Bassist | Composer | Bandleader | Producer
Take a Fender Jazz bass, mix Herbie Hancock with the musical heritage of Mozart, season in the conservatoire, add a dash of modern technology and marinade for half a lifetime. Step forward Stefan Redtenbacher, all-round funk wizard and leader of his band, the Redtenbacher’s Funkestra.
“I’m simply a bass player with ideas beyond those twenty frets,” he says. “My world rotates around three pillars – music, education and technology, sometimes in parallel and sometimes in isolation, always with a good dash of entrepreneurship. Most importantly it’s always about creativity.”
Born in Salzburg and educated around the world, it didn’t take long for Stefan to find himself drawn to the sound of James Brown, surely an inevitability since his parents met while dancing to ‘Sex Machine’. The relentless and visceral groove of Bootsy Collins and the JB’s surely drew Stefan into the world of funk, and at 14 he bought his first bass. “I was hooked on low rumbles,” he says. “I saved up my money from a summer job and spent it all on a bass.”
Though most popular musicians are self-taught, Stefan took the formal training route, his natural talent and capacity for study taking him from the Vienna Conservatory to Berklee College of Music in Boston, Chichester University and the Institute of Education in the UK where he assembled his Funkestra, purveyors of a deft line in what their leader, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, terms ‘Strudel Funk’.
But while their leader is rightly proud of his wall-to-wall funk band and his ongoing work as a music creative, his session credits read like the line-up for an eclectic, yet star-studded, festival: Steve Winwood, Sam Moore, Beverly Knight, Natalie Imbruglia, Imelda May, Joss Stone, Lulu, Mica Paris, Herb Alpert, Paul Carrack, Tony Hatch, Kiki Dee, Sandie Shaw, Gerry ‘America’ Beckley, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Limahl, Alexandra Burke, operatic tenor Russell Watson, Sugababe Mutya Buena, Joe, Pete and Sam Brown, Ollie Murs, Sarah Jane Morris, Paul Carrack, The Voice UK winner Blessing Annatoria and, before they left us, master bassist Jack Bruce and tragic soul heroine Amy Winehouse.
As Redtenbacher’s Funkestra, they have recorded with funk royalty such as ‘Pee Wee Ellis’ (James Brown, Van Morrison), Fred Wesley (James Brown, Parliament), Cory Wong (Vulfpeck), Eric Krasno (Lettuce, Nora Jones) and Elliott Randall (Steely Dan) to name but a few. Known for the high standard of musicianship on each album, the band has also utilised the legendary horn sections of Tower of Power, Prince, The Brand New Heavies and Incognito.
Having recently released their 12th album Big Funk Band, Stefan’s Funkestra – now in their 24th year – operates as a small collective of UK-based musicians with an equally impressive pedigree, among them stints with David Bowie, Elton John, Annie Lennox, Mark Ronson, and Herbie Hancock himself. Built around his own compositions and bass playing, the core members Mike Sturgis (drums), Mike Outram (guitar), Dave Limina (keyboards) and Karl Vanden Bossche (percussion) lean heavily on the jazz and funk that inspired Stefan for decades, yet not labouring under their influences.
Stefan’s latest adventure The Masterlink Sessions is a joint venture with studio engineer James Welch and videographer Leo Mansell to create stunning music videos, 100% live in the studio. This has extended to hosting weekly podcasts and the Live At Masterlink live streams.
The project started with the intention to strengthen the community of creative and like-minded musicians who love music with timeless values, played live and for real.
So far, over 80 videos have been produced featuring artists such as Hamish Stuart (AWB, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr), Sarah Jane Morris, US Grammy award winning Mike Farris, Jo Harman, Orphy Robinson MBE, Louise Clare Marshall (Jools Holland) to name but a few, all filmed and recorded with the Funkestra serving as the studio band under the leadership of Stefan who was always inspired by classic studio bands like The Swampers, The Wrecking Crew, The Funkbrothers and Booker T & The MGs.
I just love to be in same room as all the other musicians and artists, playing and creating magical moments together is my happy place.
Future plans include collaborating with as many top-notch creatives as possible and true to his formidable output Stefan is working on his next opus called Optimisation Machine – a Funk concept album in 10 acts.