Samuel Blaser: Trombone Man

SamuelBlaserLacPosterSamuel Blaser doesn’t mess around. The 32 year old formed the Samuel Blaser Trio with Marc Ducret and Peter Bruun six months ago and they’re already on their third tour touching down at the Festival Jazz Onze+ in Lausanne, London Jazz Festival and playing Poland and Italy in the next couple of months.

You need Sherlock Holmes to deduce which bands he was, is, or will be, performing in

In the last few months he’s toured as a duo with Ducret in Brazil (“There is an opening market there,” he says, due to the SESC cultural centres), released a CD with Consort in Motion, the international outfit that included revered drummer Paul Motion until his death in 2011 and has been to Japan with his new solo venture, “It’s like a marathon for trombone,” he tells me of the hour-long performances.

“A lot of time I don’t like the way the trombone is played…

When I ask him how he keeps his ‘creative well’ topped up, with so many projects on the go, he looks at me questioningly, “I don’t feel like I need to be inspired.” He just listens to music every day, “Yesterday I listened to…Burning Spear, Dennis Bovell [with whom Samuel also plays] then some Polish pop, and today Maria Callas, Beethoven and Joe Henderson, all kinds of music, yeah.” And it was Vinco Globokar and Berlioz that originally fired his love of trombone, “Those guys really pushed the boundaries of the instrument and that was really inspiring.” He moved into jazz through his mum’s love of the music but says, “A lot of time I don’t like the way the trombone is played…I try to keep the natural way of the trombone to express myself and to have new extended techniques.”

He refesamuelblaser3rs to his trombone as ‘her’

It’s a true romance (he refers to his trombone as ‘her’) that began after seeing marching bands when he was two years old. He couldn’t say the word, ‘trombone’, so tried to make a sliding movement to his parents then held onto his dream until he was nine when his arms were (almost) long enough to play. He progressed rapidly at the local conservatory in La Chaux-de-Fonds, winning awards, praise and a Fullbright scholarship to study in America.

“Maybe if I call myself ‘Trombone Chubby’…”

It’s when I ask whether he has to ‘compose to order’ that he remembers the tribute to Jimmy Giuffre he’s recording next year with, due to his own suggestion to Fortune Records, Ravi Coltrane. “I don’t like to record an album only with material written by someone else. I need to add my touch so that I feel it is mine,” Blaser comments. Last month saw the release of a recording made with Benoît Delbecq and Who Trio’s Gerry Hemingway that charted in Billboard’s top 50 jazz albums. “Maybe if I call myself Trombone Chubby…” he quips with reference to Trombone Shorty’s chart success.

He keeps his spirit light

It’s not all fast and plain sailing as Blaser explains, “I still cannot really break through into France and I’ve been playing with French musicians since 2002.” He also has to find a label for a solo recording made with ‘sound designer’ Martin Ruch in various rooms of the ex-DDR radio station in Berlin. He knows it’s not an easy sell, but says it with his ever-optimistic smile. It’s the Blaser secret: he doesn’t spend time on things that don’t work or he doesn’t like to do (a good manager helps) and he keeps his spirit light. While he has a smile on his face, a shiny trombone in his hands and a song in his heart, I’m sure Blaser will maintain this incredible workload and find out who he really is as a musician.

Samuel Blaser is playing London Jazz Festival (Oto Café), the 17th of November.

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