Born: July 9, 1969 Primary Instrument: Sax, tenor
Over the span of his 25-year music career, native Texan and Austin resident Elias Haslanger has carved a unique and distinguished place in jazz history as a saxophonist, composer, and band leader, whose playing and writing has drawn comparisons to John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Ben Webster, and Wayne Shorter. He has performed, recorded, and toured with many world-class artists including Ellis Marsalis, Maynard Ferguson, Asleep at the Wheel, Alejandro Escovedo, The Four Tops, and The Temptations, among many others.
Elias has performed around the United States and Europe at clubs like Snug Harbor in New Orleans, Jazz Alley in Seattle, The Elephant in Austin, and The Blue Note in New York. He has also served as a guest artist/lecturer at universities around the nation. Mentored by the legendary saxophonists Harvey Pittel and Dick Oatts, Elias began to explore the instrument’s vast potential by studying saxophone at the University of Texas and then at the Manhattan School of Music. His interest in writing music culminated in a Master’s Degree in Composition at Texas State University (TSU) in San Marcos.
In 1996, Elias recorded his second CD as a leader entitled For the Moment, which received substantial national airplay, reaching #11 on the Gavin Jazz charts and #14 on the Jazziz Radioactive chart. Herb Wong from JazzTimes magazine wrote, “Haslanger is clearly in the forefront of the young, new, fresh players. He has respect for tradition as well as being himself. He is a merger of the past and the future.” Elias was awarded “Best Horn Player” by the Austin Chronicle in 1997, as well as the Jazz Instrumental Soloist College Outstanding Performance for the 20th Annual Downbeat Student Music Awards. In 1998 TSU awarded Elias the Mitte Scholarship for academic achievement, and Elias began to teach music theory and composition at the university.
That same year, Elias collaborated with the patriarch of the modern jazz scene, Ellis Marsalis, to release Kicks Are for Kids, of which DownBeat magazine writer Michael Point wrote, “Haslanger is now a full grown talent, both as a composer and instrumentalist whose future has almost unlimited potential and should be regarded in national terms.”
Kicks Are for Kids won praise from fans and critics around the world, and the recording was recognized as one of the top five jazz records of the year by Rick Mitchell of the Houston Chronicle, while the Austin Chronicle’s writers Jay Trachtenberg and Christopher Hess voted it the #1 and #3 best records of all Austin artists. DownBeat’s writer Michael Point voted Kicks Are for Kids as one of the top ten best CDs to come out of Austin in the 90′s, and it reached #4 on the Gavin Jazz charts with 180 radio stations around the country playing it. Elias was also awarded “Best Jazz Group” by the Austin Chronicle later that year. During this time, Elias continued to teach theory, saxophone, and composition at TSU before moving to Brooklyn, New York in 2000.
While living in Brooklyn, Elias was contacted by jazz trumpeter and musical icon Maynard Ferguson and invited to tour the United States as part of his Big Bop Nouveau band. As the featured tenor soloist in the band, Elias held the same chair Wayne Shorter had held many years earlier, and the experience touring with Maynard helped to shape Elias’s philosophy as a band leader and performer.
Since returning to his hometown of Austin in 2004, Elias has kept an active performing and recording schedule, including releasing the 2006 recording Dream Story and performing weekly engagements in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and New Orleans. Elias recently celebrated the release of his 5th CD as a leader, Church on Monday, featuring Texas jazz icon Dr. James Polk, the former musical director for Ray Charles.
Says Jay Trachtenberg from the Austin Chronicle about Church on Monday, “Haslanger has consistently demonstrated a penchant for ageless chestnuts, and this session is no exception. His version of “On a Clear Day” is simply divine, fashioning a creamy, satin-smooth tone that harkens back to an earlier era of big-toned tenor men. Four stars.”
Elias and the band, which also features guitar virtuoso Jake Langley, hold a residency at Austin’s famous Continental Club Gallery every Monday at 8:30 pm. The CD is currently in rotation on radio stations around the country and is receiving positive reviews from writers and fans across the globe.
