In 1990, bassist Carlo Mombelli and alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano released Happy Sad on ITM Pacific, an album that also features drummer Bill Elgart and guitarist Peter O’Mara.
Seven original compositions by Mombelli include “Deep Impressions,” “I Drank my Coffee and Dreamt,” “My Friends and I,” “Somewhere, Out There,” “Zambesi,” “Remember Lucia,” in addition to the title track.
Originally released in CD by the German label, Happy Sad is now available as a digital download as well.
Carlo Mombelli’s “Remember Lucia,” featuring Charlie Mariano, Bill Elgart, and Peter O’Mara, is on SoundCloud:
The players on this international affair hail from South Africa (Mombelli), America (Mariano and Elgart were both born and raised around Boston, Massachusetts), and Australia (O’Mara), with an important nod to Europe, especially Germany, which has served a critical role in the careers of all four veteran jazz players.
Besides playing bass, contributing vocals, and adding percussion on one track, Carlo Mombelli produced the album which the quartet recorded at German Studio Hiltpoltstein on 18 August 1990. Two years later, the same players, with American Mick Goodrick replacing Peter O’Mara on guitar, recorded Dancing In A Museum, also released by ITM Pacific.
Dancing In A Museum was the third album Carlo Mombelli and Bill Elgart played on together. Their first release, Carlo Mombelli’s Abstractions (1989), with Peter O’Mara on guitar & synthesizer, and Jurgen Seefelder on soprano & tenor saxophone, was recorded in 1988 in Germany.
Born in Pretoria, self-taught bassist and composer Carlo Mombelli studied classical piano for six years before starting to play the bass at the age of sixteen. In his early twenties, Mombelli joined the band of one of South Africa’s most important jazz guitarists, Johnny Fourie, together with sax player Duke Makasi and drummer Kevin Gibson. He later formed the initial version of the Abstractions before moving to Germany in 1987. It was during this time he recorded an earlier version of “It’s For You,” the second track on the 1989 Abstractions album.
“It’s For You,” with Johnny Fourie on guitar, Tony Moore on drums, Romeo Avelino on percussion, and Carlo Mombelli on bass is online:
In 1998 and 1999, Carlo Mombelli held a teaching post at the Richard-Strauss Conservatoire in Munich. He also hooked up with Bill Elgart and a pair of saxophonists, American Lee Konitz and German Thomas Zöller, to form Zollsound 4.
Their Open Hearts album recorded in 1998 was the last album Carlo Mombelli made in Germany before returning to his native South Africa after a dozen years of performing, recording, and teaching music based in Europe.
The title track from Zollsound 4’s Open Hearts, released in 2000, features Bill Elgart on drums, saxophonist Lee Konitz on saxophone, Carlo Mombelli on bass, and Thomas Zöller on saxophone:
The same year, Charlie Mariano’s Not Quite a Ballad was also released, with New On The Corner (a quartet composed of Bill Elgart on drums, Bernhard Pichl on piano, and Rudi Engel on bass) and the Würzburg Philharmonic. A closer look at that album including a few tracks from the career of saxophone legend Charlie Mariano is HERE.
Besides the trio of original albums Carlo Mombelli and Bill Elgart recorded between 1989 and 1993, two compilations have also showcased some of these tracks including Charlie Mariano and Carlo Mombelli’s Somewhere, Out There (2006) CD on New Edition. This collection recorded at Studio Hilpolstein and Studio Yemaya, München between 1990 and 1992 features Bill Elgart on drums, Mick Goodrick on guitar, Mombelli on bass and vocals, and Charlie Mariano on flute and alto saxophone.
In 2011, Abstractions Retrospective 86 To 92, an album that draws tracks from Happy Sad and Dancing In A Museum, was released as a double-CD and digital download. Among other places, it is available on Carlo Mombelli’s website.
Carlo Mombelli’s “Dancing In A Museum,” which appears on both of the compilations, features Charlie Mariano on alto saxophone, Bill Elgart on drums, Mick Goodrick on guitar, and Carlo Mombelli on bass and is currently available here:
Since returning to South Africa, Carlo Mombelli has held a number of positions in education including as Composer-in-Residence at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg in 2004, the same institution Mombelli received a doctorate in composition from in 2009 and where he currently holds a teaching position. He’s also given composition and performance workshops in Switzerland and at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Guitarist Peter O’Mara and drummer Bill Elgart have made half a dozen albums together, in addition to at least two compilations. They first collaborated on the Sun Dial trilogy with the eponymous debut in 1985 followed by the Illiad the next year, and O’Mara-Darling-Elgart in 1988.
The trio added Canadian trumpet player Kenny Wheeler for the 1990 album Kenny Wheeler – Peter O’Mara – Wayne Darling – Bill Elgart on Koala Records. A closer look at that album, which includes several tracks from Peter O’Mara, is HERE.
And one more track from saxophone great Charlie Mariano, “Adagio,” the opening cut on Not Quite a Ballad, featuring Bill Elgart on drums, Bernhard Pichl on piano, Rudi Engel on bass, and the Würzburg Philharmonic: