INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
New York Times OCTOBER 15, 1977 - by Robert Palmer
JON HASSELL, TRUMPETER, OPENS VISTAS
Jon Hassell, who performed at the Kitchen on Thursday night, advertised his program as "a new crossover music." New is an imposing word; in music it usually is shorthand for a new combination of traditional elements, and this is what Mr. Hassell offered. But he has transferred techniques from one musical idiom into another with such skill, and combined ethnic strains, electronics, minimalism and jazz so intelligently that one cannot begrudge him his use of "new." His synthesis opens up new vistas rather than simply rearranging the components of old ones.
Although he is best known as a minimalist composer, Mr. Hassell is also a trumpet player who has worked as a performer with La Monte Young and Terry Riley. He has studied extensively with Pandit Pran Nath, the Indian vocalist who is Mr. Young's and Mr. Riley's musical guru, but rather than sing his lessons, Mr. Hassell has learned them on the trumpet. As a result, he has an impressive range of voice-like timbres, slurs, half-valve effects and other essentially vocal mannerisms at his disposal on the instrument. Combine these techniques with an evident fondness for the spare lyricism of Miles Davis and the permutative concerns of a composer who has worked with only a few elements at any one time and you have a most unusual trumpeter.
During the first and most affecting part of his presentation, Mr. Hassell improvised variations with his trumpet on a set of interval relationships, over a taped harmonic drone that seemed to have the sounds of bird song and crashing breakers woven almost subliminally into its fabric. The music was reminiscent of some of Alvin Curran's solo concerts, but much more effective; the mood in the room grew wondrously peaceful and still.
The rest of the evening was to have been a live presentation featuring Mr. Hassell and a group of Brazilian and Indian percussionists, but at the last minute this fell through and the trumpeter was reduced to playing a tape. Although it was episodic, the taped music was fascinating. It consisted of a series of episodes dominated by Mr. Hassell's trumpet and the interaction of three percussionists, who fused their Afro-Brazilian and North Indian traditional rhythms into an appealing and propulsive whole.
One would have preferred a live concert, of course, but the music was well worth listening to under any circumstances. Mr. Hassell said it would be released soon as an album on a major label, an event to be anticipated.