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Jon Christensen 1943-2020


On two occasions I was fortunate enough to be in very close proximity to the playing of the Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, who has died at the age of 76 after a distinguished career that included collaborations with Keith Jarrett, Charles Lloyd, George Russell, Bobo Stenson, Jan Garbarek, Tomasz Stanko and many others, most of them gathered under the ECM umbrella.

The first occasion came around 25 years ago when Stenson’s trio, with Anders Jormin on bass, played the Pizza Express. It was with this group — which can be heard on the albums Serenity (1998) and War Orphans (2000) — that Christensen showed how he had added something of Billy Higgins’s lift and swing to the colouristic approach pioneered by Paul Motian. His wonderful subtlety was also evident on the second occasion, at the Jazzahead! festival in Bremen five years ago, when he played with the guitarist Jakob Bro and the bassist Thomas Morgan, two musicians of matching depth and transparency.

He was a master of sticks, mallets and brushes. For Bro, Morgan, Stenson, Jormin and any of the countless other improvisers with whom he played over the decades, I can’t imagine there were many better gifts than the knowledge that you’d be sharing a bandstand with a musician of such profound sensitivity.

* The photograph of Jon Christensen is © Roberto Masotti / ECM Records.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. martin newman #

    Richard…………….. Short notice but see if you can make it tonight to:


    1201_ALARM HELLO_WORLD launch………..Includes Steve Thompson playing LASER HARP , not to be missed !

    best wishes MARTIN NEWMAN ________________________________

    February 21, 2020
  2. martin newman #

    TONIGHT AT ICE TANK >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 7.30 pm ________________________________

    February 21, 2020
  3. Ian Gardiner #

    Brilliant, under-sung drummer, brilliantly recorded by Jan Erik Kongshaug for ECM. First heard him on Ralph Towner’s 1975 album ‘Solstice’ – the mix of his crisp ride cymbal to Towner’s fast 12-string guitar patterns really exhilarating. You can hear the same band play ‘Nimbus’ at 1978 Molde Jazz:

    February 21, 2020
  4. Henning Bolte #

    dear Richard,

    thanks for your piece. Here’s a piece of mine with some links included Jon’s work with Bobo and with Bro+Morgan was essential!

    best, Henning


    February 21, 2020

    Very sad news. The importance of Jon Christensen’s contribution to so many great ECM sessions was underlined a few years back when the label released a series of single-artist compilations titled ‘Selected Recordings’ with tracks chosen by the musicians themselves. Although (to the best of my knowledge) he had not recorded any sessions under his own leadership for ECM, Jon Christensen was one of the 20 musicians invited to contribute to the compilations. And his was one of the best in the series, with tracks highlighting the talents of the musicians he accompanied (Keith Jarrett, Bobo Stenson, Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal) rather than the drummer himself.

    As well as the collaborations you mention – all excellent – I find myself returning often to a 2002 ECM recording of duos between Jon Christensen and the great bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi on a recording titled ‘Senderos’ – a lovely album.

    February 21, 2020
    • GuitarSlinger #

      RE; ” Senderos ” Tak for the reminder . It’ll be included on this week’s CD rotation .

      February 23, 2020
  6. Cary Appenzeller #

    What an artist the world loses this day

    February 22, 2020
  7. GuitarSlinger #

    As I said one to a Scandinavian associate . The thing with Jon was …. he never put a stick wrong or a beat out of place in his entire career . He was he very epitome of Taste , combined beautifully with Technique with a sense of Musicality matched by very few

    Sigh …. and another one of the greats leaves this mortal coil .

    February 22, 2020

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