Another string on his bow

French bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons defies borders and integrates different kinds of music into his work.

Renaud Garcia-Fons 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Renaud Garcia-Fons 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Renaud Garcia-Fons simply has no limits - in the best and artistic sense of the word. The 46-year-old French bass player is planning to give his Jerusalem audience a taste of many worlds when he plays here with his Arcoluz trio on May 31, as part of the Israel Festival. Then again, it's all the same to him. "Since I was a little boy, I listened to many types of music, and I think I have been liberated from the different styles," says Garcia-Fons. "There is no border in the music I try to do, so you can integrate elements of different music without a signature. I think people like to put things in folders, but sometimes you just have to go with it." Garcia-Fons certainly goes with the flow; he says he has been open to many musical strains since the start. "I listened to pop and rock on the radio when I was young, and my older brother came home with records by the Beatles, the Stones and the Who. I followed all the rock development, but I also listened to other things - classical, Spanish, flamenco and jazz." It was in his late teens that Garcia-Fons started to explore musical terrain beyond the Western world. "I began listening to oriental music - Indian was my favorite, and also Cuban, Latin, Celtic, African and Turkish music." Today, the bassist ebbs and flows between genres and cultures seamlessly, and his cohorts draw on a similarly wide range of sources. "Pascal [Rollando, who plays on Garcia-Fons's new album La Linea Del Sur] plays [Latin box drum] cajon and [African hand drum] djembe, and he also uses a foot-operated shaker, besides the normal hand shaker," Garcia-Fons continues. "That makes a very groovy combination of percussion. And [Arcoluz drummer-percussionist] Jorge "Negrito" Trasante also has a varied approach to the music." Garcia-Fons is excited about the new CD and says it exemplifies his professional ethos. "It is a sort of concept album, although the pieces and the spirit behind them are not completely identifiable. That is part of the purpose of my music. My music is not a patchwork of elements and cultures." THE BASS was not Garcia-Fons's first instrument. "I began playing classical guitar and only later graduated to the acoustic bass. I was inspired by jazz players like Scot Le Faro, [Charles] Mingus and Paul Chambers, but I listened less to bass players and more to other instruments. My interest is in music in general and not necessarily the bass. In fact, the bass offers less freedom than other instruments like, for instance, the guitar or oud." So why choose an instrument with such limiting confines? Garcia-Fons evidently likes a challenge. "I like the mystery of the bass. My work is particularly centered on trying to find the freedom within the bass." Besides his varying musical exploits, Garcia-Fons is also known for having an extra string on his bass. "I added a fifth string almost as soon as I started playing bass," he explains. "The fifth string makes it a more complete instrument. Originally the bass had three strings, and then four, and then metal strings were introduced and that made it possible to play faster and in a higher register. So, you see, the bass has always been evolving. For most people, the double bass is a jazz instrument, and most think of it as being played pizzicato. I tried to change that idea a bit. It should be a complete instrument - rhythmic and melodic. And my arco [bowing] playing is very important." The third member of Arcoluz is flamenco guitarist Kiko Ruiz. "Kiko is a wonderful player, and he is also open to different ideas. As an artist you've got to stay open and always look for something new."