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Mombelli photo by J Rees 2023.JPG

Photo by Jonothan Rees

Bassist - Composer - Educator

Disconcertingly beautiful. THE JAZZ TIMES (USA)


‘Once in a while an artist comes along who produces music unlike anything you've heard. Avant-garde bass-focused jazz composition has rarely sounded so gorgeous. 

Bass Player Magazine (USA)


‘His music is unusually and unexpectedly fresh.’ - Paris Jazz Man Magazine, (FRANCE)


Carlo Mombelli’s music is that of a quintessential Prisoner of Strange. It’s visionary, emotional and experimental, in a society that doesn’t applaud artistry and integrity. His music sits on the cusp of sanity, where madness and brilliance share space, where true art resides. Mombelli has found in his music the expressive soul of the developing world mixed with the technical profundity of the classical world. 

The Sunday Independent


Mombelli, now in his early 50’s, is still very much in rude creative health. He is still pushing the limits of sound and writing challenging, beautiful work. As an educator, he is molding and mentoring the next generation of South African musicians. Carlo Mombelli is nothing short of a national treasure – you cannot argue with the depth, passion and inventiveness of his music.  

The Mail and Guardian.


Hauntingly beautiful

BBC radio - London

I Pressed my Spine to the Ground, Mombellis’ recording was chosen by the BBC 3 late junction as one of their top 12 picks for 2016 played on the BBC late junction evening radio, London


Bassist Carlo Mombelli is something of a sage figure. As he approaches his 60th birthday, a time when many a musician has found their comfort zone and settled into it, he remains one of the most restlessly creative forces in South African jazz.

By Dan Bilawsky (New York) All about JAZZ

February 20, 2019 


Performing at this year Cape Town International Jazz Festival with my band, 

Carlo Mombelli & The Prisoners of Strange' with Siya Makuzeni : voice, Marcus Wyatt : horns, & Justin Badenhorst : drums

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new album of Carlo Mombelli feat. Wolfgang Muthspiel and Jorge Rossy is out 

order now:

The three play jazz with an intimacy, intensity and thrift that we as addressees repeatedly hold our breath in this exceedingly organic improvised chamber music.

It is music of outrageous, almost scandalous beauty. 

Die Weltwoche - Switzerland 2023

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00:00 / 08:06

What the press say about - Lullaby for Planet Earth

Carlo Mombelli’s patience is profound. Long a believer in allowing music to unfold at its own pace, the veteran South African bassist/composer demonstrates incredible composure in every pursuit. Always unforced and forever bound to both the natural and spiritual realms, his art reflects a purity linking the concepts of self-command and surrender. In that respect, in using his own unique voice, he speaks to universal hope and possibilities.

All About Jazz USA

Dan Bilawsky

November 4, 2022

The rhythmic mesh, the melodic interplay, the finest, densest dialogues, and the thematic urgency in the trio’s common language unfold a primal power of touching tenderness: the lullaby for a world as threatening as it is threatened.

Jazz Guitar today

October 2022

Simply gorgeous – Germany 2022


In his 40-year career as a bass player, band leader and composer, the South African Carlo Mombelli currently living in Johannesburg has bridged gaps between genres, musicians and the audiences.


A self-taught musician, he has recorded and performed at many respected music clubs and festivals, including:

the Roma Villa Celimontana Jazz Festival,

the Stockholm Jazz Festival,

the German Moers Festival,

The Leipziger Jazztage,

The BimHuis in Amsterdam,

The Berliner Philharmonie,

‘On the Edge of Wrong’ festival in Norway,

the Banlieues Bleues festival in Paris,

Cape Town International Jazz festival,

Festival Mundial in the Netherlands,

the JazzWerkstadt in Bern, Switzerland,

& ‘Rio Loco’ festival in Toulouse France, to name a few,

with amongst others, Mick Goodrick, Charlie Mariano, Konstantin Wecker, Jeroen van Vliet, Malcolm Braff, Jorge Rossy, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Dejan Terzic, Tony Lakatos, Falk Willis, Wolfgang Haffner, Billy Elgart, Andreas Tschopp, Marc Stucki, Francois Jeanneau, Carine Bonnefoy, Barbara Dennerlein, Lukas Ligeti, Samual Blaser, Frodo Nymo, Håkon Mjåset Johansen, Hildegard Kleeb, Roland Dahinden, Colin Vallon, & Adrian Mears. 


He has also recorded for Enja Records with Egberto Gismonti as well as with Lee Konitz, and has contributed music and played on the 1989 tribute for Jaco Pastorius, ‘Basstorius’, that also features the bassists Mathew Garrison and Carles Benavent.


