1 November 2016

Julie Sassoon Interview

Tell us about your new album and your quartet. 

    “I moved to Berlin from London several years ago and found a place within its wonderful melting pot of improvised music and jazz. 

About a year ago I formed a new quartet with some of my favourite players from this vibrant and creative music scene… whom I also felt to be the most suited to playing my compositions.”

    “Lothar Ohlmeier plays soprano sax/bass clarinet, Meinrad Kneer – double bass and Rudi Fischerlehner – drums. They all have such strong individual sounds and bring so much of their influences into my music – opening up new space and freedom for dialogue and solos within my compositions.”

    After our first concert in Berlin alongside Marilyn Crispell a year ago, we were very honoured to be offered the opportunity to record our first album in the fantastic RBB Kulturradio Berlin Broadcasting Studios – with some of the best sound engineers in the country. Thanks to Ulli Blobel from Jazzwerkstatt label and Ulf Drechsel – the head of Jazz at RBB Kulturradio – we were given 5 days of recording plus 5 days of mixing/editing with these great engineers. As a guest musician we invited our long time collaborator and friend – trumpeter – Tom Arthurs to join us on 2 of the 6 tracks on the album.”

    “The result … I am very happy with! The new album is called Fourtune – and will be released on Jazzwerkstatt Label in November.

If you want to hear or see a sample of these recordings – you can watch the video that was filmed at the studios during the recording week on vimeo.”


What sets you apart from other singer/pianists?

    “What sets me apart from other singer/pianists is that I’m not a singer… but a pianist that sometimes uses her voice as an extra line or layer. Everyone has a voice – but only a few can call themselves a singer! I use my voice when I feel I need to express more than my fingers on the piano can provide…”


Tell us about your approach to composing. 

    “In general I guess you could say my music is based on unusual rhythms and what I find to be beautiful harmonies and colours. I’m not interested in fitting into any particular tradition – like jazz or classical – though I’m certainly influenced by music from these backgrounds.”

    “However when I’m composing – I’m not bound by any musical style.  Another thing that may be characteristic of my composition is the repetitive element – that is also found in minimal music. This repetitional process enables me to get deeper into the music and closer to my soul… which is where I want to be…”

    “I can sometimes get drawn into a certain musical element – for example – in the last few years I was fascinated by the tension that results in minor second intervals. I often play a melody on the piano – at the same time singing that melody a semitone below or above – as I like the tension it creates. Also – minor 6th intervals stacked up on top of each other – I love… and most recently – the emotional effect of chords moving semitonally… I can’t explain it – you have to hear it. Its very evident in Expectations – which is the song we filmed in the video.”


What plans do you have for the future?

    “Since I moved to Berlin, I have collaborated with lots of great musicians. However my main focus over the past few years has been on my solo music and performance.”

    “Now I’m feeling very inspired and motivated to play with this new quartet and I hope that the new album Fourtune will help to get us out there!!”

    “Next to the quartet I also have a love of playing in duos… 

I have a very new duo with the legendary drummer – Willi Kellers. Our music is purely improvised. We recorded a session on the last day at the RBB studios – which will be released as a CD next year.”

    “I’m working with percussionist – Nora Thiele in our Sassoon/Thiele Duo – playing my compositions.”

    “My duo with Israeli singer Efrat Alony, exploring our Jewish roots through original compositions and reworking of standards and folk songs also has concerts planned for next year.”

    “And of course I’m still working with my longterm duo – ‘Inside Colours’ – with Lothar Ohlmeier. ‘Inside Colours’ duo has just been offered another CD recording by the Bavarian radio station – Bayerischer Rundfunk – after having played a memorable gig at the Bavarian Jazz Festival this summer. This gig you can hear – as it was recorded and broadcast by BR-KLASSIK Radio.


Julie Sassoon appears at The Verdict, Brighton on Thursday 10th November ahead of her appearance at The Vortex on Saturday 12th November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.


For more information on her and the band visit:



Supported by Initiative Musik Ltd.



Photo of the Julie Sassoon Quartet by David Beecroft.


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