Hometown: Berlin & New York City
Web site: http://www.myspace.com/samuelblaser
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Jazz trombonist and composer Samuel Blaser, who has earned serious attention and enthusiastic praise over the last few years for his daring virtuosity and engaging improvisations, advances his artistry to even greater heights on his new CD, 7th Heaven, just released on the Between the Lines/Double Moon label in Germany. A prolific talent with a truly collaborative spirit, Blaser brings together guitarist Scott Dubois, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver to create seven separate songs that explore the territory between hard bop and free jazz, all of which confirm that a new trombone star has risen in the realm of the Improviser’s Art.
In listening to Blaser’s spectral trombone playing you hear tradition, finesse and questing innovation. His strong, colorful tone allows him to express his musical ideas in a straightforward manner, so each nuance of his phrasing stands complete and purposeful. With an astute command of rhythm and an impeccable ear for melody and harmony, Blaser fashions entertaining original compositions that emphasize his versatile playing and deep commitment to the jazz aesthetic.
Blaser was born and raised in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, located in the Neuchâtel canton and center of the country’s famed watch-making industry. It is also a vibrant jazz metropolis, and once was home to a pair of expatriate American jazz legends—pioneering saxophone and clarinetist Sidney Bechet and bebop drummer Kenny “Klook” Clarke—as well as the famed Swiss jazz trombonist Raymond Droz.
The middle of three brothers, Blaser was inspired to play trombone at an early age after seeing a marching band perform at a local parade. “I guess I like how the big, showy slide of the trombone was used,” he says. There was always a lot of musical enjoyment in Blaser’s family: his father, a book manufacturer, was interested in Swiss folk music, while his mother, a machinist in a watch factory, loved American R&B and jazz. At 9 years old, Blaser started lessons on the trombone and quickly developed, thanks to the support of his parents.
While he kept up an interest in Egyptology in his youth, Blaser became a truly devoted musical student, entering the local conservatory at 14 and graduating seven years later in 2002. During this time he won numerous awards for both his classical and jazz performances, including the Benny Golson Prize in 2000, and was able to work in various big bands featuring guest luminaries like Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Buddy DeFranco and Jim McNeely.
After ending his formal education, Blaser studied privately for three years and maintained a steady schedule of bandstand appointments. He worked with the prestigious Vienna Art Orchestra, and then represented Switzerland in the European Radio Big Band “Tribute to Oscar Peterson” tour in 2005. A Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States at Conservatory of Music at Purchase College in New York followed, and in the next year he won the J. J. Johnson Prize while also copping the “Public Prize” and “Jury’s Favorite Player” at the Fribourg Jazz Festival. With his growing reputation as a young artist worth checking out, Blaster then landed a spot with his own band in the concert series at the Zagreb Jazz Festival.
Blaser began leading his own groups early on, and his working quartet these days features guitarist Todd Neufeld, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Tyshawn Storey. Dividing his time between New York City and Berlin, Blaser continues to work with a number of other groups as well, such as the new Braff Blaser duo, Malcolm Braff & TNT, Animal Forum, Peter van Huffel & Sophie Tassignon, and the Ravitz / Blaser Duo. Recent sidework has found the trombonist sharing the stage with Renee Rosnes, Hal Galper and David Taylor, among others, leading Rene Laanen of USA Trombone Online to state, “Samuel Blaser is one of today’s finest trombonists.”
Perpetual motion and continued industry seem to be Blaser’s abiding principles. Although 7th Heaven has barely hit the streets, the trombonist is getting ready to release a virtual plethora of new recordings: two more CDs with the Samuel Blaser Quartet on Clean Feed Records; a brazen solo CD that journeys to the limits of the avant-garde, to be released on SLAM Productions in the UK; and the debut Braff Blaser album, YaY, on Fresh Sound New Talent.
“The world of music fascinates me to no end, and I’m determined to take one journey after another with my instrument and work,” says Blaser. “It’s all about discovery and communicating new ideas. Believe me, I’m proof that a shiny trombone can send a message right to your heart and change your life.”