Jon Hassell


Composer/trumpeter Jon Hassell is the visionary creator of a style of music he describes as Fourth World, a mysterious, unique hybrid of music both ancient and digital, composed and improvised, Eastern and Western. In the last two decades, his connoisseur recordings, built around a completely unique “vocal” trumpet style (developed in studies with Indian vocal master, Pandit Pran Nath) have inspired a generation of collaborators like Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Kronos Quartet and Ry Cooder. His trumpet performances show up on records of world stars like Björk, Baaba Maal, and Ibrahim Ferrer. Film and theater credits include scores for Wim Wenders (Million Dollar Hotel, with Bono), The Netherlands Dance Theater (Lurch), Peter Sellars (Zangezi), and the theme for the hit TV show, The Practice.

His 1999 acoustic audiophile recording, Fascinoma, produced by Ry Cooder, with bansri flute master, Ronu Majumdar and jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson, inspired a new generation of European trumpet players like Arve Henriksen, Erik Truffaz, Paolo Fresu and Nils Petter Molvaer, who have all acknowledged Hassell’s influence as leading beyond the gravitational pull of Miles Davis.

Montreal, Milan and Paris concerts became the raw material for magical transformation in the 2005 release, Maarifa Street / Magic Realism 2 — another difficult-to-define musical fantasy stretched across geography and time, as was its 1983 namesake, Aka-Darbari-Java / Magic Realism.

In 2005, Hassell began touring with a new band, which he named Maarifa Street, playing to new European audiences from Norway to Madrid to Rome to Berlin who are astonished at the discovery of this atmospheric music which defies category: in France, Playboy writes, “this celestial jazz is amazing”; About his performance at the Vienna Kunsthalle, the cathedral of classical, Der Standard raves, “the concert of the year.”

In Tsegihi – a choral work for 100 voices and chamber group was premiered in the 11th century Norwich Cathedral in May 2008.

In early 2009, a reconnection with the prestigious ECM label with a new CD release and a “Return to USA” tour — from New York’s Zankel Hall to Royce Hall in Los Angeles — signal the growing awareness of a master musician and a music without borders whose freshness comes increasingly into focus as time passes.

“It’s difficult to think what contemporary music would sound like without his influence. …there’s no doubt that Jon Hassell has had an effect on contemporary music as important as Miles Davis or Jimi Hendrix or James Brown or the Velvet Underground." THE WIRE

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Listening To Pictures

Label: Ndeya
Distribution in France: Differ-Ant
Release date: June 08, 2018

First new album in nine years by a musical visionary and hugely influential figure in new music. Forty years since its creation, Jon Hassell’s Fourth World aesthetic remains a powerful influence on modern electronic music. Continuing his lifelong exploration of the possibilities of recombination and musical gene-splicing, fragments of performance are sampled, looped, overdubbed and re-arranged into beguiling unexpected shapes. Hassell applies the painterly technique of ‘pentimento’ to the arrangements, teasing out texture by the overlaying of sound upon sound, or a carefully timed reveal of the delicate bones pinning the frame of a track together.

Jon Hassell - Listening To Pictures

City: Works Of fiction

Label: Warp Records
Release date: June 03, 2014

Combining his trademark brand of Fourth World fusion with new influences from the emerging hip-hop scene, this 1990 album is a landmark release in Jon Hassell’s career to date. Futuristic sci-fi funk with a completely melted production aesthetic – instruments and samples blur into one another in the manner of the best dub records. Presented here in a deluxe triple disc edition alongside a 1989 concert performance of the City group, mixed live by Brian Eno, and a carefully edited sequence of alternate takes, demos and re-interpretations by current electronic producers that presents a parallel dimension version of the original release.

Jon Hassell - City: Works Of fiction

Last night the moon came (...)

Label: ECM Records
Release date: April 30, 2009

Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street is the trumpeter’s first album for ECM since 1985’s Power Spot and clarifies just how significant he has been and continues to be. Hassell’s innovations in the areas of live sampling, real-time soundscaping and a musical confluence that he refers to as “The North and South of You”—meaning the cerebral/intellectual versus the physical/sensual—have inspired many artists since his early collaborations with legendary producer/ambient music forefather Brian Eno. Hassell’s lush, inescapable tone combines spare, thoughtful melodies with an unadorned and pure sensuality. The soundscape he creates is equal parts musical conception and improvisational acumen—in this case, with the participation of a large group of players including long-time bassist Peter Freeman, North African virtuoso violinist Kheir Eddine M’Kacich, and Norwegian newcomers Jan Bang (live sampling) and Eivind Aarset (guitar). Otherworldly while, at the same time, affecting on a near-Jungian level of collective unconsciousness, Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street is an album that, along with ECM’s recent Touchstone Series reissue of Power Spot, clarifies and justifies Hassell’s unequivocal importance in the history of contemporary music. (extract “All about Jazz”)

Jon Hassell - Last night the moon came (...)

Maarifa Street

Label: Label Bleu
Distribution in France: Night & Day
Release date: March 10, 2005

Currently living in Los Angeles, composer/trumpeter Jon Hassell is the visionary creator of a style of music he describes as Fourth World, a mysterious, unique hybrid of music both ancient and digital, composed and improvised, Eastern and Western.

On this new album, beginning with three live concerts, some performances (notably, trumpet) were kept intact, other layers were either re-performed or invented anew while some layers migrated from one performance to another. Some completely new tracks were made by cannibalizing parts from previous works and reshaping them. By weaving together the spontaneity and “imperfections” of a live concert with the “detailing” of a studio recording, something distinctive results.

Here is Jon Hassell’s comment on the choice of title: “A clipping from the New York Times 17 April 2003 which mentions a “Maarifa Street” in Qualat Sukkar, Iraq. In Arabic, “maarifa” means “knowledge/wisdom”. I thought to myself, what could be more pertinent today than a reminder that “wisdom” and “Arabic” have been traveling companions for many centuries?”

Jon Hassell - Maarifa Street

The Million Dollar Hotel

Label: Universal Island Records
Release date: January 01, 2000

The Million Dollar Hotel: Music from the Motion Picture is the soundtrack to the 2000 film, The Million Dollar Hotel. The album was released alongside the film in March 2000, and featured Bono as its executive producer, with new music from U2 and other artists.

Jon Hassell - The Million Dollar Hotel


Release date: January 01, 1999

With this record, I locate myself squarely within that aspect of music which is fundamental and irreducible: the beauty of the sound,” states Jon Hassell in the liner notes for Fascinoma. Hassell, of course, has spent his career emphasizing the beauty of sound and how recordings capture that better than any other medium. The difference is, with Fascinoma, he weaves unique interpretations of standards like “Nature Boy” and “Caravan” into his own sonic tapestry. Hassell has intended the album as a tribute to the “musical exotica” he heard as a child “on the radio or in movie scores,” and his statement unlocks many doors to his music. Echoes of early exotica and evocative jazz can be heard throughout the album, but Hassell pieces it together in an odd, original fashion. Since the record is so quiet, some listeners may dismiss it as mere mood music. This is a valid point; the album creates its own unique, wide open aural vistas. But listen closer and there’s some truly startling interplay and ideas, not only from Hassell but from his supporting musicians (who include Ry Cooder and Jacky Terrasson). At times, the gauzy recording can be a little impenetrable, as can the challenging minimalism of the compositions and arrangements themselves. But if the music intrigues you, it’s hard not to get swept up in it.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Jon Hassell - Fascinoma