john tchicaï


Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1936, of a Danish mother and a Congolese father and growing up in healthy surroundings, John Martin Tchicai became a leading exponent of the jazz avant-garde in New York in the '60s and a father-figure for the European avant-garde after that.

Now based in Davis, California, and Claira, France, by a single-mindedness of purpose and action, his work still reflects what he's always been doing, which is innovate and inspire other people, in a most refreshing way.

John first began to play the violin as a child, and switched to the alto saxophone and clarinet at age 16. He studied with private teachers and attended the Conservatory of Music in Aarhus, Denmark, for two years. During the late '60s and early '70s, John began to play bamboo flutes, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone and some percussion, and when he discovered the tenor saxophone in the early '80s, he put the alto aside in favor of this, which has become his main instrument. John uses keyboards and sequencers as tools for composing.

John's compositional activity has always had a high priority in his work, as he strives to reach a balance between composition and improvisation. The music of other cultures (african, oriental, etc...) has been a continuous inspiration, and John's work has a highly rhythmic and poetic melodic-lyrical quality. He composed for his own ensembles, but also on commissions for other jazz and/or classically trained ensembles: a.o. for wind-orchestra, for three celli + jazz quartet, for strings- and winds double quintet, for percussion ensemble and for symphony orchestra.

John worked with and is peer to the greats in the field of "jazz" music. To name but a few, he played with John Coltrane, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, John Lennon/Yoko Ono, Johnny Dyani, Roswell Rudd, Albert Ayler, Dollar Brand, Makaya Ntshoko, Carla and Paul Bley, Misha Mengelberg, Lee Konitz, Cecil Taylor. He performed at festivals, conservatoria, in churches, schools and concert halls from Bombay and Kyoto in the East to Vancouver and Seattle in the West; from Conacry, Guinea, Africa in the South to Reykjavik, Iceland, in the North. Poetry and audience-participation are often part of a Tchicai-performance.

Not only did John record over 20 albums as a leader (with "New York Contemporary Five", with "New York Art Quartet", with "Cadentia Nova Danica", with "John Tchicai Trio", "J.T. Group", duo's, with "John Tchicai & the Archetypes"), and many more as a sideman (with John Coltrane on "Ascension", with "Pierre Dorge & the New Jungle Orchestra", a Danish Ellington-African inspired big band, with South African bassist Johnny Dyani, with Faroe Islands-pianist Kristian Blak, with Dutch saxophone sextet "The Six Winds", with John Lennon and Yoko Ono and with Cecil Taylor on "Winged Serpent"), but he also took part in collaborations with artists of disciplines other than music (with poets Amiri Baraka, John Stewart, David Gitin, with painters, actors and dancers). He composed for film, theater plays and video-projects.