This week’s Contrabass Conversations Episode features the second part of our interview with Chicago Symphony bassist Rob Kassinger. Last time we heard from Rob (on episode 25), we talked about his early years on the bass, growing up in Colorado, playing jazz and electric bass, studying the instrument, and studying with Homer Mensch in New York City.
This episode, we talk about Rob’s time in the New Orleans Symphony, Colorado Symphony, and then moving into the Chicago Symphony.
Rob talks about the materials he works on with students, like etudes and Simandl, plus what gear Rob uses and how his band NYCO developed.
We’ll also be hearing three tracks from Bay Area bassist Djordje Stijepovic. Enjoy!
Click to Listen (right-click to download) or click the player below:
CBC #44: Show Notes
Musical Guest: Djordje Stijepovic
Photo by Nebojsa Babic
Bassist and composer Djordje Stijepovic (prn: George-eh Stee-yeh-po-vich) is widely recognized as a world-class, slap-style upright bass player for his ability to play across a host of musical styles. His formal education is classical and jazz from the renowned Belgrade Music Conservatory, but his informal education comes from the bands, festivals, stars, clubs and streets of Europe. He adds his signature slap technique to every genre of music he performs.
Djordje came to San Francisco in 2004 and now he’s the bass player of choice for half-a-dozen Bay Area jazz, bluegrass, latin, cajun, blues, and rockabilly bands. He has toured with the band Head Cat (features Lemmy Kilmister from the Motorhead and Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats), Deke Dickerson, Fishtank Ensemble and played with rockabilly and blues legends like Scotty Moore, D.J. Fontana, Sonny Burgess, Joe Clay, Jody Williams and Billy Boy Arnold.
While in Serbia, he led Havana Whisper – a band that was a hit with the European neo-swing audience. Havana Whisper played clubs and festivals of up to 10,000. The band’s CD Flammable was released on a major regional label (PGP-RTS) in 2002. Havana Whisper was also featured in Careful, Flammable! This “rockumentary” if you will, along with Havana Whisper’s television show, LP, aired and was rerun nationally.
Djordje played bass on the self-titled CD for the contemporary Gypsy band Kal, another successful European group. Their CD reached #1 on Europe’s World Music Chart and stayed in the top 10 for four months. Kal’s CD was produced by Mike Nielsen (Jamiroquai, Dizzy Gillespie).
Havana Whisper and Kal provided a taste of success, yet it was the bands Shira Utfila and Marsya that broadened Djordje musically. Both bands toured and performed on high-profile stages like the international Exit Festival. Shira Utfila was a European band that played Middle Eastern music in maqamat where notes can progress in quarter tones, not half-tones, making the melodies more intricate. Djordje took on a more important role of the bass providing strong backup and melodic solos. Marsya played Balkan music, which is based on complex rhythms rather than complex melodies and features exotic time signatures like 7/8, 9/8, 11/8 etc, and its rhythmic challenge is that these unique time signatures can change, and change back, during the same piece of music.
Djordje Stijepovic currently plays in the Bay Area, tours internationally, teaches bass, plays in musical theater productions, and is writing a book on the history and styles of slap bass. He recently finished touring Europe, recording an album with his rockabilly band Atomic Sunset, and is at work on his solo album.
Robert Kassinger was appointed to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1993. Prior to Chicago, Rob performed as assistant principal bass with the Colorado Symphony and also played with the New Orleans Symphony.
Rob grew up in a family of musicians in Boulder, Colorado. He began his bass studies with Frank Carroll at the University of Colorado. In 1985 he moved to New York to study with Homer Mensch at the Manhattan School of Music, where he received his bachelor of music degree. Rob then pursued his master’s degree at the Juilliard School, continuing his studies with Mr. Mensch. He later went on to study with Bruce Bransby at Indiana University. Some of his most influential experiences as a student were his two years as principal bass of the New York String Orchestra Seminar, conducted by Alexander Schneider, and the two summers he spent as a fellowship student at the Aspen Music Festival, studying with Stuart Sankey and Bruce Bransby. In 1989 Rob was the winner of the Aspen Double Bass Competition.
Rob’s experience as a jazz performer dates back to his early teens, working in the house rhythm section at the infamous Denver jazz club El Chapultapec, and over the years he has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Kenny Burrell, the Woody Herman band, Conte Candoli, Charlie Rouse, Teddy Edwards, Harold Land, Red Holloway, Charles Brown, Art Lande, Richard Stoltzman, Gary Burton, Alex Acuna, Laurence Hobgood, and Bobby Lewis. In 1998 and 2000, Rob toured India with the Chicago Jazz Express, and he can be heard on their recordings Voyage to India and The Rhythm Section. He also appears on Bobby Lewis’ latest CD, Just Havin’ Some Fun. In addition, Rob is featured on Daniel Barenboim’s Brazilian Rhapsody on the Teldec label, and Kabbalah Blues/Quantum Funk by the Revolution Ensemble. Rob’s latest project has given him a chance to spend more time with the bass guitar. His alternative rock group NYCO has released its debut album Two, available through nycomusic.com and at iTunes.com.
Rob is professor of double bass at DePaul University. He is also in demand as a coach and master clinician, serving in this capacity for the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, the Juilliard School, and the Mannes School of Music. In the summers of 1999 through 2002, it was Rob’s honor to teach at the West-Eastern Divan, a ground-breaking workshop that brings young musicians from Israel and various Arab countries together to study orchestral music with Daniel Barenboim, Yo-Yo Ma, and members of the CSO, Berlin Philharmonic, and Staatskapelle Berlin.
Featured Musical Selections from Djordje:
Ornament – Nikic and Stijepovic duo (Balkan music, the song taken from upcoming solo album of Vladimir Nikic)
Reina de la Gracia – Shira Utfila (MiddleEastern Sephardic music, the song taken from the album “At Thy Gates, O, Jerusalem”)
Atomic Boogie – Atomic Sunset (rock’n’roll, the song taken from the upcoming album “Hot Rods & Pin-Ups”)
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