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Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Saturday, 19 March 2022 17:35

John Tchicai: A Chaos with Some Kind of Order - Margriet Naber

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Personal insights into the life of Danish free jazz saxophonist John Tchicai.

Review by jazz singer, pianist and composer Fiona Ross, who is also the founder of Women In Jazz Media.

A fascinating book exploring the life of Danish free jazz saxophonist John Tchicai, through the personal lens of his fourth wife, Margriet Naber

Musician, teacher and astrologer Margriet Naber, as John Tchicai’s fourth wife, has a unique insight into the world of this fascinating artist. She met him in 1989 in Rotterdam and after attending only three of his workshops, moved in with him and they were together for the next ten years. Margriet tells us that she hopes her personal relationship, her ‘feelings of love and admiration or pain, shine through the text’ and do not disturb the message. She manages this beautifully. Combining her own experiences with an insightful portfolio of manuscripts, diaries and Tchicai’s own personal notes, she brings to life the underlying sense of freedom he constantly searched for.

Naber explores the beginnings of Tchicai’s relationship with rhythm and ‘rules’ through his childhood and how although he trained as cook, he decided to try working as a jazz musician. She brings to life the rich jazz scene in Copenhagen where legends such as Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman would frequent. Tchicai’s portfolio is vast and his experiences of working with many jazz legends including working on John Coltrane’s Ascension session and John Lennon’s album Unfinished Music No 2: Life with the Lions, make for a fascinating story. But Tchicai’s passion for education is never far and Naber includes useful insights into his processes, through notes, transcriptions and the odd humorous anecdote.

Margriet Naber’s book recently received an ‘honourable mention’ from the Jazz Journalist Association, and understandably so. A Chaos with Some Kind of Order is engaging to all, irrelevant of how familiar you are with the life and work of John Tchicai and a valuable insight into his world. Highly recommended.

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