Back home in South Africa he has performed and worked with Duke Makasi, Kyle Shepherd, Vusi Khumalo, Barney Rachabane, Lionel Pillay, Hotep Galeta, Afrika Mhkize, Sydney Mnisi, Mbuso Khoza, Ayanda Sikade, Themba Mkhize, Khaya Mlahlangu, Vuma Levin, Jono Sweetman, JB Arthur, Nduduzo Makhathini, Lulu Gontsana, and Thandi Ntuli, to name a few.

He can also be heard as a bassist on many South African recordings with amongst others, Marcus Wyatt, Zim Ngqawana, Tony Cox, Tlale Makhene, Johnny Fourie, Jonathan Crossley, Simphiwe Dana, Kyle Shepherd, Keenan Ahrends, Siya Makuzeni, Nontuthuzelo Puoane, Kesivan Naidoo, Sibongile Khumalo, & Miriam Makeba.


In 2018 the Swiss/Italian 15 piece ‘Euregio’ Large Ensemble spent the year performing Carlo’s music at festivals around Europe.

In 2021 the MET, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York presented Carlo performing his music together with the Grammy award-winning New York String Quartet ‘Ethel’.

Ballets, films and Commissions

Besides the many ballets that have been choreographed to his music with performances around the world, he has also composed music for more than 14 films, documentaries and animations, and have been shown at all the major art film festivals from New York’s Museum of Modern Art MOMA, to Berlin, London, Toronto as well as the Sundance Film festival. 


In addition to his over 100 recorded works and performances with his own projects, his composition commissions include music for a mobile game for the London gaming company ‘The Secret Police’, commissions for Zim Ngqawana’s 50 piece Zimphony Ourchestra, (which Mombelli also conducted with Zim), commissions for the ‘Stockholm Saxophone Quartet’, music composition for Simphiwe Dana that won a SAMA (South African Music Award) and his piano music for the art film Exquisite Corps by Jonah Sack presented at the New York Jewish Museum.


Lutherie Urbaine

From 2007 to 2009 Jean-Louis Mechali, a composer, musician and director

of the Paris-based company ‘Lutherie Urbaine’, asked Carlo to conduct

weekly workshops in Soweto and Mamelodi teaching children and youths

to play his music on instruments built on site from recycled material. The filmmaker Sylvie Coulon documented the project in a film called ‘Sharp Sharp’.

Carlo also worked on the project with the company in Paris. 


Pulses in the Centre of Silence – Composition Scores and Artistry Concepts’ is published by Real African Publishing.

Mombelli’s Intergallactic Bass Book is published by Real African Publishers and Internationally by Hal Leonard.


Carlo, a self-taught musician, has been involved in music education for many years. Starting in 1998 he held a teaching post at the Richard-Strauss Conservatoire in Munich, Germany. Since then he has taught and run ensembles at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and bi-annually at the Jazz Musik Akademie in Basel, Switzerland. In 2015, he led the DKSJ-all-star-project with 13 Masters students studying jazz in Switzerland.

Mombelli is a NRF Rated Associate Professor and head of music at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.


XENO 2020

Jonathan Crossley - guitar, ableton, audio & video

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Jonno Sweetman - drums

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Live at the Bird's Eye 2019

Adrian Mears, trombone

Andreas Tschopp, trombone

Jorge Rossy, vibraphone

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Jonno Sweetman, drums

00:00 / 09:18

The Road Past Nieu-Bethesda (Live)

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Angels and Demons 2018

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Maria Mombelli, voice

Kyle Shepherd, piano

Keenan Chas Ahrends, guitar

Jonno Sweetman, drums

Peter Cartwright, piano (classical)

00:00 / 05:43

Pulses in the Centre of Silence

00:00 / 04:29

The Children of Aleppo

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I Press my Spine to the Ground 2016

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Mbuso Khoza, voice

Kyle Shepherd, piano

Kesivan Naidoo, drums

Brenda Sisane, spoken word

00:00 / 04:31

I Press my Spine to the Ground

00:00 / 05:53

Picasso' Dove

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Stories 2014

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Mbuso Khoza, voice

Adrian Mears, trombone

Daniel Pezzotti, cello

Dejan Terzic, drums

00:00 / 03:44

Motian the Explorer - Reprise

00:00 / 06:17

In Between I'll eat Dark Chocolate

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CARLO MOMBELLI & the Prisoners of Strange

Theory 2010

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Siya Makuzeni, voice

Marcus Wyatt, trumpet

Justin Badenhorst, drums

00:00 / 07:14


00:00 / 05:07

Angela's Angels

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Remember Me 2009

Zim Ngqawana, tenor sax

Kyle Shepherd, piano

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Justin Badenhorst, drums

00:00 / 02:52

Wake Up!

