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John Surman: Manchester, England. June 18, 2012

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John SurmanRNCMManchester Jazz FestivalManchester, EnglandJune 18, 2012As the lights slowly dimmed, a small and rather unremarkable man made his way onto the stage, in front of a table strewn with saxophones and wind instruments. However, as the audience soon discovered, when this man begins to play something utterly remarkable and unique is channeled. The room was charged with a quiet but detectable energy as John Surman began one of his first solo appearances in the UK in a very long time, a definite highlight of this year's Manchester Jazz Festival.The first ...

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John Surman: Saltash Bells

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There's no denying the “the sound of surprise" of group recordings; working solo, however, provides its own possibilities, despite meaning different things to different people. Pianist Keith Jarrett views it as a means for pulling form from the ether: one man, one piano, in real time. Multi-instrumentalist Stephan Micus, on the other hand, considers it a blank slate where it's one man but a multitude of instruments layered one upon the other, through multi-tracking, over the course of days, months...even years. Reed player John Surman has been creating one-man orchestral works since Westering Home (Island, 1972), but it's been his ...

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John Surman: The Rainbow Band Sessions

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It's been nearly two decades since British saxophonist/clarinetist John Surman last did a large ensemble disc, with the exception of Free and Equal (ECM, 2003), which teamed the duo of Surman and drummer/pianist Jack DeJohnette with the London Brass ensemble. But the last time Surman did a swinging session beyond a quartet was The Brass Project (ECM, 1993), and that was in collaboration with Canadian expat John Warren, another longtime Surman partner dating as far back as How Many Clouds Can You See? (Vocalion, 1969) and the entirely Warren-penned Tales of the Algonquin (Vocalion, 1971). All of ...

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John Surman: Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop - April '69

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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 Workshop--April '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 ...

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John Surman: Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop - April '69

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Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop--April '69 is a stunning discovery. Featuring unreleased material executed by a unique ten-piece line-up of European jazz luminaries, it provides a fascinating window into the development of British saxophonist John Surman at the very beginning of his career. Capturing an international all-star ensemble working through Surman's formative concepts, this informal studio session was taped in Hamburg, Germany for the NDR Jazz Workshop, a weekly television series. Despite being recorded in mono for televised broadcast, the audio and video quality is remarkably good considering the source material. Released by Cuneiform as a double disc set, the CD ...

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John Surman: Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop - April '69

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1969 was a watershed year for John Surman. He released his eponymous debut on Dutton Vocalion that year, but it was the recording session for How Many Clouds Can You See? (Vocalion, 1970), that made the year of Woodstock and man's first steps on the moon so portentous for the 25 year-old saxophonist An album effortlessly joining large and small ensembles--right down to a burning duet with drummer Alan Jackson that alluded to John Coltrane's incendiary pairing with Rashied Ali, but also demonstrated Surman's economy and thematic focus--it became Surman's first true statement as a definitive composer, performer and bandleader. ...

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John Surman: Brewster's Rooster

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Over 150 years experience! That's how the band saxophonist John Surman assembled for Brewster's Rooster could be advertised. Surman first played with drummer Jack DeJohnette in the late '70s and DeJohnette and guitarist John Abercrombie first worked together earlier that decade. Rounded out by bassist Drew Gress, Surman revisits straight-ahead jazz after essaying an eclectic range of recordings. On “Hilltop Dancer," Surman's tone on baritoneis solid and assured, never tempted by the extremes available on the big horn and Abercrombie's subtle ability to match notes is remarkable. Alternating between pretty melodies rendered on soprano and harder driving baritone burners, Surman's ...

ARTIST PROFILES

John Surman: Listen and Trust

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John Surman is arguably the best baritone saxophonist to come into jazz since Gerry Mulligan and one of the most important British jazz musicians of his generation. Yet he has rarely performed in the United States and never as a leader. Therefore it is no exaggeration to describe his upcoming gig at Birdland as a genuine event. The most significant recent development in the jazz art form is globalization. There are now more major jazz innovators emerging outside the United States than ever before. Yet because of the cost and difficulty of obtaining American work permits, many world-class ...

