Live! Songbook Watch Party with Dominick Farinacci

Songbook Watch Party with Host Dominick Farinacci


Jon Hassell: Vernal Equinox

Mark Sullivan By

Sign in to view read count
Visionary trumpeter-composer Jon Hassell is one of the architects of what has come to be called World Music: his own preferred term is Fourth World, which he described as "a unified primitive/futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques." Vernal Equinox was his first commercial album release, originally on Lovely Music in 1977. The second release on Hassell's own Ndeya label—following the 2018 Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One)—this reissue makes the album available on vinyl for the first time in 42 years, and on CD for the first time in 30 years. It has been completely remastered, but there is no additional material.

"Toucan Ocean" begins the set; after an introduction of electric piano, congas and ocean sounds Hassell's distinctive reedy trumpet tone makes its first appearance on record, along with electronic treatments, another common component of his sound. Hassell has a group of players helping out, primarily on percussion; Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos (who appears on all but one of the tracks) is the best known, a virtuoso whose credits include pioneering World Music, jazz, Braziialian and pop recordings. New Music composer David Rosenboom contributes percussion and synthesizer processing on a few tracks. Several other players from the New Music world also appear.

"Viva Shona" features Rosenboom's mbira (a traditional Shona "thumb piano") along with Vasconçelos on talking drum, giving it an African atmosphere. "Blues Nile" is the most minimal track, with only drone and trumpet. In general, the sound is just a bit less polished than the later recordings; Hassell was constantly refining his approach and broadening his circle of collaborators. His breakout collaboration with Brian EnoFourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics (Editions EG, 1980)—came just three years later.

But the title tune (which, at 22 minutes, was long enough to take up most of the second side of the original LP) has the sense of space and the patient pacing that came to be a trademark. Hassell spins out serpentine lines over a thick, shifting drone as the two percussionists accompany, sometimes rubato, sometimes locking into a steady rhythm. More minimal than his later soundscapes, but no less hypnotic, easily recommended to Hassell fans or fans of ambient music generally, this is one of the places where it began.

Track Listing

Toucan Ocean; Viva Shona; Hex; Blues Nile; Vernal Equinox; Caracas Night September 11, 1975.


Jon Hassell: trumpet; Nana Vasconcelos: percussion; David Rosenboom: synthesizer; Nicolas Kilbourn: percussion; William Winant: percussion.

Jon Hassell: trumpet, Fender Rhodes (specially tuned and altered by Buchla and Arp Synthesizers); Nana Vasconçelos: congas, shakers, ocean, talking drum, bells, tropical birds; David Rosenboom: mbira, rattles, tabla, dumbek; Miguel Frasconi: claves, bells; Nicolas Kilbourn: talking drum, mbira; William Winant: kanjira, rattles; Drone: Serge Synthesizer, Motorola Scalatron; Night Creatures of Altamira; Perrasita: distant barking.

Album information

Title: Vernal Equinox | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Ndeya



Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and through our retail affiliations you'll support us in the process.


Rare vinyl LPs and CDs from over 1,000 independent sellers


CDs, Vinyl, Blu-Ray DVDS, Prime membership, Alexa, SONOS and more


Specializing in high resolution and CD-quality downloads


Specializing in music, movies and video games


Marketplace for new, used, and vintage instruments and gear


Read Warmer Than Blood
Warmer Than Blood
Chris Montague
Read Perspectival
Sam Gill's Scattered
Read Pinball
Read Music from the Early 21st Century
Music from the Early 21st Century
Bobby Previte, Jamie Saft and Nels Cline
Read lena
Anna Högberg Attack
Read Patchouli Blue
Patchouli Blue
Bohren & der Club of Gore
Read Codes/Myths
Rempis/Rosaly Duo
Read Chamber Works
Chamber Works
Luiz Henrique Yudo & Apartment House