All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

425

John Surman: The Spaces in Between

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
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.

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

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
Read more articles
Invisible Threads

Invisible Threads

ECM Records
2018

buy
Westering Home

Westering Home

Fledg'ling Records
2016

buy
Morning Glory

Morning Glory

Fledg'ling Records
2016

buy
Looking for the Next One

Looking for the Next...

Cuneiform Records
2013

buy
Saltash Bells

Saltash Bells

ECM Records
2012

buy

Related Articles

Read 1538 CD/LP/Track Review
1538
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Love Wins CD/LP/Track Review
Love Wins
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 19, 2018
Read 1538 CD/LP/Track Review
1538
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Mutt Slang CD/LP/Track Review
Mutt Slang
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Prisma CD/LP/Track Review
Prisma
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Jazz Tango CD/LP/Track Review
Jazz Tango
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 18, 2018
Read "Port Of Call" CD/LP/Track Review Port Of Call
by John Sharpe
Published: August 23, 2017
Read "Art in the Age of Automation" CD/LP/Track Review Art in the Age of Automation
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 21, 2017
Read "Life Stories" CD/LP/Track Review Life Stories
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 8, 2018
Read "Translator's Note" CD/LP/Track Review Translator's Note
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 28, 2017
Read "Master Legacy Series, Volume 2" CD/LP/Track Review Master Legacy Series, Volume 2
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: February 8, 2018
Read "Motion" CD/LP/Track Review Motion
by Geannine Reid
Published: May 22, 2018