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CARLO MOMBELLI & the Prisoners of Strange

I Stared into my Head 2007

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Siya Makuzeni, voice

Jessica Bailey, cello

Marcus Wyatt, trumpet

Sydney Mnisi, saxophones

Lloyd Martin, drums

00:00 / 05:28


00:00 / 03:25

Trance by Chance

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Forever 2000 (Gallo Records)

Miriam Makeba, voice

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Papa Kouyate, percussion

Ntokozo Mathonsi, guitar

Ntokozo Zungu, fender rhodes

Camelia Onea, 1st violin

Srdjan Cuca, 2nd violin

Jeanne Moolman, viola

Laura Howe, cello

00:00 / 09:05

La Guinee, Guine

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Marcus Wyatt language 12 - 2005

Siya Makuzeni, voice

Marcus Wyatt, trumpet & mouth bow

Afrika Mkhize, piano & fender rhodes

Jean Pierre Oosthuizen, guitar

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Papa Kouyate, djembe

Clement Benny, drums

00:00 / 06:24

Two short stories from seven steps

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CARLO MOMBELLI & the Prisoners of Strange

Live at Fort West 2004 (MELT2000)

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Siya Makuzeni, voice

Jessica Bailey, cello

Marcus Wyatt, trumpet

Sydney Mnisi, saxophones

Lloyd Martin, drums

00:00 / 06:42

Ethical Sam's Cookery Class (Live)

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Zandisile 2004 (Gallo records)

On the track - Troubled Soldier

Simphiwe Dana, voice & composition

Carlo Mombelli, bass, programming & composition

00:00 / 07:18
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CARLO MOMBELLI & the Prisoners of Strange

When Serious Babies Dance 2002

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Siya Makuzeni, voice

Nonthuthuzelo Puone, voice

Johnny Fourie, guitar

Marcus Wyatt, trumpet

Sydney Mnisi, saxophones

John Davidson, trombone

Lloyd Martin, drums

00:00 / 03:28

Basil, Roses, Lemons, Love

00:00 / 01:32

Observations from the Hideout

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Solo, duet, & trio 2002

Johnny Fourie, guitar

Carlo Mombelli, bass

00:00 / 05:47

When I Fall in Love

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Abstractions Retrospective

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Songs Closer To Silence 2002

Thomas Zoller, composer, baritonesax

Bettina Kosziol, soprano

Merit Ostermann, mezzosoprano

Roger Janotta, sopranosax and flute

Jason Seizer, tenorsax and flute

Hugo Siegmeth, tenorsax, clarinet

Jan Fassbender, analog synthesizer

Geoff Goodman, guitar

Carlo Mombelli, fretless bass

Bill Elgart, drums

00:00 / 08:19

On the Wings of Hope

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Sibongile Khumalo

Immortal secrets - 2000 (Columbia/Sony music)

Sibongile Khumalo, voice

Afrika Mkhize, piano

Themba Mkhiza, keyboards

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Vusi Khumalo, drums

Basi Mahlasela, percussion

Innocent Modiba, background vocals

Thabo Mdluli, background vocals

Bongani Masuku, background vocals

00:00 / 05:54

S'khumbule Nkosi

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Open Hearts 1998 (Enja records)

Lee Konitz, altosax

Thomas Zoller, baritonesax

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Bill Elgart, drums

00:00 / 06:09

Taster: Open Hearts



Bats in the Belfry 1996 (Recorded Live at The Bayerisher Ründfunk - Germany)

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Adrian Mears, trombone

Roberto di Gioia, piano

Wolfgang Hafner, drums

00:00 / 08:24

Requiem (Live)

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Diario de Borda 1996 (Enja records)

Egberto Gismonti, piano

Marcio Tubino, saxes & flute

Pedro Tagliani, guitar

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Fernando do Ó, percussion

Domingos Pereira, percussion

César Audi, drums

00:00 / 04:39

ó Quem Taí



Bass Talk 3 1993

On the track - The Marathon Runner

Carlo Mombelli, bass and composition.

Music for 10 fretless basses

00:00 / 06:27
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Dancing in a Museum 1992

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Charlie Mariano, alto saxophone

Mick Goodrick, guitar

Bill Elgart, drums

00:00 / 05:31

Dancing in a Museum

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Happy Sad 1990

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Charlie Mariano, alto saxophone

Peter O'Mara, guitar

Bill Elgart, drums

00:00 / 07:22

Remember Lucia

00:00 / 04:18

My Friend and I



Abstractions 1989

Carlo Mombelli, bass

Jürgen Seelfelder, saxophones

Peter O'Mara, guitar

Bill Elgart, drums

00:00 / 08:06

It's For You

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CARLO MOMBELLI & Abstractions

On the Other Side 1986 (Shifty records)

Carlo Mombelli, bass & composition

Johnny Fourie, guitar

Jo Runde, guitar

Neill Ethridge, drums

00:00 / 04:04


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