Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Tchicai, John (Martin)

Tchicai, John (Martin), saxophonist, leader; b. Copenhagen, 28 April 1936. He is the son of a Danish mother and a Congolese father.

Studied violin at 10, took up alto and clarinet at 16. He studied saxophone privately and for 3 years at Aarhus Academy of Music and Academy of Music, Copenhagen. During the late '60s and early '70s, John began to play bamboo flutes, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone and some percussion, and when he discovered the tenor saxophone in the early '80s, he put the alto aside in favor of this, which has become his main instrument. John uses keyboards and sequencers as tools for composing.

Playing with local musicians, he made his recording debut in Warsaw in 1962. He met Archie Shepp and Bill Dixon at Helsinki Fest in 1962. Moved to NYC 1963 at their advice, played w. Don Cherry, formed New York Contemporary Five with Shepp, Dixon, Don Moore, J. C. Moses. He went to Europe with this group, Cherry replacing Dixon. In NYC worked with R. Rudd, M. Graves, Steve Swallow or Eddie Gomez as N.Y. Art Quartet in 1964 and 1965. Joined Jazz Composers Guild, played with C. Bley. He returned to Denmark in 1966, co-founded and led the workshop ensemble Cadentia Nova Danica from 1967 to 1971, performing with them in London in 1968. In Cambridge (England) round about 1969, a group of university students interested in free jazz / spontaneous improvisation put on a concert under the name "Natural Music" featuring Tchicai, Yoko Ono, and numerous others. He recorded with Ono and John Lennon in 1969.

During the late '60s and early '70s, John began to play bamboo flutes, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone and some percussion. In 1972, he began working on hatha yoga and meditation. He performed less often in this period, but taught full-time in elementary schools, composed, and led workshops. He resumed active playing in 1977, when he was the first jazz-musician to receive a three year-composing stipend from the Danish Ministry of Culture. He began touring Europe, India, Japan and Africa, as a sideperson and leading his own groups. He played with Johnny Dyani, Abdullah Ibrahin, Misha Mengelberg, Lee Konitz, Cecil Taylor, Gunter Hampel. He performed from Bombay and Kyoto to Vancouver and Seattle, from Conacry, Guinea, Africa to Reykjavik, Iceland. He joined Pierre Dorge's New Jungle Orchestra and appeared with them at the 1986 Chicago Jazz Festival. The Danish Ministry of Culture awarded him a lifetime grant in 1990.

He has been based in Davis, California since 1991. Here he founded "John Tchicai and the Archetypes", a 7-piece band that fuses afro-jazz with blues-rock. He teaches workshops in schools and in prisons, composes and works on various new projects, as a California Artist-in-Residence (for composition, by the Djerassi Foundation, '96-'97) and a California Arts Council roster-artist. He practices yoga, pranayama and meditation, and still tours internationally. Poetry and audience participation are often part of his performances. He has collaborated with poets Amiri Baraka, John Stewart, David Gitin, with painters, actors and dancers. He composed for film, theater plays and video-projects. His compositions for classical ensembles include Disturbances on the Fish Scale, 1989; Forwards and Backwards, 1990; United Spirits of America, 1992; Movement for Symphony Orchestra, 1989; and Bohe, 1987 (for six percussionists).

John Tchicai-Archie Shepp: Rufus (1963); John Tchicai And Cadentia Nova Danica: John Tchicai And Cadentia Nova Danica (1968), Afrodisiaca (1969);
The John Tchicai/ Irene Schweizer Group: Willie The Pig (1975); John Tchicai Solo (1977); John Tchicai & Strange Brothers (1977): John Tchicai & Strrange Brothers: Darktown Highlights (1977); Real Tchicai (1977); John Tchicai and Andre Goudbeek: Duets (1977), Barefoot Dance (1978); John Tchicai and Hartmut Geerken: Continent (1980); John Tchicai Live In Athens (1980);
John Tchicai and Pierre Dorge: Ball At Louisiana (1981); Merlin Vibrations (1983); Timo's Message (1984); Moye, Tchicai, Geerken: Cassava Balls (1984), The African Tapes vol. I and II (1985);
Put Up The Fight (1987); John Tchicai & Clinch: Tchicai/Clinch (1988); John Tchicai & Vitold Rek: Satisfaction (1992); Grandpa's Spells (1993); Love Is Touching (1995)
As sideperson:
Jorgen Leth-Quintet: Jazz Jamboree '63 vol.4 (1962); New York Contemporary Five: Consequences (1963); Archie Shepp: In Europe vol 1 & 2 (1963), Four For Trane (1964);
New York Eye and Ear Control (1964); The Jazz Composers Orchestra: Communication (1964); New York Art Quartet: New York Art Quartet & Imamu Amiri Baraka (1964), Mohawk (1965), Roswell Rudd (1965); John Coltrane: Ascension (1965); Instant Composers Pool: Instant Composers Pool (1968); John Lennon and Yoko Ono: Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With The Lions (1969); Red Ivanhoe: Burnin' (1969); Instant Composers Pool: Instant Composers Pool (1970); Wiebelfetzer Live (1971); Monster Jazz (1974); Instant Composers Pool: Tetterettet (1977);
Johnny Dyani: Witchdoctor's Son (1978); The Berlin Jazz Workshop Orchestra: Who Is Who? (1978); Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath: Yes, Please (1981);
Kristian Blak: Den Yderste Oe (1981), Ravnating (1982); Binder Quintet Featuring John Tchicai (1982); Kristian Blak: Howes And Trowes (1983), Yggdrasil (1983), Concerto Grosso (1984);
Cecil Taylor: Winged Serpent (1984); Johnny Dyani: Angolian Cry (1985); Pierre Dorge And The New Jungle Orchestra: Very Hot, Even The Moon Is Dancing, Different Places, Different Bananas (1986); Giancarlo Nicolai Featuring John Tchicai (1987); Brus Trio & John Tchicai: Soaked Sorrows (1988); Soaked Sorrows (1988); Charles Gayle Quartet Featuring John Tchicai (1988);
The Six Winds: Elephants Can Dance (1988), Man Met Muts (1989);Curtis Clark Quintet: Letter To South Africa (1989); Pierre Dorge And The New Jungle Orchestra: Peer Gynt (1989), Ballad Round The Left Corner, Brikama, Johnny Lives, Live In Chicago (1990);he Six Winds: Anger Dance (1992);Anthony Passarell Quartet: Spirit Hous (1993); Paul Haines: Darn It! (1994);
Sun Ra: Wavelength Infinity (1995); John Ehlis Ensemble (1996); Various artists: Music With No Name (1996); Rent Romus with John Tchicai and the Lords of Outland: Adapt! Or Die (1997)

Advice to Improvisors, 1987. Compositions and exercises for all instruments. Edition Wilhelm Hansen, Copenhagen. Includes his recorded compostions: "Turning Point", "Real Kirsten",
"No Tea This Time", "For Rita", "Kirke Vaerlose", "Transportation of Noodles", "On Tuesday"
Cerutti, Gustave (John Tchicai Discography: On (                
Cerutti, Gustave (Discographie de John Tchicai (Sierre, Switzerland
Cerutti, Gustave (John Tchicai in Records (Switzerland
Hames, M. (John Tchicai on Disc and Tape(Ferndown, England
Noglik. Jazzwerkstatt.
For a bibliography on John Tchicai, see "Fire Music", a bibliography of  New Jazz by John Gray, ref. coll. #31, Greenwood Press.

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