425

John Surman: The Spaces in Between

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
John Surman: The Spaces in Between
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 seven years later. The Spaces in Between, featuring Laurence and the Trans4mation string quartet, is a logical evolution that finds the line between detailed composition becoming, at times, blurred in ways that simply weren't possible in the project's earlier days.

The Spaces in Between is an even more egalitarian effort than its predecessor, with its eight-minute title track a solo feature for violinist Rita Manning. It's also a title that's not just appropriate for the piece, where silence plays equal partner to Manning's evocative performance, but for the label, where transparency in the recording process has always afforded every note its full measure

It's also the album's centerpiece, towards which all paths converge and from which many roads follow. "Moonlighter" opens the set, a brooding tone poem where Laurence improvises over the string quartet's languid changes before Surman enters, with the unmistakable mellifluousness of his baritone almost antithetical to its normally gruff tone. Without Laurence it might rest too far in the ethereal, but the bassist provides a gentle pulse that leads the music towards a self-devised nexus where form and freedom meet.

Surman's arrangements for the ensemble also create a sound often larger than its mere six pieces while never losing a chamber group intimacy. The strings act as emphatics around his bass clarinet on "You Never Know," but also become contrapuntal equals as the piece progresses. The strings create a gentle turbulence beneath Laurence and Surman's theme at the start of "Wayfarer's All," but shift towards a more pastoral ambience beneath Surman's lyrical soprano solo.

Two tracks originally written for other projects demonstrate how adaptable and malleable any music can be with the right leader at the helm. The Middle Eastern tone of "Mimosa" is no surprise, a tune written (but never recorded) for Thimar— Surman's 1998 ECM collaboration with bassist Dave Holland and Tunisian oudist Anouar Brahem. The gliding strings, played with nuanced dynamics, feel completely authentic. Surman also revisits the title track to the largely free jazz Where Fortune Smiles (Dawn, 1970), transforming it into a melodic and eminently accessible thing of beauty.

The Spaces in Between is another milestone for Surman, who records all too infrequently but consistently finds new ways to expand musical boundaries each and every time.

Track Listing

Moonlighter; You Never Know; Wayfarers All; Now and Again; Winter Wish; The Spaces in Between; New See!; Mimosa; Hubbub; Where Fortune Smiles; Leaving the Harrow.

Personnel

John Surman: baritone and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; Chris Laurence: double-bass; Trans4mation: Rita Manning: violin, violin solo (6); Patrick Kiernan: violin; Bill Hawkes: viola; Nick Cooper: cello.

Album information

Title: The Spaces In Between | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: ECM Records

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

A Conversation
Tim Hagans-NDR Big Band
Die Unwucht
Christopher Kunz & Florian Fischer
In Space
The Luvmenauts
Afrika Love
Alchemy Sound Project
Sunday At De Ruimte
Marta Warelis / Frank Rosaly / Aaron Lumley /...
Westward Bound!
Harold Land

Popular

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.