American cellist and performance artist who was a major figure in the European experimental music scene
The cellist and performance artist Tristan Honsinger – bony, frenetic, bemusedly Stan Laurel-like – travelled the world’s jazz and improvisation roads for more than four decades, leaving vivid memories of his virtuosity and inventiveness wherever he went. Maybe along the way, he even inadvertently helped tighten the rules whereby writers could justify hauling out the word “inimitable”.
I remember him particularly at the Bath festival’s elegant 18th-century Guildhall building on a jazz weekend in the 2000s. The inelegant maestro played his solo show as a mysteriously muttering, feet-flapping, theatrically entrancing mix of order and bedlam, oscillating between rich cello harmonies and raspingly abstract sounds – veering into faithful mimicry of the raucous conversations of the seabirds on the roof, before diverting into demented pacing of the aisles, pretending to hoover the floor with the cello. But Honsinger, who has died aged 73, was a very long way from being a novelty act.
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