INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
New York Times SEPTEMBER 21, 1989 - by Jon Pareles
JON HASSELL WITH TRUMPETS AND ELECTRONICS
Jon Hassell has taken a long way around to reach basic musical ideas. The trumpeter and composer has studied Asian and African music, and he uses sophisticated electronic gadgets to alter and multiply the sound of his trumpet, turning single lines into phantom choirs. But when the New Jon Hassell Group performed Monday at the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center in Manhattan, concluding a three-night stand, his "fourth-world music" was little more than conventional vamps with evanescent glimmers of melody.
The model, more than any ethnic music, could have been Miles Davis's Bitches Brew. Mr. Hassell likes to have his band's instruments - keyboards, bass, electric guitar and percussion - blend in an atmospheric murk, thick and slightly ominous. The bass line and percussion, mostly on hand drums, were a muffled pulse within sustained modal chords; Brian Eno, the producer and composer who was mixing the sound, gave careful attention to the shifting washes of keyboard tone. Above the vamps, fitfully, Mr. Hassell played trumpet with the curving, microtonally inflected phrasing he learned from an Indian raga master. The music is made to float rather than to tell a story; when it succeeds, it is hypnotic. But at Monday's concert, Mr. Hassell often stretched his material too far, and the repetition became numbing rather than ecstatic.
The prelude to the concert was a chance to hear a sound installation by Mr. Eno, which uses sounds from a Colombian Amazon rain forest -birds, toads, mammals - and a hint of synthesizer music from more than a hundred hidden speakers. Emerging from empty air, the richly varied sounds (as well as sixteen palm trees) lend exoticism to a shopping-mall atrium. Tropical Rain Forest Sound Installation may be heard from noon to 2 P.M. and 5 to 7 P.M. daily, through October 8.