Tchicai, John


John Martin Tchicai (April 28, 1936 – October 8, 2012) was a Danish free jazz saxophonist and composer. After moving to New York City in 1963, Tchicai joined Archie Shepp's New York Contemporary Five and the New York Art Quartet. He played on John Coltrane's Ascension, and Albert Ayler's New York Eye and Ear Control, both influential free jazz recordings. Tchicai was born in Copenhagen to a Danish mother and a Congolese father. The family moved to Aarhus, where he studied violin in his youth, and in his mid-teens began playing clarinet and alto saxophone, focusing on the latter. By the late 1950s he was travelling around northern Europe, playing with many musicians. Following his work in New York, Tchicai returned to Denmark in 1966, and shortly thereafter focused most of his time on music education. He formed the small orchestra Cadentia Nova Danica with Danish and other European musicians; this group collaborated with Musica Elettronica Viva and performed in multi-media events. On August 30, 1975 his appearance at the Willisau Jazz Festival was recorded and released later that year as Willi The Pig. On this record, he plays with Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer. Tchicai returned to a regular gigging and recording schedule in the late 1970s. In the early 1980s he switched to the tenor saxophone as his primary instrument. In 1990 he was awarded a lifetime grant from the Danish Ministry of Culture. Tchicai and his wife relocated to Davis, California, in 1991, where he led several ensembles. He was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1997. He was a member of Henry Kaiser and Wadada Leo Smith's "Yo Miles" band, a loose aggregation of musicians exploring Miles Davis' electric period. Since 2001 he had been living near Perpignan in southern France. On June 11, 2012, he suffered a brain hemorrhage in an airport in Barcelona, Spain. He was recovering and had canceled all appearances when he died in a Perpignan hospital on 8 October 2012.


Tchicai, John: John Tchicai

John Tchicai was excited when we presented our plans to release a double CD with material from his 2 Storyville LPs with three different sessions recorded in Denmark. One was recorded at Club Montmartre March 15, 1977 and another session in a studio in Copenhagen March 29, 1977 and the third session also in Copenhagen November 10 – 14, 1987.

John Tchicai took part in the project from the very beginning and also chose the liner note writer Andrey Henkin.

John Tchicai began his career playing altosaxophone and ended it playing tenorsaxophone. His first group was called “The Yardbird Quintet” but then he met Archie Shepp in Helsinki and later Albert Ayler and that made him interested in the “Free Jazz Style”. He moved to USA and became part of the Free Jazz Scene and played and recorded with Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor and  John Coltrane. He recorded with three other saxophoneplayers on John Coltrane’s famous LP “Ascension”. John Tchicai came back to Denmark with New York Contempory Five which were Archie Shepp, John Tchicai, Don Cherry, J.C.Moses ...