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John Surman / John Warren: Tales of the Algonquin (2005)

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John Surman / John Warren: Tales of the Algonquin No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Much was in the air in early-'70s British music, where various configurations explored the fringes of tradition while maintaining allegiance to fixed forms. Tales of the Algonquin exemplifies the times perfectly. One complaint: the audio is only passable. (But if this transfer was taken from an LP, the stunted sound is understandable.)

In any case, John Warren's music more than compensates for any sonic flaws. "With Terry's Help slides and swells in, regal but anticipatory, soon kicking into a frantically Coltranesque bit of multimodality, over which John Surman solos with venom. The aesthetic is both post bop and swing, incorporating the best of the freedoms born in the previous fifteen years. "Wihio the Wanderer covers similar territory, even sporting some of the Ornette-ish freebopisms of Spontaneous Music Ensemble in its very formative stages.

This isn't simply a throwback date, though—the title suite has some stellar all-out free blowing to its credit. It isn't simply show either; the transitions are quite natural, Warren's writing as fine as anybody's in the business. Soloists include the incredible Barre Philips (bass), Mike Osborne (reeds) and Kenny Wheeler (trumpet), whose seminal Song for Someone would come only a few years later. Grumbles about sound aside, this is a fantastic document of a sadly departed era.

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Track Listing: With Terry's Help; We'll Make It; The Dandelion; Picture-Tree; Tales of the Algonquin-The Purple Swan-Shingebis and the North Wind-The Adventures of Manabush-The White Water Lily-Wihio the Wanderer.

Personnel: John Surman: reeds; John Warren: reeds; Martin Drover, Kenny Wheeler, Harry Beckett: trumpets; Malcolm Griffiths, Ed Harvey, Danny Almark: trombones; Mike Osborne: Stan Sulzmann, Alan Skidmore: reeds; John Taylor: piano; Harry Miller, Barre Philips: bass; Alan Jackson, Stu Martin: drums.

Record Label: Vocalion


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