“"A charming genius! One of my all time favourite performers." ”
— Martin Stephenson- legendary UK songwriter
Roberto Cassani, born 1975, brought up in rural Lombardy, Italy, in a small town called Rivolta d’Adda that, at least in Roberto’s mind, is preserved in all its old charm. Roberto has relocated in the Scottish countryside more than two decades ago, and has developed into a man and artist of great integrity and originality, mainly thanks to that rural grounding deeply sewn in his personality.
Roberto’s honesty, humour, kindness, empathy, fun and love are all conveyed thanks to the unapologetic genuineness of his double bass and the disarming uniqueness of his music and lyrics.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Roberto did not come from musical stock, but from a humble family who loved him, which is all that matters anyway.
Roberto started to play guitar and write songs at 9 years of age, making it up as he went along. Still a teenager, he was signed to a big record label and mentored by great jazz double bassist Giovanni Tommaso. The infatuation with true music, double bass and improvisation started at that time. Immature and stubborn, Roberto could not digest the pop requirements of a major label and gave up before recording a debut. In the meantime, a National Service spent caring for elderly people as a conscientious objector, introduced Roberto to the joy of caring for people in need. This, along with the desire to travel, encouraged Roberto to relocate to Great Britain, where he became a nurse and met Scottish lass Lara, the love of his life. Those were the adventurous times when you could go off the radar and grow into the person you wanted to be, before the Internet, as they say. Roberto, Lara and their little daughter Ruby are still happily there, in rural Perthshire.
OK, but what about the music?
Roberto’s urge to play music returned quickly. Having arrived in Scotland not knowing anyone, he started to play pubs with only his little acoustic guitar. He realised straight away that his heavily accented spoken English made people smile, so he invented himself an “alter-ego” as a comic singer, which allowed him to travel the world for a while and became quite popular, especially when the was able to add-in his double bass and the contributions of great musicians, like his friend and guitarist Owen Nicholson and the lovely Dave Clelland on drums (Roberto & the Tickety2).
For well over a decade, Roberto has been managing a busy schedule, between sessions as a double bass player with some of the best Scottish acts (Folk, singer/songwriters, jazz, world, etc.) and some more sporadic “comedy-music” gigs. After hundreds of concerts, it is hard to choose the favourites, but the big Festivals are easy to remember, such as the regular appearances as Fringe, Celtic Connections, Belladrum, Wickerman, Folk Alliance in the US and Canada, as well as nice theatres and the iconic Sun Studio in Memphis. But the favourites are possibly the small clubs in every remote nook and cranny of the UK.
Above all, Roberto values the mentorship and friendship he has received from Danny Thompson, the legendary English double bassist, who recognised Roberto as a great original artist and helped him not only with his encyclopaedic knowledge and his marvellous humanity and the teaching that music counts only when it comes from the heart.
After “serving his time” with Danny, Roberto’s career has flourished and in 2020, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, he felt the need to write “Ansema we Stand”, a unique album blending the musical traditions of Scotland and his native Northern Italy. Produced by Andrea Gobbi and featuring a rich pool of world-class musicians (Ross Ainslie, Anna Massie, John Somerville, Hamish Napier, Greg Lawson, Steve Fivey), “Ansema” showcases Roberto’s original Rivoltano dialect for the first ever time in art, and collected wonderful reviews and critical success throughout 2021.
“An extraordinary talent! A fantastic sense of humour, a great, great player and a great performer”. (Frank Hennessy - BBC Wales).
“Roberto Cassani’s blending of his native Lombardy dialect, his jazz background and many of the traditions of Scottish folk music provide the bedrock for his album “Ansema we stand”. It works tremendously effectively. It emphasises the depth of both traditions: their roots in simplicity and improvisation. What holds the collection together is its confidence: from exuberant joy to gentle ballads, held together by lilting double bass. Final track “An Basi’” sets Cassani’s translation of Burns to a spare double bass, bringing the synthesis of Lombardia and Scotland beautifully together”. (Peter Tomkins - RnR magazine).
Ansema we stand is a sensational album and Roberto’s an incredible life in music. Undoubtedly one of the best records of 2021” (Alistair Braidwood - Scots Whay Hae).
“Roberto Cassani has put together an intriguing album that fuses the language of Lombardy with the music of Scotland. The result is a riveting, highly entertaining listen, expertly played and bursting with a humour that shines through one of the most impenetrable language barriers that you’re ever likely to come across. A fabulously entertaining album, Roberto has managed to achieve this cultural breakthrough in a respectful and honest way that conveys the musicality and humour of his native tongue. “Ansema we stand” is stunning, and unlike anything else I’ve ever heard” (John Barlass - At the Barrier).
“One of this year’s big surprises, Roberto Cassani has released a debut album of powerful songs and instrumentals, rich arrangements and touching lyrics, supported by six of the best Scottish Musicians. This recording is irresistible. My favourite thing about this exquisite Scottish-Italian collaboration is its representation of one of Europe’s most enduring linguistic curiosities: the Rivoltano dialect, preserved for centuries by local culture - which is where, after all, our richest treasures are to be found”. (Alex Monaghan - FolkWorld).
“Cassani’s debut is an entrancing journey between his Lombardy origins and Scottish traditional music. A charming album of genuine and excellent musicianship”. (Ciro de Rosa - Songlines).
“This song and melody were born in Roberto's heart. It is a powerful song of love which we feel within his fine playing. A very moving performance and I love it." (Danny Thompson - double bass titan and music legend).
"A charming genius! One of my all time favourite performers." (Martin Stephenson - One of Britains best songwriters).
”A brilliant musician with a wonderful sense of humour (Bruce Macgregor - BBC Scotland Travelling Folk).
”Roberto Cassani has created his very own musical niche... A work of art... You may call it ‘folk’ or ‘world’ music, but either way it’s beautifully delivered. The music on this album will live long after the pandemic is history” (John Reed - Fatea Magazine).
“Double bassist and arch humorist Roberto Cassani, aside from being spectacularly funny on stage and a fine musician, here delivers a honest ode to life and love. Bravely personal and at times quite affecting” (Paul Kerr - Blabber n Smoke).
“If he wasn’t amongst us already, somebody would have to invent Roberto Cassani, he’s such a blast of fresh air in a tired, self-regarding world.” (John Davy - Music News).
“An album that lifts the spirits and makes the world seem a better place” (Bluesbunny Music Reviews about “Oh!...L’amore!”).
“High-class musicianship... I found myself just relishing the feel of the sun and vineyards and the mood of the Mediterranean created by these distinctive melodies. This is a musical experience that will repay a little patience with huge pleasure.” (Philip Thomas - Folk Radio UK).
"Roberto is truly un-classifiable! Completely unique and we absolutely LOVE him! (Chris's gigs - promoter).
”Wonderful. Highly original and great musicianship without being too flash. A unique sound. Very special”. (Roger Williams - A world of difference on Blues and Roots Radio).
"Scotland's favourite Italian! Absolutely wonderful and delightfully entertaining. Cassani Rocks!!" (Rob Ellen - Medicine Music).