John Surman: Morning Glory

Roger Farbey By

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This is the first John Surman-authorised reissue of his seminal album released on the Island Records label in 1973 (ILPS9237) that acted as a signal delineation between what preceded it (a relatively conventional approach with an emphasis on blistering baritone saxophone outings) and what was to follow (the far more pastoral ECM years, albeit with the occasional quartet and big band foray). Up to this point British jazz has been stoking-up a real furnace of excellent and often ground breaking music. Surman had already made an impact on several of Mike Westbrook's early albums, with his own recordings for Deram and with The Trio albums on the Dawn label.

Jazz had been undertaking a considerable dalliance with rock from the late 1960s onwards commencing with the likes of Miles Davis's In A Silent Way. Surman had also been contemplating jazz rock and 1969's Way Back When (Cuneiform) is testament to that, as are his trio "supergroup" recordings for Jazz In Britain with Jack Bruce and Jon Hiseman (thankfully now available on Bruce's Spirit Live At The BBC 1971-1978). There had too been his inestimable contribution to John McLaughlin's Extrapolation.

Morning Glory was certainly different to Surman's usual oeuvre. It might be considered by some as Surman's apotheosis but as many will criticise its rockist tendencies. But considering it features the cream of British jazz plus Norwegian guitar phenomenon Terje Rypdal, gripping compositions and a strong cohesiveness throughout, this should be regarded as a gem regardless of which camp it falls into. It should be noted too that Surman for this recording stuck to soprano sax and bass clarinet, temporarily abandoning the baritone sax. It's also important to take into account that the album wasn't pure jazz rock since Chris Laurence plays acoustic bass giving the group an early Weather Report feel. The addition of virtuoso trombonist Malcolm Griffiths as a soloist was also a masterful move.

From the electro-modal "Cloudless Sky" introduced by Surman's screaming soprano, through the tension and release of "Iron Man," the typically Surman-esque device of a dramatic obligato riff on "Norwegian Steel—Septimus" and Rypdal's coruscating guitar on "Hinc Illae Lacrimae—For Us All (Hence These Tears)," the performances—flawlessly and professionally captured live via the Pye Mobile Recording Unit—are stupendous. This reissue, in tandem with its predecessor Westering Home, also reissued by Fledg'ling, has been remastered and is augmented with new liner notes by Duncan Heining.

Track Listing: Cloudless Sky; Iron Man; Norwegian Steel – Septimus; Hinc Illae Lacrimae – For Us All (Hence These Tears).

Personnel: John Surman: soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Terje Rypdal: guitar; John Taylor: piano, electric piano; Malcolm Griffiths: trombone; Chris Laurence: bass; John Marshall: drums.

Title: Morning Glory | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Fledg'ling Records


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