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John Surman / Howard Moody: Rain On The Window

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With John Surman's Brewster's Rooster (ECM, 2009) refocusing attention on the British saxophonist/bass clarinetist's jazzier proclivities, it's a good time to assess Rain On The Window--not yet out in North America, but available in Europe since the spring of 2008. A duet recording that picks up, to some extent, where Proverbs and Songs (ECM, 1997) left off, this time it's Howard Moody on church organ, rather than Surman's longtime British cohort, John Taylor.

But there's more to it than just a change in musical partners. Within the duo context, Surman and Moody bring greater spontaneity to ...

INTERVIEWS

John Surman: From Boy Choirs to Big Horns

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It's increasingly risky to be a musician on the road. When British saxophonist John Surman was traveling from his home in Oslo, Norway, to New York City in September, 2007 for a recording session, he almost lost his baritone saxophone to the airlines. “It is a nightmare traveling now," says Surman, “and hardly a tour goes by without something going missing, and of course there's the damage problem. Nowadays you get one handbag, which of course is my soprano, so I always have that; and wherever possible, I'll perhaps take the baritone mouthpiece in case worse comes to worst. But ...

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John Surman: Brewster's Rooster

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After a string of more jazz-centric ECM releases--1992's relatively free Adventure Playground, the large ensemble of 1993's The Brass Project, and the only document of his ongoing quartet with pianist John Taylor, bassist Chris Laurence and drummer John Marshall, 1994's Stranger Than Fiction--saxophonist John Surman's subsequent output for the label has consisted of unorthodox but no less intriguing projects. From solo recordings (1995's A Biography of The Rev. Absalom Dawe) and works for saxophone/bass clarinet and string ensemble (2007's The Spaces In Between) to continued exploration with drummer Jack DeJohnette (2002's live duet, Invisible Nature and 2003's expanded Free and ...

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"Proverbs And Songs" by John Surman, Howard Moody and the Ultime Thule Choir at the 2009 Nordlysfestivalen, Tromso, Norway

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John Surman, Howard Moody, John Taylor, Ultime Thule Choir Nordlysfestivalen, Ishavskatedralen (Arctic Cathedral)Tromso, Norway January 23-31, 2009

It's been a couple of years since saxophonist John Surman performed his Proverbs And Songs suite. But judging from what he wrung from it after four days' rehearsal with an amateur choir north of the Arctic Circle, his spiritual side seems intact.Surman reunited with Howard Moody and John Taylor, switching their respective roles as conductor and organist from the original 1996 performance, for a mid-winter concert during the opening weekend of Nordlysfestivalen ...

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John Surman: The Spaces in Between

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The sumptuous and moving The Spaces in Between represents eight years of growth--not only for multi-reedman/composer John Surman, but also the string quartet Trans4mation, as it originally appeared on Coruscating (ECM, 1999). Bassist Chris Laurence is the link between the two worlds of jazz and classical music, having worked with Surman for more than thirty years, but who has also played in the classical field, working with many musicians, among them the players that came together as Trans4mation (violinists Rita Manning and Patrick Kiernan, violist Bill Hawkes and cellist Nick Cooper). The earlier release ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Surman: The Spaces in Between

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One challenge facing many musicians is the documentation of widespread musical interests. More often than not, artists engage in projects that are heard in performance, perhaps on a radio broadcast, but then never again. Sometimes ongoing projects are documented, but only once, as is the case with British woodwind multi-instrumentalist John Surman's superb Stranger Than Fiction (ECM, 1994)--the only commercial recording featuring his longstanding quartet of pianist John Taylor, bassist Chris Laurence and drummer John Marshall.

Making it good news that Surman's bass with string quartet project, first heard on the sublime Corruscating (ECM, 1999), now has a follow-up, albeit ...



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