For this ECM project, John Surman (who plays soprano, baritone, clarinet, bass clarinet and piano) and conductor John Warren wrote a full set of original music for Surman's reeds, a seven-piece brass section and a rhythm section to interpret. This episodic set has its share of sound explorations but also contains swinging sections and an impressive amount of excitement. The colorful solos (mostly by Surman) and the unpredictable writing make this a highly recommended disc. (AMG)
A saxophone workout from '85 by outstanding British player John Surman. While solo sax can be extremely tiring, Surman mixes enough elements of rock, free, blues, and hard bop to keep the songs varied. His aggressive style, especially on baritone, keeps the energy level high.
English multi-instrumentalist John Surman has been known on a worldwide level, but never recognized as he deserved to be in the United States. A collaboration with John McLaughlin, or fellow Brits on the fusion or free jazz scene increased his cache a bit, but being a part of the ECM label had to have increased his visibility to a larger degree. This quite different recording of overdubbed woodwind and electronics has a suitable palate and soundscape profile for the European label, enhanced by the immaculate production values of the Rainbow Studio in Oslo, Norway, and fortified by Surman's heady and spacy revelations on this project of deep, introspective, and divine music. At his most heartfelt from the outset, a haunting refrain with flutes and recorder above synthesizers underpins a lilting bass clarinet melody on "Portrait of a Romantic," while the reverse sentiment of emptiness in a Terry Riley or Cluster like minimalism identifies "Not Love Perhaps" under Surman's soprano sax. "Roundelay" is stunning and unique to this set, with bass clarinet as an ostinato bass, buoying a full array of overdubbed saxophones sounding like an interactive quartet in a laid-back frame of sheer beauty.
Free and Equal finds the saxophonist exercising his compositional prowess while still leaving plenty of room for the impressive improvising skills that have earned him a rep as one of Europe s most intriguing reed players. The setting is a suite of nine pieces with notated ensemble sections played by the keen 10-member classical outfit London Brass. Cleverly linking several of the pieces are intuitive duos by Surman and DeJohnette. Dynamics are flaunted, the music steadily shifts its weight, and as one episode leads to the next, you come to understand you re in the hands of a master.
This set was also issued as two separate LPs under John Surman’s name, Vogue VJD 505/1 and VJD 505/2. Rare bit of free jazz by this trio of British players from the early 70′s. The music is very intense, without any of the noodling that sometimes ruins Brit sessions from the time. Surman plays baritone, soprano, and bass clarinet, and he really blows like mad in some passages. The sound quality of this album is stunning! In the autumn of 1969, John Surman decided to make a break and joined forces with Barre Phillips and Stu Martin, to form a group they called The Trio. Phillips had a varied background, having worked as a sideman with Archie Shepp, Jimmy Giuffre and George Russell, as well as performing solo in Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.
Way Back When finds Surman on baritone and soprano saxophones, joined by John Taylor on electric piano, Brian Odgers on electric bass, John Marshall on drums and, on two tracks, alto saxophonist Mike Osborne. This one-day session was, in Surman's words, "a sort of 'farewell' jam session," held before Surman moved to continental Europe to join bassist Barre Phillips and drummer Stu Martin for the groundbreaking free jazz unit known as the Trio.
British multireed player John Surman has enjoyed a long career, making significant marks in free jazz, modal, and fusion, and also developing his own distinctive blend of folk and jazz elements. His ability to bridge styles has even extended to 1999's treatment of Renaissance-era composer John Dowland's songs, In Darkness Let Me Dwell with the Hilliard Ensemble's John Potter. Coruscating is another unusual venture, with Surman and regular associate bassist Chris Laurence improvising on eight of Surman's compositions with the string quartet Trans4mation. There's a seamless beauty here, composition and improvisation becoming one. Beginning with the baroque clarity of melody on "At Dusk," Coruscating develops often dark, looming textures. While Surman has made his baritone fly, here he emphasizes intense lyricism, whether with a true, full-bodied, baritone sound or a light upper register. "Stone Flower" is dedicated to the great Ellington baritonist Harry Carney, and Surman's breathy, overtone-rich sound invokes Carney's own recordings with strings.
John Surman's thoughtful solos (which take their time and make a liberal use of space) have long made him the perfect ECM artist. On his quartet set with pianist John Taylor, bassist Chris Laurence and drummer John Marshall, Surman mostly sticks to soprano although there are some short spots for his baritone and bass clarinet. Surman always sounds relaxed, even on the more heated originals. It's an interesting set of generally introverted music.
This 1987 date teams the iconoclastic pianist with guitarist Bill Frisell, drummer Paul Motian, and British saxophonist John Surman. While it's easy to argue that, with Manfred Eicher's icy, crystalline production, this was a stock date for both the artists and the label, that argument would be flat wrong. Bley was looking for a new lyricism in his own playing and in his compositions. He was coming from a different place than the large harmonies offered by augmented and suspended chords and writing for piano trios. The other band members – two other extremely lyrical improvisers in Surman and Frisell.