At a time when there are more musicians in the world trying to be heard than ever before, rare gems like Samuel Blaser seem, paradoxically, to rise above it all. With Early in The Mornin’ featuring Russ Lossing, Masa Kamaguchi, Gerry Hemingway, Oliver Lake and Wallace Roney – he’s already achieved a rare prominence as one of his generation’s most wildly elegant, relentlessly forward-thinking and undeniably virtuous trombonists.
Since his 2007 debut as a leader, 7th Heaven (Between the Lines), Blaser has grown at an almost incomprehensible rate, from straight-ahead hard bopper in his mid-twenties to innovative free player and ever-searching composer and bandleader in his early thirties, one whose improvisational strength has received praise from sources like Audiophile Audition, citing Blaser’s music as occupying „ambient/free jazz terrain that has a depth of vision and clarity revealing musical maturity beyond Blaser’s nearly three decades of life.”
Born and raised in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland – a lesser-known but no less significant jazz metropolis which was, for a time, home to expatriate Americans Sidney Bechet and Kenny Clarke, as well as Swiss jazz trombonist Raymond Droz – Blaser has also spent considerable time living in New York City and currently resides in Berlin; truly an international musician, then, in clear defiance of boundaries cultural, musical and stylistic. Beginning trombone lessons at the age of 9, he „couldn’t go past third position and had to have a trolley to carry trombone because it was too heavy,” says Blaser. Still, with plenty of music in the Blaser household, where he was the middle of three children – ranging from Swiss folk music to American R&B and jazz – Blaser progressed quickly, entering the local conservatory at 14 and graduating seven years later in 2002 after receiving a number of awards in both the jazz and classical spheres, including the 2000 Benny Golson Prize.
Continuing private studies, Blaser began a number of significant associations, including the heralded Vienna Art Orchestra and European Radio Big Band, leading to a Fulbright scholarship which enabled him to study in the United States at the Purchase College Conservatory of Music, going on to win the J.J. Johnson Prize, as well as both the Public Prize and Jury’s Favorite Player awards at the 2006 Fribourg Jazz Festival.
All of these diverse accomplishments have ultimately – and inevitably – led to Blaser finding a personal nexus where disparate elements like Indian Tihi and Wagnerian opera meet. Blaser’s impressive improvisational élan is predicated on instrumental mastery that is nothing more than the means to very musical ends. Together with his equally unfettered quartet, Blaser continues to expand the purview of jazz, redefining it in the new millennium as it enters its second century of existence.
Beyond Blaser’s ability to combine knotty compositional form with incendiary improvisational prowess in the context of his own music, his unfettered yet ever-collaborative approach has resulted in a number of significant associations, among them his ongoing work with Swiss percussion legend Pierre Favre; a much-lauded duo with guitarist Marc Ducret; touring as a member of François Houle’s recent 5+1 group, and heard on the French Canadian clarinetist’s Genera (Songlines, 2012); performing as a member of Marc Ducret Lady M (Ayler Records 2019); Blaser has also shared the stage with artists including clarinetist Michel Portal, drummer Daniel Humair, saxophonist Michael Blake and saxophonist Stefano di Battista. It’s no surprise that Rene Laanen of USA Trombone Online has called Blaser” one of today´s finest trombonists.” In 2019 the French Jazz Academy presented Samuel Blaser with the coveted European Musician Award, recognising the importance of his work in the field of jazz. The same year Blaser was voted #2 Rising Star Trombone of the 2019 Downbeat Critics Poll.
2020 will see Blaser touring with his trio featuring French guitarist Marc Ducret and Danish drummer Peter Bruun. Blaser is also back on the road with his original quartet to promote Early in the Mornin’, an homage to the Blues with Russ Lossing on piano, Masa Kamaguchi on bass, drummer Gerry Hemingway, Wallace Roney on trumpet and Oliver Lake on alto saxophone. That record paying tribute to the Blues – was praised by Dusted’s Bill Meyer as „Blaser is first and foremost a melodist, and that talent does not desert him here” Meyer continues, asserting that „By surrounding himself with musicians who are assertive but sympathetic to his ends, Blaser has really stepped up his game on Early in the Mornin’.”
Between recording and touring with his own groups and collaborating in other leaders’ ensembles, Blaser’s career continues an upward trajectory that seems to have no end in sight. „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.”