Says Glenn Astarita of AllAboutJazz.com, “Simply put, Haslanger is a major talent who could find his way into the upper echelons of jazz with a judicious marketing push and smaller gaps between recordings.” , Elias embeds the best of classical influences–from Ricard Strauss to Sergei Rachmaninoff; of rock and pop legends–from Nat King Cole to the Beatles; of the profound and powerful heritages of jazz greats–Duke Ellington to John Coltrane.
Performance credits: Ellis Marsalis, Maynard Ferguson, Harry Connick, Jr., Martin Banks, Wynton Marsalis, Alejandro Escovedo, Bob Dorough, Roy Hargrove, Wes Anderson, Andre Hayward, Russell Gunn, Lew Soloff, Frank Foster, Clark Terry, Russell Malone, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Jesse Davis, Steve Turre, Al Grey, Peter Martin, Donald Edwards, Allen Farnham, Roland Guerin, Fred Sanders, Edwin Livingston, JJ Johnson, Pete Rodriguez, Bruce Saunders, Ephraim Owens, Kirk Whalum, Peter Stoltzman, Thomas Heflin, Ron Westray, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Joe LoCasio, Tony Campise, Asleep at the Wheel, Mitch Watkins, Bob Meyer, Jae Sinnett, Marvin Stamm, James Polk, and countless others. Elias has opened for the legendary McCoy Tyner and jazz greats Kenny Garrett and Terence Blanchard.
“Elias’s CD (Kicks) is very much in the Jazz group concept of today. It is obvious he has spent the time to reach a level of excellence that is commendable.” -Ellis Marsalis
“Simply put, Haslanger is a major talent who could find his way into the upper echelons of jazz with a judicious marketing push and smaller gaps between recordings.” -Glenn Astarita, AllAboutJazz.com
“From the moment Church on Monday opens, with saxophonist Elias Haslanger leaning into a finger-poppin’ boogaloo on the title track, there’s no letting up. Native Austinite and pillar of the local jazz scene, the tenor hornsman leads his sterling quintet in a set of tunes inspired by sax stylist Stanley Turrentine’s classic 1964 Blue Note LP, Hustlin’. Haslanger’s mentor and longtime collaborator Dr. James Polk on B-3 organ and former Joey DeFrancesco guitarist Jake Langley cut a formidable, three-pronged attack that eschews any muscle-flexing outside playing deep, earthen, blues- drenched instrumentals. This is particularly evident on the swingin’ shuffles “Trouble No. 2″ and “Buffalo,” a number written by late Austin trumpeter Kenny Dorham. It’s also in the rhythm section of bassist Daniel Durham and drummer Scott Laningham really laying it in the pocket. Since his first album in 1994, Standards, Haslanger has consistently demonstrated a penchant for ageless chestnuts, and this session is no exception. His version of “On a Clear Day” is simply divine, fashioning a creamy, satin-smooth tone that harkens back to an earlier era of big-toned tenor men. Likewise, he breathes fresh ideas into Randy Weston’s “Hi- Fly” and Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low.” After a six-year recording hiatus, Elias Haslanger not only returns in top form, he goes to Church. Four stars” -Jay Trachtenberg, Austin Chronicle
“Saxophonist Elias Haslanger, who also performed with Bruce Springsteen [at SXSW 2012], saved his best work for his group showcase set at the Elephant Room basement jazz club. Haslanger boasted a confident sound of his own and solid original material that artfully framed the enlightened lyricism of his playing.” -Michael Point, DownBeat
“…the MVP award on Haslanger’s fourth album is his pen. The 10 compositions blend Haslanger’s educational theory with an honest love of the jazz pantheon, his performative skills honed by playing with Chucho Valdés, Ellis Marsalis, and Dizzy Gillespie. Haslanger’s jazz is both modern, drawing from funk and blues cadences (“Street Beat,” “Watch Your Step”), and traditional, informed by the idiom’s history, including Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis. Opener “Eternal & Absolute” also demonstrates a deep knowledge of Coltrane’s soprano sax work.” -David Lynch, Austin Chronicle
