JON CHRISTENSEN (1943-2020)


ECM writes: “Jon Christensen, one of the great drummers of modern jazz and improvisation beyond jazz, has died aged 76. As a young self-taught player, Jon honed his craft working at Oslo’s clubs with a long list of visiting American stars, beginning with Bud Powell and including Don Ellis, Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Kenny Dorham and Dexter Gordon. Dexter famously encouraged Jon to have faith in his own creativity: “You’re not from Harlem, and you’re 20 years old – play how you feel!” By the mid-1960s Jon was working regularly with George Russell and making important contributions to a burgeoning new jazz movement gathering momentum in Norway, alongside Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal and Arild Andersen. Afric Pepperbird announced their arrival at ECM in 1970. It was the first of around seventy albums with Christensen for the label. Jon’s creative, malleable style, with detailed cymbal-play and rolling, flowing drums – he spoke often about playing in waves, about colouration, about phrasing like a horn player – could adapt itself to the most diverse contexts.”

“From Ralph Towner’s Solstice to the Charles Lloyd Quartet, from the Enrico Rava Quartet to Ketil Bjørnstad’s The Sea, from the Bobo Stenson Trio to Anouar Brahem’s Khomsa, from the Masqualero group to duets with Dino Saluzzi, the Christensen discography is an enduring testament to creative participation and deep listening. A great team player, Jon had no band-leading ambitions and there is just one album under his name on ECM, an anthology in the :rarum series of Selected Recordings. Here Jon chose to emphasize his recordings with Keith Jarrett, selections drawn from the albums Belonging, My Song and Personal Mountains. His last recording for ECM was Returnings, with Jakob Bro, Palle Mikkelborg and Thomas Morgan, released in 2018.”

Photo by Roberto Masotti