorrow I will call Dennis and Bireli!” That was it!

AAJ: Tell us about some of the more memorable moments in the making of the record or the tour.

We recorded in southern France, not far from where I live. It was all memorable, with 23 dates in Germany, Czechoslovakia, France, Austria and Belgium. In terms of what the fans like, I think they really enjoy the part of the show when Bireli comes behind me and I play walking bass while he plays a solo-all on one bass! And we switch while he walks and I solo! I enjoyed  playing guitar on the tour, as well. I have been working on guitar again for the last two years.

I really thought our last gig was the best. It was  near a place called Grasse, and John McLaughlin was there. He didn’t play, but he joined us afterward, and he really enjoyed the show. He seemed very into it and happy to see me playing once again. He said that it was “killer!”... for him, at that moment, the best trio around in terms of dynamics, especially

AAJ: What music holds your most extreme interest these days, and what of it may influence your next project or recording?

In fact a lot of gospel, Christian music, flamenco and some black gospel music. Black gospel music is very good music that I had not listened to before. In conjunction with the flamenco, I have gone back to my first influence, Gypsy music. I was raised in a Gypsy camp by my second father, Manouche. So Django Reinhardt-type music is a huge influence. In fact, I will be performing at guitar week in Corsica ( -all the gypsy players are there, along with Robben Ford and Paco de Lucia. I will be performing on bass, solo and guitar, solo…both on Gypsy night. I’ll be conducting master classes as well. This is the first time that I’ll be playing publicly on guitar.

In a way I don’t want to listen to a lot of music or be deeply influenced by it. This all contributes to keeping fresh. Better to walk in the park and really hear the birds, you know what I mean?

AAJ: Tell us about your compositional approach.

Most of the time I just sing melodies and write it on bass or now, on guitar, from there.

AAJ: Are you quite conversant/knowledgeable in music theory?

I am self-taught and know theory and chords from ear and from taking stuff off of records and transcribing by memory...not writing. I had, and still have, my own way to work on that. It comes from recognizing all the intervals and ear recognition of chords. I am not a sight reader but I read a little bit, especially on bass clef of course.

AAJ: What about the availability of your disc? Is it an independent release or on a European label? Do you know the easiest way to obtain it in the US? Europe? Japan? Who is responsible for marketing it?

Right now, it’s only Europe, but I keep hearing it will get a US release. It won the equivalent of a Grammy in France. To get it now, the internet is the only option in the US.

AAJ: What kind of recording technology did you use on the date?

I used one track direct and one track through my Warwick amp head. Very simple. Right to hard disc.

AAJ: Tell us about any music you already have completed that may have been left off of this recording for another day and why.

There is plenty more; hopefully, some of it will get onto a solo album.

AAJ: Any other things you want people to know about your upcoming solo cd project?

Not much yet, except I have the musicians in mind, a French piano player and a percussionist that are unknown in the states, and that it will very likely have some guitar. I tune the guitar just like the bass, in fourths. I took everything from the bass and brought it to guitar-and it worked. I always worked on the bass like a guitar player would have worked on guitar. The only problem playing everything I can play on bass on the guitar was learning the picking technique.

AAJ: Where can people look for info on your appearances/schedule?

Right now, all my appearances are in France. A lot of teaching and master classes. The main gigs are trio gigs with Louis Winsberg (, Winsberg is a monster guitarist and a founding member of French fusion supergroup Sixun) and Stephane Huchard (Huchard is a …uh, monster drummer has played with Tania Maria as well as Winsberg and Jean Pierre Como-a keyboardist also formerly of Sixun).

AAJ: Now back to the beginning. How old are you and where did you grow up?

I’m 42 and grew up in Lyon

AAJ: How did you get into music? When did you take up music?

My stepfather was a gypsy and I always listened to gypsy and flamenco music and eastern musics, such as Indian and oriental music. I originally started to play guitar in 1975 with African musicians from Cameroon, in Lyon, and played a little bass with a pick. I picked up a little bit of the African sixteenth note style, and can say that this is why I really enjoyed what I heard Jaco doing later with sixteenths. It was that thing that captured me first in the Jaco style. At 19, I heard Jaco and sold my guitar and decided to work harder on the bass. Before I knew Jaco’s stuff I could play loads of bebop phrases on guitar. I had a big II-V-I vocabulary, working on Django, Wes and George Benson lines.

AAJ: Let’s take an aside here and tell us about how you brought hybrid classical technique to the bass. Explain your technique, using the thumb and index finger exclusively, to us.

I am not classically influenced at all and cannot play classical guitar. People think I can do that because of my right hand technique. It’s a coincidence. I heard a lot of incredible music and had a lot of phrases in my head, but did not know how to execute them. I knew that great players used their fingers. I did not realize they played with more than two. It’s something I developed with the phrases in mind, and it has worked for me. After a while the right hand started to influence the left a bit, as well, but I never thought about the technical aspect of the right hand. I wanted it to serve the music. I used to listen to a lot of Coltrane, Charlie Parker, all the greats. To reproduce what I heard, I had to find something.

AAJ: I notice you use conventional technique for walking lines.

Yes, but now mainly I walk with the sun (laughs).

AAJ: Who were your influences as a musician, and more specifically, on bass.

Django, Wes, Jaco, Benson, some Holdsworth, Paco, of course John (McLaughlin), I listened to a lot of Bill Evans, and on acoustic bass, Nils Orsted-Pederson.

AAJ: Tell us about those periods of what you feel, were of most intense growth as a musician.

Honestly, the year between 19 and 20 is when I grew the most, practicing at least 10 hours a day. year.

AAJ: Ok, then what? I know you did a recording with pianist Pierre Como of Sixun in 1989, called Padre. Was this your first recording?

