Bassist Massimo Biolcati has recorded and performed extensively with a variety jazz artists since the early 2000s. His most consistent collaboration has been in trio format with fellow Berklee College of Music and subsequently, Thelonius Monk Institute classmates, Lionel Loueke and Ferenc Nemeth. His longstanding friendship with the West African and Hungarian musicians manifests in a couple projects namely, the Lionel Loueke Trio and GilFeMa, the latter of which sees the trio sharing equal songwriting and arrangement duties. The trio’s reputation for complex rhythms rooted in African traditions and strong melodic compositions – often outlined by Loueke’s singing – have made them a formidable live experience.
Massimo developed his musical voice whilst negotiating the cultural seesaw of a Swedish-Italian childhood. His early influences range from symphonic rock to Pat Metheny and Dave Holland, all of which have contributed to his strikingly original blend of extended compositions, unusual time signatures, and a lyrical, melodic style. “Growing up in both, Italy and Sweden and speaking two languages probably most significantly influenced my own musical development, because I had such a vast, exciting playground to explore. It stoked my early curiosity about different music from different places,” says Biolcati. “In jazz and improvised music, I have found the perfect medium to pour all the things I assimilate in my ongoing journey of discovery.”
A couple of years at a private music school in Stockholm led to a scholarship to study at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where he performed and recorded with jazz masters George Garzone, Jerry Bergonzi, Hal Crook and Bob Moses. He was subsequently transplanted to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at the University of Southern California, where he was immediately taken under the wing of Terrence Blanchard, after being handpicked by no less than Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Here, he studied and performed with these jazz greats as well as Dave Holland, Kenny Barron, John Scofield, Christian McBride and many others. It was at Berklee, and then the Monk Institute that Massimo forged his enduring friendship and collaboration with guitarist and vocalist, Lionel Loueke and drummer, Ferenc Nemeth.
In 2003, he toured with trumpeter Terence Blanchard. “Playing with Terence taught me so much about musical interaction between performers on stage,” remembers Biolcati. “Performing his compositions also helped me improve my own compositional skills.” Throughout 2005 and 2006, Biolcati toured with Verve recording artist Lizz Wright. In the years leading up to his 2008 debut recording, Persona, he also played with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and with the legendary Cuban musician and composer Paquito D’Rivera, whom he credits with being “a great inspiration, not only challenging me to learn more about Latin music, but about classical music as it intersects with jazz.” With Persona (ObliqSound), Biolcati took a giant stride into the spotlight in his own right, with the two-part album winning Best Jazz Album (Vox Populi winner) in the Independent Music Awards in 2009.
The trio GilFeMa, has been a large part of Biolcati’s creative undertaking, performing and recording steadily since their Monk Institute days. Their self-titled debut on ObliqSound in 2005, heralded the trio’s unique texture and sound “neatly blending African and European sources into a winning hybrid” (DownBeat). The GilFeMa project ran parallel to the Lionel Loueke Trio with recordings on ObliqSound and Blue Note, the most recent of which – Gaia – sees Biolcati building on his upright bass playing with a transition to the deeper, more groove-based and versatile sound of electric bass.
The move to the world of electric and electronic sounds is unsurprising given Biolcati’s parallel interests in music and technology. His childhood hobby of computer programming followed him to life on the road when he passed the time in hotel rooms, divining ways to get legible charts onto his iPhone. These early experiments developed into the now popular and ubiquitous it seems, iReal Pro music app. Since the app’s conception in 2002, Biolcati has become known almost as much for his programming as for his music. Indeed, his music knowledge and experience has allowed him to create a very sophisticated music generator, but conversely, the deep investigation into the details of electronic music generation is now informing and enriching his music making.