Home » Jazz Musicians » Jon Hassell

Jon Hassell

COMPOSER/TRUMPETER Jon Hassell is the visionary creator of a style of music he describes as Fourth World, a mysterious, unique hybrid of music both ancient and digital, composed and improvised, Eastern and Western.

After composition studies and university degrees in the USA, he went to Europe to study electronic and serial music with Karlheinz Stockhausen. Several years later, he returned to New York where his first recordings were made with minimalist masters LaMonte Young and Terry Riley, through whom he met the Hindustani raga master, Pandit Pran Nath, and embarked on a lifelong quest to transmute his teacher's Kirana vocal mastery into a new trumpet sound and style.

In the last two decades, he has recorded 11 highly influential, category-defying solo albums which have, over the years, become so widely appropriated that many of their innovations have become woven anonymously into the texture of contemporary music high and low.

While the liner notes for his 1983 record Aka-Darbari-Java/Magic Realism describe a technology-tradition balance resulting in a "'coffee-colored' classical music of the future", it was innovators in the field of pop such as Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel who—after collaborations with Hassell—steered the Fourth World idea into the avant-pop sphere where it has since evolved into myriad forms of "electronica", "new age", and "world music."

Notable concert appearances have included The Next Wave at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Serious Fun at Lincoln Center, La Foret Museum in Tokyo, the Berlin Jazz Festival, the Paris Biennale, a Japan tour with Farafina, a traditional group of drummers and dancers from Burkina Faso and a spectacular appearance with eight Moroccan tribal groups at Expo 92 in Seville to celebrate Moroccan Independence Day. A European tour in November 1997 included sold-out performances at L'Opera de Nice and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.

Theatrical scores include Sulla Strada, created for the Venice Biennale, and Zangezi, directed by Peter Sellars. He has collaborated on presentations by fashion avant-gardists Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo and for choreographic works by Merce Cunningham and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. The Kronos Quartet commissioned and recorded his 'Pano da Costa'. In 1996 the Netherlands Dance Theater commissioned Lurch—a major, evening-length piece choreographed by Australian dance maverick Gideon Obarzanek to the music of Hassell, arranged and remixed for performance by two onstage DJs. Jon both appeared in, and composed the score to the Wim Wenders' film, The Million Dollar Hotel, in collaboration with Bono, Daniel Lanois, and Brian Eno.

His last album, Fascinoma, produced by Ry Cooder, opened a surprising new chapter in Hassell's recording career.

Read more


"Almost all of the musicians I meet at the moment seem to regard Jon Hassell as one of the God-like geniuses of contemporary music." —David Toop, The Wire

"Work of quite extraordinary beauty... This pan-cultural music swirls and rises like smoke... Hassell blends his experiences in such a way that the components—African drumming, Indian microtonality, Balinese tranquility-make a new palette while forfeiting none of the individual colors." —LONDON TIMES

"Extraordinary, otherworldly music..." —ROLLING STONE

Arne Hiorth
Kit Watkins
Fletcher McKenzie
guitar, electric



Last Night the Moon Came

From: Last Night The Moon Came...
By Jon Hassell

Maarifa Street

From: Maarifa Street: Magic Realism 2
By Jon Hassell

Power Spot

From: Power Spot
By Jon Hassell



Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.