Jon Hassell at Stockholm JazzFest'09
March 22, 1937 |
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Life and career
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Hassell received his Master's degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. During this time he became involved in European serial music, especially the work of Karlheinz Stockhausen, and so after finishing his studies at Eastman, he enrolled in the Cologne Course for New Music for two years (founded and directed by Stockhausen). Hassell returned to the U.S. in 1967, where he met Terry Riley in Buffalo, New York and performed on the first recording of Riley's seminal work In C in 1968. He pursued his PhD in musicology in Buffalo and performed in La Monte Young's "Dream House" (aka Theatre of Eternal Music) in New York City.
On his return to Buffalo in the early 1970s, Hassell was introduced to the music of Indian Pandit Pran Nath, a specialist in the Kiranic style of singing. Hassell, Young, Marian Zazeela (Young's wife) and Riley went together to India to study with Nath. His work with Nath awoke his appetite for world music, and on the album Vernal Equinox, he used his trumpet to imitate the vocal techniques of Nath (treated with various electronic effects) where he stated:
- "From 1973 up until then I was totally immersed in playing raga on the trumpet. I wanted the physical dexterity to be able to come into a room and be able to do something that nobody else in the world could do. My aim was to make a music that was vertically integrated in such a way that at any cross-sectional moment you were not able to pick a single element out as being from a particular country or genre of music."
In 1980, he collaborated with Brian Eno on the album Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics. Hassell's 1981 release, Dream Theory in Malaya, led to a performance at the first World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) Festival, organized by Peter Gabriel. He performed and co-wrote tracks on David Sylvian's first solo album Brilliant Trees, and its instrumental follow-up Words with the Shaman. In the late 1980s, Hassell contributed to Gabriel's Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ, the soundtrack album for Martin Scorsese's film, The Last Temptation of Christ. Hassell and Pete Scaturro composed the electronic theme music for the television show The Practice. In 1989, Hassell contributed to the Tears for Fears album The Seeds of Love.
Hassell coined the term "Fourth World" to describe his musical style, as expressed both in his trumpet playing and in his approach to composition. This musical conception combines the philosophy and techniques of minimalism with Asian and African styles, and relies heavily on the use of electronic instruments. Critics of Hassell's style have noted its incorporation of New Age and world music styles, but have also detected the influence of Miles Davis, particularly Davis's use of electronics, modal harmony and understated lyricism. Both on record and during live performances, Hassell makes use of traditional western instruments—keyboards, bass, electric guitar, and percussion—to create modal, hypnotic grooves, over which he plays microtonally-inflected trumpet phrases in the style of Nath's Kiranic vocals.
- 1977 Vernal Equinox
- 1978 Earthquake Island
- 1981 Fourth World, Vol. 2: Dream Theory in Malaya
- 1983 Aka / Darbari / Java: Magic Realism
- 1986 Power Spot (produced by Brian Eno / Daniel Lanois)
- 1987 The Surgeon of the Nightsky Restores Dead Things by the Power of Sound
- 1990 City: Works of Fiction (All Saints Records)
- 1994 Dressing for Pleasure
- 1995 Sulla Strada (release of soundtrack from 1982)
- 1998 The Vertical Collection
- 1999 Fascinoma
- 2005 Magic Realism, Vol. 2: Maarifa Street
- 2009 Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street
- 1980 Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics with Brian Eno
- 1988 Flash of the Spirit with Farafina
- 2000 Hollow Bamboo with Ry Cooder and Ronu Majumdar (bansuri)
With Jon Balke
- Siwan (ECM, 2009)
With Rick Cox
- Maria Falling Away (Cold Blue, 2001)
- Ankeny, Jason. "Jon Hassell". allmusic. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
- Prendergast, Mark J. "Sound on Sound". Jonhassell.com. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
- Gilbert, Mark. L. Macy, ed. "Jon Hassell". Grove Music Online. Retrieved November 7, 2007.
- Jon Pareles, "Jon Hassell with Trumpet and Electronics," New York Times September 21, 1989: p. C15, ProQuest Platinum, Online (November 6, 2007).
- Mark Prendergast, The Ambient Century. New York and London:Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000.
- Jon Hassell, program notes from Vernal Equinox. Lovely Music, LML 1021, 1977.
- Official Jon Hassell site
- Magic Realism, Vol. 2: Maarifa Street album site
- Jon Hassell discography at Discogs