BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2009 Jon Hassell: Last Night the Moon Came (ECM/Ode)

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Jon Hassell: Time and Place
BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2009 Jon Hassell: Last Night the Moon Came (ECM/Ode)

By sheer coincidence, this new album by ambient trumpeter Jon Hassell (full title "Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street" from a poem by Rumi) arrived just as I was posting his 1981 release Dream Theory in Malaya as an Essential Elsewhere album.

And it is pleasing to report that when it comes to his seductive, unusual, world music-influenced sound that very little has changed in the intervening decades.

He still essays a weightless, flowing and restfully cinematic style which made him seem such a comfortable fellow traveller almost three decades ago with Brian Eno (on whose Obscure label he also appeared).

Eno -- who appeared on Dream Theory -- said of Hassell in '86 that he was "an inventor of new forms of music – of new ideas of what music could be and how it might be made. His work is drawn from his whole cultural experience without fear or prejudice.

"It is an optimistic, global vision that suggests not only possible musics but possible futures.”

That also still holds true: this new album floats into the subsconscious but also imposes itself more than his Eighties releases by the slightly disturbing undercurrents of samples, stacatto guitar in the distance, violin lines, gentle knocking and so forth.

Hassell sees these 10 tracks as all part of long, symphonic piece -- but you have to accept that the symphony might be played underwater or somewhere on one of the rings of Saturn. It is other worldly in many seductive ways and you can also hear distant echoes of North African or Middle Eastern music peeking out.

But always and everywhere it is Hassell's soft and strange trumpet (nothing like Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Tomasz Stanko et al, more like synthesiser-created landscapes) which is so attractive.

A musician schooled on the avant-garde (Stockhausen, Terry Riley, La Monte Young), but equally at home with Indian musicans or the Kronos Quartet, Jon Hassell is one of rare and select company who really can claim to have invented his own sound.

And utterly beautiful it is. 

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