Mathias Aspelin
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Mathias Aspelin

Band Jazz Classical


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The best kept secret in music


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Mathias Aspelin Trio (untitled, in progress)
The Mancini Institute: "In Session - at the Alfred Newman Scoring Stage" (2005)
Kvarken Big Band: "Drool" (2002)
Mathias Aspelin: "Stream of Consciousness", ARTCD (1998)

American Music Center since 2004
Fulbright Association since 2004
Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences since 2003
Oxford University Society since 2002


Feeling a bit camera shy


It might be tempting to ask what relevance an artist biography has in this age of music available by mouse click. It wasn't long ago that, if you didn't hear an artist on the radio, you had to take a chance and buy a full record, sound unheard. This meant doing research, which in those pre-internet days was much more time-consuming. Today, time is at a premium. But there is something about jazz that makes even the most casual fan curious to know about the artist. Unlike fans of the popular music that is pervasive in today's culture, the jazz fan rarely gets to make a connection with his favorite artists. Perhaps it is because the music is so far outside the mainstream that jazz fans feel an urgent need to understand where the artist is coming from and what he is trying to say.
You are here, after all, reading about an artist you may not have ever heard. Congratulations. You are a jazz fan.

Mathias Aspelin was born in Lappfjard, a village in the Swedish-speaking area on the west coast of Finland. Under the musical influence of a musical family, he started playing the piano at an early age, but didn't take his first lesson until he was nine. It wasn't long before he was performing solo and as an accompanist.
Mathias left Lappfjard to study at an International Baccalaureate high school. It was here, immersed in this new, multi-lingual environment, that Mathias first realized there was a rich, global culture beyond the borders of his native country. He studied philosophy and science and began to experiment with different ways of incorporating these new concepts into his playing. While still in high school, he graduated from the Kuula Institute For Classical Studies.
At the age of 16, Mathias was invited to perform for the Prime Minister of Finland playing Gershwin's "Three Preludes" and Bill Evans' "Re: Person I Knew." After high school, he completed a year of compulsory military training. He applied to Balliol College at Oxford University and was accepted, but put it off a year when he won a scholarship to study with Joanne Brackeen at the Berklee College of Music. This had a profound effect on Mathias' musical concepts and was crucial to his development as a player and composer.

Returning to Oxford may seem like a step backward from this point. However, Mathias has always been inspired by musicians like Wayne Shorter and composers like Xennakis and Stravinsky who have degrees in subjects outside music. Eventually, Mathias earned a degree in mathematical sciences and received a "University Top Result" in philosophy. Mathias stayed active in Oxford's music scene, and even played for President Clinton at the opening of the Rothemere American Institute at Oxford. Also during this time, he studied with numerous musicians, notably AMM pianist John Tilbury. It was under Tilbury's tutelage that he came to the music of Morton Feldman, which proved to be another defining moment. While he always had an interest in minimal music, it was Feldman who introduced Mathias to an air of timelessness within a composition that he strives to incorporate into his own pensive style.

From Oxford, Mathias returned to the full-time study of music at the prestigious Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland in 2001. Within two years, he earned a Fulbright scholarship that would bring him to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. At USC he has been a Quincy Jones Music Scholarship awardee and has been studying with Alan Pasqua and Vince Mendoza. Most recently, Mathias was selected to participate in the Mancini Institute for emerging professional musicians, and also won a first place in the John Coltrane Scholarship Competition 2004.

Which brings us back to the beginning and the problem of the biography. How does one write about an individual artist's sound without trite comparisons to the work of others? The biography can only do so much in terms of telling the reader how an artist attempts to reconcile the disparate events of his life into his own unique art. For Mathias Aspelin, his art is about more than the pride of his rural Scandinavian upbringing versus his love of the cosmopolitan style of Los Angeles. Though his interests in philosophy, math, and multi-culturalism play a major role in his musical style, and his studies with world-class performers are key in his evolution as an improviser, how does one easily put into words what that sounds like?

This is where the music must speak for itself and where the biographer insists the reader stop reading and do what jazz fans do best: listen.

-Edward Stafford
Music Director, KSCR Los Angeles