Trombone player Samuel Blaser got inspired to take on the opportunity presented by the Tampere Jazz Happening to bring together a brand new, international jazz sextet to interpret Don Drummond’s compositions. The world premiere will take place on Saturday, 2 November at Klubi.
What’s happening Samuel?
I feel privileged to be able to live from my passion and to travel around the globe to present my Art. Becoming a musician has always been my childhood dream. Since then I haven’t had a moment when I thought I was at work. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? Many positive things has happened during the last two years: I became a dad, signed a record deal with Outhere Music in Belgium, endorsed XO Brass in Taiwan and created several exciting projects with inspiring musicians and human beings.
Don Drummond has obviously been an inspiration to you as trombone player, since you wanted to present this brand new program in Tampere? How did you find him and what has me meant to you as a trombone player?
I actually discovered Don D through a trombone fan in Switzerland. Before I left for New York in 2005 he gave me a CD with the entire music library of Don D. I have been listening to his music since then. However Don D has never been a main influence in my playing but he is someone I am very much attracted to sound wise. His playing is unique and the melodies he creates are very touching. I like the fact his life seems to be mysterious. A little bit like his music and his playing. Very inhabited. I really love the way he improvises, it’s always simple and extremely melodic with lots of glissandi.
What was Don Drummond’s contribution to ska and to the trombone in general … perhaps making it more visible?
He is a key figure in Jamaican music as a trombonist and composer and also an original member of the Skatalites for whom he wrote lots of music. Don D mentored many great musicians like Rico Rodriguez, Tommy McCook, Joe Harriott and Vince Gordon.
It’s very interesting to know that Don D never left the island (probably because he was mentally ill) but his name has traveled around ever since even during his time. Some say J.J. Johnson even traveled to Kingston to hear him play. He was voted best trombonist in the 50’s by the Downbeat.
About Don Cosmic: how did you put this program – Samuel Blaser Don Cosmic – together, both when it comes to choosing the compositions and making the arrangements ? Was it easy or difficult?
It’s always a challenge, but no less exciting. The program I prepared for Tampere is mainly based on the music of Don Drummond, traditional Jamaican Trance Music Possession and some Nyabinghi percussion. Alex Wilson, who is Don Cosmic’s keyboard player and artistic director, helped me putting the music together.
The process was as follows: I prepared musical sketches and ideas at home and pre-recorded them – mainly on trombone and drums. Then Alex and I met in his studio in Zurich and together we reworked the basic musical material and brought in new elements. Alex also suggested music to discover and possible directions to take. It is always a pleasure to work with someone who has a different vision of music. This brings freshness.
What is going to happen?
I have a lot of plans for the future and Don Cosmic is definitively one of them. The opportunity that Tampere is offering me to be able to launch this new group is priceless and I extremely thankful to Juhamatti for trusting me. I have always played that music as a sideman, mainly on records with Lee Scratch Perry or Dennis Bovell, but never had the chance to lead such a band and perform live. I guess Don Cosmic will slowly raise interests and I am hoping to be able to record an album very soon. The music is hot!
Besides touring extensively with my Quartet, guitarist Marc Ducret and in duet with Pierre Favre, I am launching two new other projects this season: a trio 100% Swiss Made with Daniel Humair & Heiri Känzig (our first record will be released on March 27th 2020) and SONGS with French Argentinian composer Oscar Strasnoy and the outstanding German soprano singer Sarah Maria Sun with a program around the Folksongs by Luciano Berio.
My record company, Outhere Music, is an amazing partner. We have planned releases (physical and digital) for the next three years among others a live recording with Paul Motian recorded in June 2011.
Thank you for the interview Samuel, and see you in Tampere!