Blowing the blues with Samuel Blaser

Blaser clearly keeps his melodic and rhythmic options open, but he would also like as many of us as possible to give ear to his ever-expanding output.“

Trumpet 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Trumpet 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Samuel Blaser follows his own path. Considering he tends decidedly to the freer side of the jazz tracks, that is something of a prerequisite. The 37-year-old Swiss trombonist will unfurl some of his unfettered sounds Tuesday evening at Levontin 7 in Tel Aviv (two sets – 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.) in the company of his quartet, and revered septuagenarian American avant-garde saxophonist Olive Lake.
It promises to be a musical tour de force, with the foursome including Swiss-based American drummer Gerry Hemingway, who has delighted Levontin audiences in the past with his infectious rock-informed melodic and energized playing. With American keyboard player Russ Lossing and Barcelona-based Japanese acoustic bassist Masa Kamaguchi also in the mix, the gigs promise to delight jazz fans of various stripes.
The show playlist will be largely based on cuts off the quartet’s latest release, Early in the Mornin’, which came out on OutNote Records earlier this year. Lake guests on the album, as does seasoned trumpeter Wallace Roney. Blaser evidently has a lot to say, and Early in the Mornin’ is his 16th offering as co-leader in the last 11 years. That’s some going, and the list of his brothers in musical arms over the years includes late iconic drummer Paul Motian, who played on the Consort in Motion record in 2011.
Blaser clearly keeps his melodic and rhythmic options open, but he would also like as many of us as possible to give ear to his ever-expanding output. “I’ve been working hard to try to do that, because it’s a nice way to play avant-garde music, it helps us to relate to something that we actually all know – melodies or harmonies or rhythms.”
The Swiss has had his career path pretty clear in his mind, basically, since he could walk and talk.
“There is a legend in the family that I wanted to start on trombone when I was two years old,” he laughs. “I saw a marching band in my hometown [La Chaux-de-Fonds on the French border].” The infant spirit was willing, but lack of progress on the verbal skills front got in the way. “I couldn’t make my parents understand what I wanted,” he adds. “I had to wait until I could explain to them that I wanted to play the trombone.”
That finally happened when he was nine, although the unwieldy elongated instrument proved to be a bit of a logistical challenge. “I wanted to start when I was seven, but it was too big and too heavy. So I started on the recorder. But when I started on trombone, that was it for me, my only instrument.”
The youngster quickly got himself to a music school, and dived into the intricacies of classical music. Fortunately the school was pretty liberal-minded, so Blaser could get into some extraneous, less structured sounds, too. Thankfully, that included jazz.
Blaser later furthered his musical education in Paris, and then landed himself a Fulbright scholarship, which helped him get Stateside, to New York. Although, as it happened, he studied with a mostly classically oriented trombone teacher, he was able to catch all kinds of jazz and blues gigs in New York. He also met a lot of like-minded jazz artists, including drummer Gerald Cleaver, who later recorded with Blaser.
The trombonist also developed his ear for the blues and blues-based sounds, including gospel and spirituals. As the Levontin crowds will hear this evening, the blues form a major part of Blaser’s mind-set to this day. “I have always listened to the blues, since I was a kid. I think the trombone should be a bluesy instrument, because it is close to the human voice.”
Since Early in the Mornin’ came out, Blaser has recorded an opera written by avant-garde jazz guitarist Marc Ducret, which is due for release in spring 2019, and there is a ska-based project in the offing, too. Watch Blaser’s space.
For tickets and more information: (03) 560-5084 and