“Kicking around cheeky rhythmic conversation and contemporary classical dissonances, this sassy modern jazz combo exudes a wonderfully bossy and rebellious nature, often with rock and urban hip hop-like drums and disgruntled melodies that give way to stunningly languid ballads and downtempo numbers, pouring over with sensuality and abandonment. Stellar tenor saxophonist, Elias Haslanger, leads the way through this ten-track Kicks Are For Kids, gently pushing the songs along; and whether with a tender poke or a sharp pinch, every note seems to spill and melt out of the bell of his horn dripping onto the floor or evaporating into the air, depending on the heat of the given track. But while his playing certainly catches the ear, there’s not the slightest question that this group as a whole plays as one solid entity, one voice, one daring, potent combo.” -CD Baby
“Long a well-kept secret in Texas, Elias Haslanger is a talented tenor and soprano saxophonist with warm tones on his instruments and the ability to improvise in a variety of settings. Joined by a fine local rhythm section and (on six of the ten numbers) hard bop trumpeter Tito Carrillo, Haslanger performs a set of modern straight-ahead originals in addition to sounding quite warm on Duke Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me,” one of two songs that have Ellis Marsalis guesting on piano. There are no slow moments on this stimulating set, Haslanger consistently comes up with fresh ideas, and although somewhat obscure, this is one of the best jazz recordings released in 1998.” -Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
“Tenor saxophonist Elias Haslanger is the real deal, a no- nonsense modernist whose Rollins-esque rhythmatics and Coltrane-tinged harmonics surge and soar. The young titan flies with a spiky quartet whose savvy hipness recalls the best groups of Davis, Blakey and Silver…a highly appealing date with plenty of blood and thunder and seriously swinging fun” -Chuck Berg, JazzTimes Magazine
“The Coltrane comparisons are already coming for saxophonist Haslanger, and they’re not unfounded. On his second release, Haslanger proves adept at emulating ‘Trane’s earlier work and also evinces a strong feel for the master’s spiritual side, as on the stirring, beautifully conceived “Patience.” But locking this guy into a category and leaving him there is simply wrong-headed: With his slippery, multi-faceted approach, Haslanger sounds like he’s at the beginning of a career path all his own. With melodic gifts that are every bit as inventive as his chops, Haslanger’s composing shows a deep understanding of classic-era Blue Note ensemble invention.” -Larry Nai, JAZZIZ Magazine
“Combining an intensity and lyricism of early Coltrane with an inherent sense of fun and adventure.” -Steve Graybow, Billboard Magazine
“Haslanger, a highly accomplished saxophonist who suggests a number of influences, Coltrane for one, still projects a sound of his own. This is a swinging, cohesive ensemble.” -Marcela Breton, JazzTimes Magazine
“Haslanger is now a full grown talent, both as a composer and instrumentalist whose future has almost unlimited potential and should be regarded in national terms.” -Michael Point, DownBeat
“Haslanger’s debut CD proves conclusively that you don’t need to be from New York City to play a mean saxophone. This set of standards Haslanger recorded in 1994 finds the young saxophonist in top form, blowing through classics such as “I’ll Remember April,” lyrical ballads like “When I Fall in Love,” and blues tunes like Sonny Rollins’ “Sonnymoon for Two” and Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time.” On each, Haslanger’s complete mastery of the jazz language gives him space to go beyond the simple recycled bop lines from which so many up and coming horn players refuse to deviate. At the same time, Haslanger is able to put his own spin on the pieces, adding new interpretations of both melody and chord changes to each song. Listen to Haslanger play the classic Rollins blues “Sonnymoon for Two”: Whereas most horn players would try to build on the thundering interpretation Rollins gave it on his 1957 Blue Note album A Night at the Village Vanguard, Haslanger takes a wholly different approach — after playing the melody in a crisp, swinging fashion, he solos in the style of an up-tempo swing, blowing through the blues changes with a smooth, even tone and rhythm-driven ideas. Nothing could be further from Rollins’ version, and this is where Haslanger breaks new ground.” -Alex Arcone, All Music Guide
