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RIP John Tchicai

Danish–Congolese saxophonist John Tchicai passed away on 8 October from complications following a stroke. Tchicai was a performer, composer and teacher, and played on John Coltrane's Ascension. He got his break from touring the European festival circuit, in the 1950s and early 60s. Encouraged by Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp and Bill Dixon, in 1963 he moved to New York to play in Dixon's band.

Tchicai then played in the New York Contemporary Five with Shepp, Don Cherry, JC Moses and Don Moore, and led the New York Art Quartet between 1964–5 with Milford Graves and Roswell Rudd. The latter group, although short lived (operating between 1964–65), was credited with being one of the most important improvising units of its time. In 1965 Tchicai played on Coltrane's Ascension, and said of the experience: "You can find intensity in different ways, not just through that kind of cacophonous method. Coltrane knew that religiousness was needed as the basis of the music."

In 1966 he headed back to Copenhagen where he received a grant, and led the large ensemble Cadentia Nova Danica of over 20 Danish musicians, which produced the crucial Afrodisiaca, among other albums. In the 70s Tchicai retreated from performance, researching eastern musical forms, and concentrating on yoga and teaching.

In the 80s he played with in Strange Brothers, and in 1990 Tchicai became the first jazz musician to receive a lifetime grant from the Danish Ministry of Culture. The following year he moved to California in 1991 at which time he began playing with The Archetypes, and guesting with other Bay Area groups.