Festivals have been attempted and the jury is still out whether they were a good idea. As a new round boots up this summer, along with a new strain of Covid, here is a safe festival that somehow has been sitting in the can for almost a year (my how time flies). Legends, legends in the making, and some upstarts.
The American trumpeter and composer Jon Hassel’s sound influenced guitarists like Eivind Aarset and, well, me, as well myriad other musicians. He passed away on June 26, 2021. This year he would have turned 85 and to honor him Nasjonal jazzscene in Oslo, Norway put on a terrific memorial concert on his birthday, March 22.
Move over James Brown, Samo Salamon may go down in history as the hardest working man in show business. He has written over 300 compositions and recorded 35 albums as a leader to date. Last year Salamon recorded two terrific albums of Covid-required remote duets, and begins this year with an album of solo, acoustic guitar performances of works by Eric Dolphy. He has also posted over 150 YouTube interviews with a variety of jazz instrumentalists including modern guitarists, Bill Frisell, Nguyen Le, Joe Morris, Eivind Aarset, Elliott Sharp, Mary Halvorson, and others—all in roughly one year! I turn the interview tables on Samo in this fun session.
Despite plague, lockdown, transportation issues, and touring revenue loss, a surprising number of artists managed to release new material last year. Current modern guitar legends, Eivind Aarset, Stian Westerhus, and Nels Cline all make appearances. Legends in the making Ádám Mészáros, Tim Motzer, Nick Milevoi, and Eyal Maoz’s chime in as well. On a sad note, rumor has it that the Rare Noise label is folding. They are going out with a bang though, contributing three records to this year’s list. I hope I am misinformed.
People talk about globalization as both a positive and a negative thing. Hassell’s work, like William Gibson’s later novels somehow embodies each aspect. Both artists create a feeling of dislocation: an example I use is that these days, when so many people use cell phones as their primary phones, you have no idea where anyone is calling from, despite their area code displaying itself to you.