John Surman: Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop - April '69 (2011)
In the necessarily modestly expansive booklet note which accompanies this CD and DVD set, Brian Morton sets out the development of jazz in Britain, from its point of origin in the early decades of the twentieth century. He also rightly identifies the musical generation that came of age in the 1960s as having no sense of cultural inferiority, a point which is made most potently on Flashpoint: NDR Jazz WorkshopApril '69 in music that reveals a character every bit as identifiable as anything coming at the time. Such is the whim of fate that saxophonist John Surman had to go to Germany for the music to be recorded and broadcast, but now we're blessed with its presence after forty-odd years; it's been worth the wait.
Surman was truly blessed in being able to put together an Anglo-Austrian band that so truly and brightly burned. Anything emerging from the vaults featuring the likes of alto saxophonist Mike Osborne is more than welcome and, sure enough on the opening "Mayflower," he turns in a solo as incendiary as anything he was doing with Mike Westbrook at the time. The British/South African/Austrian trio of drummer Alan Jackson, bassist Harry Miller and pianist Fritz Pauer also turns in a performance that consists of fire and buoyancy in equal parts.
Surman might have written the melody for "Once Upon A Time" with Kenny Wheeler in mind. As it is, Wheeler "sings" the melody on flugelhorn convincingly, and then turns in a solo where he shows his distinct musical personality. Tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore has a little of Joe Henderson's abrasive tonal quality, but his phrasing, and the headlong momentum of his work, is entirely his own. Pauer shows how adept he is in the vernacular of McCoy Tyner, but with added insight.
Trombonist Erich Kleinschuster contributes "Puzzle," which has all the intervallic attitude of something by Herbie Nichols, before proceedings settle down into that rolling, boiling thing at which the classic John Coltrane quartet was so adept. The composer rides the waves like a master helmsman, while proceedings get ever more creatively fractious, and his fellow 'bone man, Malcolm Griffiths, brings his own thoughts to the table.
The DVD offers insight into the processes of the music, through the unedited TV program as originally broadcast. This makes not only for a satisfying whole, but also one of those "rescued from the vaults" releases for which we can be deeply grateful.
Track Listing: Mayflower; Once Upon A Time; Puzzle; Gratuliere; Flashpoint.
Personnel: John Surman: soprano and baritone saxophones; Alan Skidmore: tenor saxophone, flute; Ronnie Scott: tenor saxophone; Mike Osborne: alto saxophone; Malcolm Griffiths: trombone; Erich Kleinschuster: trombone; Kenny Wheeler: trumpet, flugelhorn; Fritz Pauer: piano; Harry Miller: bass; Alan Jackson: drums.