“A young tenor saxophonist with a nice tone, a good sense of swing and ideas galore… (Haslanger) solos brilliantly…this is a talented group which I hope to hear again.” -Dick Bogle, The Portland Skanner
“Haslanger is clearly in the forefront of the young, new, fresh players. He has respect for tradition as well as being himself. He is a merger of the past and the future.” -Herb Wong, JazzTimes Magazine
“This is what a cohesive band should sound like…classic- sounding jazz with a serious groove that will grab you with it’s quiet confidence. The whole album (Kicks are for Kids) continues impressively from top to bottom.” -Jordan Mackay, Texas Monthly
“A young sax player whose breathy tone, bubbling ideas and devotion to the bop tradition make him one to watch.” -Scott Aiges, jazz critic New Orleans Times-Picayune
“This young saxophonist sounds like a national-class talent, with a confident command of the tenor tradition from Ben Webster to John Coltrane and an outward-bound band to push the envelope.” -Rick Mitchell, The Houston Chronicle
“…the music has a major label feel…dropping quotes like an old pro…he can surely play and the band does swing- when they let loose, the music soars. Keep your eyes and ears open for this young man.” -Richard B. Kamins, Cadence Magazine
“Unlike many young players, Haslanger offers more than just dazzling chops; he has real poise, balancing passion and pathos, instinct and intelligence. And his first original composition, the title song (For The Moment), is a quirky little piece that bodes well for the future.” -John Morthland, Texas Monthly
“A straight-up jazz player who does right by classic tunes from Parker to Rollins. Very nice debut.” -Geraldine Wycoff, Offbeat Entertainment Magazine, New Orleans
“(Elias) has become recognized as one of the most promising young jazz artists to emerge from Austin in recent times… In honor of his performance before council today, let it be known that August 4, 1994, is Elias Haslanger day.” -Max Nofziger, Austin city council member
“(For the Moment) finds saxophonist Haslanger in remarkable empathy with a kicking rhythm section…It’s an aggressive combo that strikes a good balance between supportive, responsive performance and assertive challenge. Haslanger’s sound is sharp and rich…a really fluid way of playing…the language is bop but the conversation is fresh, generally free of clichés.” -Aaron Howard, Houston Public News
“Superb new CD…Where has this guy been hiding?” -Rick Mitchell, Houston Chronicle
“Haslanger displays an impressive, mature command of improvisation…displaying his rare abilities to cluster and regroup pieces of the melody, to surprise listeners with lyrical bursts, vibratos and to swirl his way up the scale from gravelly bottom notes to a delicate high-end sound, almost like a clarinet’s, from his tenor.” -Bill Levine, Houston Press
“Haslanger and his group have matured considerably as players in the past two years since their last recorded outing. They demonstrate a confidence, intuitive cohesion, and inate feeling for the music that comes directly from having performed live together consistently in local clubs for the past several years. They sound unmistakenly like a seasoned band rather than a soloist and his trio. This is primarily about the Elias Haslanger Quartet and how it has developed into a potently swingin’, first rate ensemble”. -Jay Trachtenberg, Austin Chronicle
“Though only 25, Haslanger is on a mission to reinvigorate a swinging, straight-ahead jazz style in the midst of an explosion of new jazz forms…Enough can’t be said about Haslanger, his sax is a soulful thing…he swings…And above all, he knows how to pull it together, for the music is a story.” -Stephen McGuire, Austin Chronicle
Dream Story, Cherrywood Records 2006
Kicks are for Kids, Heart Music 1998
For the Moment, Heart Music 1997
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Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students