Tristan Honsinger

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Honsinger in 2004

Tristan Honsinger (October 23, 1949 – August 5, 2023) was an American cellist active in free jazz and free improvisation. He is perhaps best known for his long-running collaboration with free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor and guitarist Derek Bailey.

Born in Burlington, Vermont, United States, Honsinger was given music lessons from a very early age, as his mother had hopes of creating a chamber orchestra together with his brother and sister. At the age of 12, Tristan would give concerts on a nearly weekly basis. He studied classical cello at the New England Conservatory in Boston[1] before moving to Montreal in 1969 to avoid the draft. While in Canada, he became interested in improvisational music. Honsinger moved to Europe in 1974 and was active throughout the continent.[1] He operated out of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Honsinger had a striking appearance, with body language reminiscent of that of a slapstick actor.

Honsinger experimented with a combo of three string-players (violin, cello, and double bass) and drums in 1991, under the name Fields in Miniature, and worked in other musical fields, including collaborations with UK post punk band The Pop Group in 1979, The Ex during the early 1990s, and the Ig Henneman Tentet.

According to Dutch Volkskrant journalist Erik van de Berg, "Honsinger is someone who hasn't lost his childhood fantasy entirely. His compositions are like a child's drawing, or even more like a story from Winnie The Pooh: awkward and touchingly simple, yet full of deeper meanings for those who want to see them." In the same article, Honsinger commented: "Simple things fascinate me, simple stories and simple characters. It's not that I write for children in particular, but I think they would understand it very well. I usually get the best reactions from an audience with a good mix of children and adults. I don't like to play for one particular age group. It is almost a necessity for me to compose in the form of stories and texts. It gives me ideas and it does help the musicians in their improvisation if they can think: this story is about a little man who takes a walk and experiences this, that and the other. It also helps the audience, it gives them something to hold on to."

Tristan Honsinger died in Trieste on August 5, 2023, at the age of 73.[2] [3]

Discography (selected)[edit]

Year Title Label Notes
1976 Duo Incus Records Duo with Derek Bailey
1981 Lavoro Materiali Sonori Duo with Sean Bergin
1988 The Hearth FMP/Free Music Production Trio with Cecil Taylor and Evan Parker
1988 Alms/Tiergarten (Spree) FMP/Free Music Production As part of Cecil Taylor European Orchestra
1993 Conduction #38: in Freud's garden New World Records Under the direction of Butch Morris
1995 Instant CrossTalk (US) / RecRec Music (Netherlands) The Ex & Guests
1993 Always a Pleasure FMP/Free Music Production As part of the Cecil Taylor Ensemble
1996 Almeda FMP/Free Music Production As part of the Cecil Taylor Ensemble
1996 Map of Moods FMP/Free Music Production With the Tristan Honsinger 5tet
1998 Lifting the Bandstand Fundacja Słuchaj! As part of the Cecil Taylor Quintet
1999 Incarnation FMP/Free Music Production Quartet with Cecil Taylor, Franky Douglas, and Andrew Cyrille
2000 A Camel's Kiss Instant Composers Pool Solo cello
2003 The Light of Corona FMP/Free Music Production As part of the Cecil Taylor Ensemble
2011 Stretto FMP/Free Music Production With guitarist Olaf Rupp
2012 Hanam Quintet feat. Tristan Honsinger Aut Records Hanam Quintet feat. Tristan Honsinger
2021 Small Talk Setola di Maiale Tristan Honsinger Italian octet
Tristan Honsinger
Aarhus Jazz Festival (Denmark 2012)


  1. ^ a b "Tristan Honsinger". European Free Improvisation pages. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
  2. ^ Schindelbeck, Frank (6 August 2023). "RIP Tristan Honsinger". Jazz Pages. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  3. ^ "Genio del jazz, il violoncellista Tristan Honsinger si è spento a Trieste". (in italian)

External links[edit]