When Wayne Darling retired a few years ago from his position at the University School of Music in Graz, Austria, there was a worldwide search for his replacement. The man they found for the job was Morten Ramsbøl from Denmark. Besides his successful bass studio in Austria, Ramsbøl is constantly on the road, backing a wide array of artists. In the middle of all that, he even had time to produce a new CD in 2014 (Same Story Different Place). He is one busy guy.
You may have met Morten at ISB 2015 in Fort Collins when he performed in a duo concert with Jimmi Roger Pedersen. If you have plans to attend Bass2016 in Prague (September 20-25, 2016), he’ll be there. He’s in charge of the Jazz Competition.
Here’s your chance to get to know him.
Any thoughts / reflections on American music education as compared to your Danish upbringing (with NHØP, Jens Jefsen & Jesper Lundgaard).
I was studying the Simandl method with my old professor Jens Jefsen. It gave me a safety in terms of playing in tune when reading music and he really taught me how to create “pathways” when playing fast and difficult lines on the fingerboard. I later benefited greatly with this method during my almost 10 years playing bass with the Aarhus Jazz Orchestra. The Danish bass tradition is also influenced a lot by the American players living in Denmark since the mid-sixties. This would often involve you as a bass player on the band stand playing fast bebop lines in unison with a horn or soloing in furious tempos and outlining melodies in the treble clef.
How do those various approaches effect your teaching style?
The very pragmatic Simandl way of addressing scale playing in the lower and upper register in addition to my mixture with the four finger system (electric bass) gives me a lot of different options to hand out to my students. I believe that each of my students should be able to freely play what ever they hear and that the technique should support them at all times. I´m very influenced by the Nordic sound and approach to playing jazz or improvised music on the bass. It has a build-in melancholy and direct connection to our folk songs, psalms and hymns.
It seems like the majority of your career in Denmark has been as a performing artist. What inspired you to go for the change to a university position in another country?
Like you said, I was and still am very busy playing all over Denmark and Europe with different bands, but when the position came up I thought: Wow – this sounds really interesting! I’ve always loved teaching and what better chance to teach at the highest level than this?
How was the transition into that first year of full-time teaching? It seems like you were still up in Denmark quite a bit.
My first year in Graz at the Jazz Department was very exciting, breath taking and challenging. Especially when having a family back home in Denmark and touring a lot. This is why we have decided to live in Graz for a period now in order to be a “normal family”. I traveled so much during my first year in Graz and this way I can make lunch bags for everyone every morning and come home an cook a nice meal to my family after work 🙂
What are you looking forward to most in your second year at KUG?**
I’m really looking forward to dig in with 6 new students starting with me and of course my continuous work on implementing “ The Sound Of Graz” in my class. Meaning: I’m currently investigating what influences the region musically and could this have an effect on the way that we play improvised music? On top of this I’m looking forward to the visit of legendary Chuck Israels, Bass Night (15 bass players on the same stage) and playing with my students every week getting inspired and being an inspiration to them. We have the luxury of 1 1/2 hours every week.
What piece of advice or encouragement have you received from your former teachers/mentors that you’ve treasured in your new position?
Be yourself no matter where you are and who you are with!
Do you have any go-to teaching tools in the studio? Apps, books. etc?
My iPad with metronome, The iRealbook for a quick yet mechanic combing, the Simandl Book, the John Patitucci Etude book, The John Goldsby book: “Technique & Tradition”.
What are your passions or hobbies outside the performance and teaching life?
I’m a passionate outdoors person both with my newly bought mountain bike and when I´m home in Denmark, I like to go dear hunting with my brothers-in-law. I also like to cook and read and watch a good movie.
**The original interview was conducted in September 2014.