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John Tchicai

John Tchicai

“Yes, I’m being considered an elder; in Europe, I’m being called a godfather in free jazz, a teacher, a guru,” John Tchicai confesses with a hint of bewilderment from Darmstadt, where he is conducting an orchestra workshop at the German city’s renowned Jazz Institute. The Danish composer/saxophonist is no stranger to honors-Lifetime Grant Recipient, State of Denmark, is pretty good for starters. Yet Tchicai is a resolutely humble man, for whom “the only thing I can do is to keep the spirit of the music alive in younger musicians, and keep up my own work as a person and musician.”

The 64-year-old Tchicai is currently doing both at an impressively crisp pace. This year has already been an eventful year for Tchicai. The release of the New York Art Quartet’s triumphant 35th Reunion (DIW) is a long overdue reminder of Tchicai’s contributions to the ’60s new thing, which included membership in the New York Contemporary Five and contributions to both John Coltrane’s Ascension and Albert Ayler’s New York Eye and Ear Control.

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