No. We are close friends and were so at the time we made this record. I knew all the Sixun guys and played a lot with Paco Sery, their drummer. They are my friends. I have worked with many other European musicians, including Laurent Cugny, Didier Lockwood, Michel Petruccciani, Gil Evans and Joe Diorio.

AAJ: I know you did another cd with Louis Winsberg. Are the Como and Winsberg cds still available?

For the Como cd try Audiophile Imports or French sites, also So does Louis. The Winsberg CD is still available. It’s called Camino and Stephane Huchard is on that as well.

AAJ: So, what events precipitated your joining John McLaughlin?

A guy who was a columnist enjoyed my playing and asked me for a cassette so that, perhaps, he could give it to McLaughlin, who he was supposed to interview at the Nice Jazz Festival. It was a cassette of the trio playing at the Sunset Club in Paris- myself, Louis Winsberg, with a drummer called Tony Robinson. It had a solo on there I was really proud of. So, John got it. The story goes that he put it in a basket on the bus. Evidently, the bus driver was not into jazz and was looking for some different music to put on. He saw this new cassette, and thinking it was rock and roll or pop, put it in the deck on the bus, and it started right up on my killer solo. My number was on the cassette so he phoned me. I thought it was a joke because he spoke French with an English accent. I thought it was Stephane Huchard, who had done similar things before. I said, “Oh, you got me, huh?” Then, I started in as if having a conversation with Stephane, saying, “So, Stephane did you know we got another call to play somewhere else?”- you know, something like this. Then John gave me the name of the journalist that gave him the cassette and it was then I knew-and apologized. John asked me to come meet him the next day. So I did, but I was afraid, you know, because he was a great influence. He came to pick me up at the airport and I am thinking to myself, “Who am I that John Mclaughlin would pick me up at the airport?” (laughs). So we played at his house. I was very comfortable with upbeat songs like Giant Steps or a jazz blues. I was young and proud, you know. After a while, he gave me a 9:8 thing, and I started sweating-then 15:8. I started sweating more and thought, “This is not going to happen. I lost the thing.”

But in fact, he was not so beyond that. He judged the potential and gave me six months to work on it, during which time I worked on my time every day and shedded his recordings. Finally, I met Trilok and we scheduled a rehearsal, I was sweating...I was so green. Finally, I got the gig. I could get papers, do the tours, get some money. We ended up doing around three hundred tours.

AAJ: Tell us about what must have been those two great years with John and Trilok.

Oh, just an honor to work with them. Learning so much, including endurance and professionalism. Working on rhythm. John encouraged me to develop my style in the trio idiom, to develop my chordal playing. You know, great musicians, like they are, help young musicians, like I was, to really develop their full potential and become what they are, really. I mean, this is one way to recognize a great musician. McLaughlin asked me to play solo bass-like “Marie”- it’s because of him I developed this aspect of playing. I learned how to play a melody and play and feel the notes and to play tricky hard passages, like unison lines. It was a very happy time for me, developing as a player and touring around the world-great places, great venues. But, still, for me, something was missing.

AAJ: What about playing with some of the top drummers in the world, such as Dennis Chambers, Trilok or Stephane Huchard?

Well, they are all bringing something different. A challenge that helped me to really keep moving and to play right on time and to develop rhythmically.

AAJ: Now that you’ve come back into the jazz world, do you want to keep doing your own projects (either with Front Page or others) or would you rather play with some other leaders?

I don’t know what is going to happen with the future of Front Page. I know I am going to do a solo thing. I’m not looking for a leader at this time.

AAJ: What about touring?

I really don’t see this happening as I am very family oriented. I have a beautiful family-my wife, Rosita, and a ten year old daughter, Cha-Cha. I also have my duties as an Associate Pastor. And more importantly, I am not interested, you know. When I was younger perhaps...but now I do not want to miss life.

I know that to play music, you know, fully, you have to pay a price…and most of the time what I have discovered is that it’s the family that’s the price to’s what suffers. I see a lot of people going through divorce,’s a’s a decision.

AAJ: Is there anyone you haven’t worked with would you most like to?

Keeping what I just said in mind, I would remain open to something really special. Not being a US citizen impacts some of this as well, but things are changing in that regard. By and large, I just don’t think the same way I did ten years ago. I am not looking for money or to get a name. I just want to enjoy music and earn my living from it in conjunction with other things. I never wanted to play any pop music, anyway. I was always a purist in that regard, and now that I am a Christian, that element of my musical personality is even stronger.

Finally, beyond the names of people I’d play with, I am more interested in who they are. If there is one key thing it’s the relationship. I no longer just want to make music with anybody. Even if it’s a great musician, I need to know who they are, their very heart.

AAJ: Tell us about any projects in the pipeline we may not have touched on.

I’d like to get more of a multimedia presentation up on the web, including interactive lessons. A system where I could offer lessons by email, for a reasonable price, with mp3’s and music to share. I am also working on a method book and have interest for an instructional video.


Reprinted with permission from Copyright © 2001 All About
Jazz and Phil DiPietro

Phil DiPietro is a “40 something” amateur bassist from the Boston area who keeps as “plugged-in” to the local and national scence as his family and  fanaticism can practically allow. Inspired by the level of vitality, artistry and musicianship rising up out of the jazz  and jamband worlds, much of it provided by incredible and adventurous musicians known heretofore as “sidemen”, he is compelled to write about it and “get the message out there” via reviews and interviews for, Bass Frontiers, and now Global Bass. If you read anything he has written, you may be thrown off by the uniform positiveness of it all. That’s because Phil is , quite simply, “not going to waste his time or the reader’s by slagging on some hard working musician. I’ll just leave the record or the artist alone. There’s too much great stuff out there flying under the radar that doesn’t get enough deserved attention as it is.” 





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