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Bassist - Composer - Educator


Self-taught bassist/composer Carlo Mombelli was born in Pretoria, South Africa. After studying classical piano for six years he started playing bass at the age of sixteen and seven years later one of South Africa’s most important jazz guitarists, the late Johnny Fourie asked him to join his band together with Duke Makazi on Saxophone and Kevin Gibson on drums. The group had a contract at a club in Johannesburg to perform jazz six nights a week for six months. This was Carlo’s school of music. In 1985 Carlo started the group ‘Abstractions’ developing and performing his original compositions at weekly gigs in the downtown Johannesburg clubs like Jameson’s and Kippies, as well as a Friday midnight slot at the Black Sun in Berea, where he did a weekly 45 minute solo bass set. His band Abstractions recorded for Shifty records.





Carlo has since recorded and performed at many festivals around the world from Brazil to Europe including the Rome International Villa Celimontana Jazz Festival, the Stockholm Jazz Festival, the Moers Festival, the ‘Leipziger Jazztage’ and ‘Jazz an der Donau’ festivals in Germany. The Paris Banlieues Bleues festival, and the open air ‘Rio Loco’ festival in Toulouse France, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, and the open air ‘Festival Mundial’ in Holland - with amongst others, Egberto Gismonti, Lee Konitz, Mick Goodrick, Charlie Mariano, Peter O’Mara, Frode Nymo, Häkon Mjäset Johansen, Sabina Scuibba (the Brazilian girls), Wolfgang Haffner, Jeroen Van Vliet, Adrian Mears, Bill Elgart, ‘Raiz de Pedra’, Barbara Dennerlein, Samuel Blaser, Simone Soul, Dejan Terzic, Tutty Moreno, Francois Jeanneau, Carine Bonnefoy and the ‘Ethel String Quartet’. 


Carlo also contributed music and played on the 1989 tribute for Jaco Pastorius, ‘Basstorius’, that also features the bassists Mathew Garrison, Carles Benavent and Dave LaRue. 


Besides his original music, jazz and Brazilian music gigs, he has also played many other styles, from salsa with ‘Connexion Latina’ with Daniel Moreno and Anthony Martinez, folk music with Shawn Phillips, blues with USA blues legend Louisiana Red, to concerts with the popular German liedermacher Konstantin Wecker.


South Africa

Back home in South Africa he has worked with some of the best, amongst

others, Barney Rachabane, Khaya Mahlangu, Kesivan Naidoo, Lulu Gontsana,

Ian Herman, Gito Baloi, Bheki Khosa, Louis Mhlanga, Vusi Khumalo,Themba

Mkhize, Afrika Mkhize, Mark Fransman, Bruce Cassidy, Waddy ‘Ninja’ Jones

(Die Antwoord), Andile Yenana, Sydney Mnisi, McCoy Mrubata, Tutu Puoane

and Siya Makuzeni. He can also be heard as a bassist on many South African

recordings including amoungst others with Tony Cox, Johnny Fourie, Tlale

Makhene, Zim Ngqawana, Marcus Wyatt, Simphiwe Dana, Sibongile Khumalo

and Miriam Makeba.


Ballets and film

Besides the many ballets that have been choreographed to his music, with performances around the world, from Johannesburg to Amsterdam, Denmark and the Ramallah Dance festival, he has also composed music for more than 14 films, documentaries and animations (winning an award at the Hiaff Animation festival in Tokyo 2005), 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. 



His composition commissions include amongst others ‘Observations from the hideout’ commissioned by the Swedish ‘Stockholm 

Saxophone Quartet’ to new works for Piano and Wind ensemble commissioned by SAMRO, the South African Music Rights 

Organisation, that also commissioned Carlo to compose music for the voice finalist at the SAMRO Endowment’s Overseas Scholarships competition. In 2004 he also composed and conducted music for Zim Ngqawana’s 50 piece Orchestra performance. 2013 - US Grammy winners, The New York ‘Ethel String Quartet’, commissions a Mombelli string quartet composition 


Own groups

He has also recorded several CD’s and DVD’s of his own works and performs his music with his ensembles Abstractions and  The Prisoners of Strange. He has been nominated three times for a SAMA (South African Music Awards) for his recordings, When serious babies dance (2002), I stared into my head (2007), and Theory (2010), that also features artwork covers by Norman Catherine and Kay Hassan.

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. Carlo

also worked with the company for many weeks in Paris. The result was a 

series of concerts in South Africa and France. 


The filmmaker Sylvie Coulon documented the project in a film called

‘Sharp Sharp’.

See video Right



Carlo has been featured in many books and magazines including, ‘Classicfeel’, the American magazine – ‘Bassplayer’, the French magazines - ‘So Jazz’, ‘Impro Jazz’ and  ‘the Jazzman’, the German magazines, The Bass Professor, The Jazz Zeitung, The German Stereo, Day In Day Out Music Magazine, and the German Jazz Podium, as well as in the books ‘Soweto Blues’ by Gwen Ansell, and ‘In the Township Tonight’ by Dr. David Coplan. 


Orchestral copyist

In the nineties Mombelli also worked as an orchestral copyist for the G Ricordi & Co. Publishers, copying with a calligraphy pen Hubert Stuppner’s “Concert Musique KV91 Amadeus” for Flute, clarinette & string orchestra, Martin Kalleyn’s ‘Miniatur Eins’, Rolf Ruhm’s ‘Berceuse’ for 104 piece orchestra, and Gerhard Stabler’s ‘Co wie Kobalt’ for solo contrabass and 88 piece orchestra.


Teaching and Education

Besides performing, composing and recording, Carlo has been involved in music education for many years. In 1998 and 1999 he held a teaching post at the Richard-Strauss Conservatoire in Munich, Germany, and in Johannesburg where he resides, he was Composer-In-Residence at Wits University in 2004. In 2006 he was the musical director for the Standard Bank National Youth Band and took this handpicked group of the best of South African young music students for a one-week trip to the Stockholm Conservatory in Sweden. 


In April 2010 he was Artist-in-Residence at the Birds Eye jazz club in Basel Switzerland where he worked and gave composition and performance workshops with students from the Basel Jazz Academy, and in the same year he was invited and did a bass master class and performance of his works at the ‘Berklee College of Music’ in Boston, USA and the ‘Swiss Bern Jazz School’.  In September 2012, Carlo was invited to lead ensembles once again at the Basel Jazz Academy as well as a workshop at the University Adger in Kristiansand, Norway.


Carlo’s book ‘Mombelli’s Intergalactic Bass Program – Volume 1’ 2011, is published in South Africa by Real African Publishers, Johannesburg, and internationally by the American Hal Leonard Publishing Company.


Carlo currently holds a teaching post at The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) Johannesburg, where he received his doctorate in composition (DMus) in 2009.


Amongst others, Carlo can be heard playing on the recordings below-

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