Monday, August 1, 2011
Guest Blog Post: Patrick Boyle on Jon Christiensen
My good friend Patrick Boyle was nice enough to contribute a guest blog post today featuring some commentary about the great Norwegian ECM drummer, Jon Christiensen.
The recent tragic events in Norway had me reaching into parts of my CD collection I had not visited in some time. There is so much amazing Norwegian jazz. I enjoyed my limited time in Oslo working on cruise ships moons ago and I was moved by the warmth and friendliness of the people. Geographically, Norway and Newfoundland (my home) are close cousins. Fjords, vast unswimmable oceans, trees that grow sideways, and a seemingly endless winter. The people of Norway know how to adapt. They have a connection to the land and sea that transcends generations, and this symbiotic relationship is represented in much of the best Norwegian jazz and improvised music.
Drummer Jon Christensen is one of my all-time favorite musicians on any instrument. His sparse but totally convicted style is most often heard on ECM releases by Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stense, Terje Rydpal, Iro Haarla, Eberhard Weber, Dino Saluzzi, Tomasz Stanko and many others.
Without meaning to diminish Christensen’s original contributions to the Keith Jarrett European Quartet, it’s impossible for me to consider him without bassist Palle Danielsson. To date they remain one of the great rhythm sections in jazz - masters of subtlety without a wasted communal gesture. Jarrett changes moods suddenly, and Daneilsson and Christensen never let the moment down. Here is a video from 1974. In particular, check out his accompanying of Danielsson from 2:12 – 3:10.
Playing with such a delicate yet confident touch is extremely difficult. He switches from implying time to, in my opinion, implying space. This band created melodies that required all hands to breathe together. Christensen effortlessly opens up the space, heightening the “ceiling” in which the music can fit, and the closes it back up again when the time is right. Jarrett has said in interviews that he wrote for himself and Garbarek and allowed Chistensen and Danielsson to “do what ever they felt like.”
On the complete flipside, check out Christensen laying into ‘Oleo’ with Michael Brecker, NHOP, Philip Catherine, and Gordon Beck:
It’s hard to see his incredibly fluid ride cymbal in that video. Here’s one with John Scofield where we can see both his nimble right hand and unusual cymbal set up:
My personal favourite Jon Chistensen cut would be on the Nude Ants recording of the European Quartet live at the Village Vanguard. Listen to how he alternates between strictly laying down the groove and getting the hell out of the way on ‘Chant of the Soil’:
Thank you Jon Christensen and please keep inspiring all you play with to play their very best. ECM released a ‘greatest hits’ package of Christensen gems available below. The liner notes encapsulate this master musician:
"Christensen has the rapacious appetite of Elvin Jones or Roy Haynes, but combines it with the wonderfully light dancer’s touch of a Billy Higgins. The nine tracks shown here highlight Christensen’s ability to adapt, colour, and in some cases even drive the vision of a bandleader towards it’s flourish."
For all the drummer types out there, here's some good footage of Jon Christensien from a "drummer's" angle: