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Jon Hassell ‎- Vernal Equinox (1977)

Kompozytor i trębacz Jon Hassell to wizjoner i kreator stylu muzyki, który określa mianem Czwartego Świata, zagadkowego i unikalnego połączenia świata antycznego i cyfrowego, kompozycji i improwizacji, Wschodu i Zachodu.

Po studiach kompozycji i dyplomach na uniwersytetach w USA przeniósł się do Europy, by tam studiować muzykę elektroniczną z Stockhausenem. Parę lat później przeniósł się z powrotem do NY, gdzie nagrywał swoje pierwsze płyty z mistrzami minimal music La Monte Youngiem i Terrym Rileyem. Współpracował ponadto z Peterem Gabrielem i Brianem Eno. (lastfm)

Trumpeter Jon Hassell was the originator and unrivaled master of the musical aesthetic he dubbed Fourth World -- in his own words, "a unified primitive/futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques." Born March 22, 1937, in Memphis, TN, he attended Rochester, NY's Eastman School of Music and Washington, D.C.'s Catholic University before studying in Europe under the legendary Karlheinz Stockhausen. After subsequent collaborations with minimalist pioneers La Monte Young and Terry Riley, Hassell mounted a number of solo pieces known collectively as the Landmusic Series; the most famous of these so-called "sound monuments" was 1969's Solid State, an electronic project that evoked the gradual erosion of sand dune formations via a tuned mass of vibrations.

Beginning in 1972, Hassell studied classical Indian music under the tutelage of Pandit Pran Nath, modifying Nath's vocal techniques to the trumpet to develop the Fourth World concept, which he introduced with 1978's Vernal Equinox. The jazz-inspired Earthquake Island appeared a year later, and in 1980 Hassell issued Possible Musics/Fourth World Vol. 1, a collaboration with Brian Eno. (A sequel, Dream Theory in Malaya/Fourth World Vol. 2, was quick in forthcoming.) Through Eno, he also began working with a series of experimental pop acts, appearing on records by Talking Heads, David Sylvian, and Peter Gabriel; in 1982, Hassell additionally scored Magazzini Criminali's Venice production of Sulla Strada, earning an Ubu Award for Best Music for a Theatrical Work. 

Following 1983's Aka-Dabari-Java/Magic Realism (co-produced by Daniel Lanois), Hassell did not resurface on record until 1986's Power Spot; in the interim, he composed "Pano de Costa," a string quartet piece recorded by the Kronos Quartet for their White Man Sleeps LP. The Surgeon of the Nightsky Restores Dead Things by the Power of Sound followed in 1987, and that same year Hassell collaborated with the Burkina Faso percussion ensemble Farafina, a union that spawned 1989's Flash of the Spirit. The hip-hop-inspired City: Works of Fiction appeared in 1990, and four years later he launched Dressing for Pleasure; subsequent projects have included Lurch, an experimental dance piece choreographed by Gideon Obarzanek, and 1999's Fascinoma, on which Hassell collaborated with Ry Cooder and Jacky Terrasson. Hollow Bamboo was issued a year later. Hassell returned in 2005 with the release of Maarifa Street: Magic Realism, Vol. 2, which featured live recordings reworked and mixed with studio sessions. In 2009, Hassell released the much lauded ECM effort Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street, which once again featured material woven together from a variety of studio sessions. (amg)

Recorded in 1976 at the York University Electronic Media Studios in Toronto, Ontario, Vernal Equinox is Jon Hassell's first recording as a solo artist and sets the stage for his then-emerging career as a trumpeter, composer and musical visionary. "Toucan Ocean" opens the album with two gently swaying chords and delicate layers of percussion that provide a cushion upon which Hassell unfurls long, winding melodic shapes. His trumpet is sent through echo and an envelope filter, producing a stereo auto-wah-wah effect. "Viva Shona" features accompaniment by mbira, subtle polyrhythmic layers of percussion, and the distant calling of birds. Again filtered through echo, Hassell's gliding trumpet lines sound remarkably vocal. "Hex" features a bubbling, filtered electric bass part with a denser web of percussion. From his horn, Hassell elicits moans and sighs that are at first unaffected and later filtered. "Blues Nile" is a long, blue moan. Hassell's breathy, multi-tracked trumpet lines call and respond to one another, weaving a web of deep calm over an ever-present drone. This track clearly points the way to his later work with Brian Eno, in particular, their "Charm Over Burundi Sky." On the title track, Hassell's "kirana" trumpet style is in full bloom as he dialogs with the percussion. Hassell's most elegant melodicism blossoms forth here, and his unaffected horn often sounds disarmingly flute-like. The influences of his study of raga with Pandit Pran Nath are clearly discernible in the curvaceous melodic lines and overall sense of meditative calm within harmonic stasis. Throughout the album, percussionists Naná Vasconcelos and David Rosenboom add subtle, supple grooves and colors. "Caracas Night September 11, 1975" is a beautiful field recording featuring Hassell's plaintive trumpet commentary, subtle percussion interjections, and the sound of caracas humming and buzzing in the background. The first several tracks of Vernal Equinox bear the imprint of '70s-period Miles Davis, in particular the quiet ambience of "He Loved Him Madly" and parallel passages from Agharta. The envelope filter on Hassell's horn similarly draws a reference to Davis' use of the wah-wah pedal from that time. Nonetheless, in 1976, Vernal Equinox was remarkably unique and ahead of its time, and sowed the seeds of Hassell's influential Fourth World aesthetic, which he would continue to develop and refine. Decades after its release, Vernal Equinox still provides an enchanting and entirely contemporary listening experience. (Mark Kirschenmann)

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