jon hassell | biography
Jon Hassell

official biography

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Jon Hassell

"Almost all of the musicians I meet at the moment seem to regard Jon Hassell as one of the God-like geniuses of contemporary music."

D a v i d   T o o p ,   T h e   W i r e

Composer/trumpeter Jon Hassell is the visionary creator of a style of music he named Fourth World, which he describes as "coffee-colored classical" - a mysterious, unique hybrid of musics that unfolds between the polarities of ancient and digital, composed and improvised, Eastern and Western. In the last two decades, his connoisseur recordings, built around a completely unique voice-like 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 musicians and, especially, trumpet players like Arve Henriksen, Erik Truffaz, Paolo Fresu and Nils Petter Molvaer, all acknowledging Hassell’s influence, leading beyond the gravitational pull of Miles Davis. 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 were astonished at the discovery of this atmospheric music that defies category. His performance at the Vienna Kunsthalle, the cathedral of classical tradition, was hailed as "the concert of the year" in Der Standard. Early 2009 brought a reconnection to the prestigious ECM label with the release of a new CD, Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street, and a Carnegie Hall concert in New York. Critical raves in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and European press signal the growing awareness of a master musician and a music without borders whose freshness comes increasingly into focus as time passes.

Along with ongoing concerts and new recordings, Hassell has recently intensified work on a long-awaited book, The North and South of You. Part of that work has been done in a series of public Conversations along with his musical collaborator of twenty-five years ago, Brian Eno. These have taken place in London’s Southbank Centre, the Sydney Opera House, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and, most recently in March 2011, to inaugurate the opening of a digital arts center in Paris, La Gaite’ Lyrique.

Very broadly, the theme of the book is about the loss of pleasure as a guiding principle in our lives and how the evolution the North and South of the planet and the evolution of our body’s north and south are echoes of one another physically, metaphorically and psychologically.


"A borderless bed of mystery and enchantment"


"Mesmerizing ... like an abstract canvas, compelling because of its unpredictability"


"Lucid-dreaming music ... turning breath to wind and cheating gravity with every updraft."


"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."


jon hassell

in a sentence

A childhood in Memphis, a classical conservatory education, composition and electronic music study with Stockhausen in Cologne; a passage through the New York minimalist sphere with Terry Riley, Reich, Glass; having a window opened onto the world's music and a new approach to the trumpet via vocal master Pandit Pran Nath; a questioning and deconstruction of the European dichotomy between classical and popular, sacred and sensual; a pioneer of digital transformation and sampling - all of this led to Fourth World - the unique blend which Jon has described as "worldly music" to underline a more subtle equation at work and to discourage the simplistic labeling of "world," "jazz," "classical," "minimal," or "ambient."


See also:

Press: 300dpi photos, biographical information and other press material can be downloaded from:


Photograph of Jon Hassell by Jenafer Gillingham

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