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.
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.
Multi-reedist John Surman returns to his chorister roots and lays bare his compositional prowess with this oratorio commissioned by the Salisbury Festival and premiered in June of 1996. The Salisbury Festival Chorus, founded in 1987 by Howard Moody (of whose compositions the Hilliard Ensemble and Trio Mediaeval have been strong proponents) approaches its Old Testament sources as the composer sets them: that is, with panache, a flair for syncopation, and raw intensity. Add to this pianist John Taylor in an unexpected turn on cathedral organ, and you’ve got a recipe for one of Surman’s most intriguing catalogue entries to date.
Ukrainian pianist and composer Misha Alperin joins forces for the first time in session with British reedist John Surman (a last-minute replacement for Tore Brunborg) in this melodious, spontaneous set. Augmented by Arkady Shilkloper on French horn and flugelhorn, Terje Gewelt on bass, and Jon Christensen on drums, their hypnotic nexus breathes ounces of thematic life into the “Overture” in watery, stepwise motion. Surman’s reptilian soprano takes us in some unexpected directions throughout a holistic introduction, while his unmistakable baritone threads resilient cables through “Twilight house” and “City Dance.” The first of these is where the session truly comes to life through his interactions with Alperin, while the latter serves a touch of groove in a veritable trill buffet (think Snakeoil). “Movement” features classical percussionist Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen (heard previously on No Birch) in a spindly improv, the pointillism and melancholy draw of which only thinly veil its composed undercurrent. A lovely solo from Shilkloper on French horn rises like a paper lantern lit and offered to the sky.
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.
Saxophonist and clarinetist John Surman is often characterized as a quintessentially English improviser and composer, and hints of folk music and a pastoral ambience are attributes of his music on well-loved albums like “The Road to Saint Ives” or “Saltash Bells.” Yet he also has a long history of working with musicians from other countries and cultures, players united by such invisible threads as a shared feeling for melody that transcends the idioms. John Surman met pianist Nelson Ayres – known to aficionados of Brazilian jazz for his work with Airto Moreira, Milton Nascimento and Banda Pau Brasil – while on tour in South America. In Oslo, Surman came to know and appreciate the playing of Rob Waring, expatriate US vibraphonist (recently heard on ECM with Mats Eilertsen). The three musicians come together to play a new programme of Surman originals – plus Nelson Ayres’s “Summer Song” – in a session recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow studio in July 2017, produced by Manfred Eicher.
Saxophonist and clarinetist John Surman is often characterized as a quintessentially English improviser and composer, and hints of folk music and a pastoral ambience are attributes of his music on well-loved albums like “The Road to Saint Ives” or “Saltash Bells.” Yet he also has a long history of working with musicians from other countries and cultures, players united by such invisible threads as a shared feeling for melody that transcends the idioms.
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)