John Surman – Flashpoint
(Cuneiform Rune 315.CD/DVD review by Chris Parker)
Those curious to know the reason for the recent resurgence of interest in British jazz of the 1960s and 1970s need look no further than this 1969 NDR Jazz Workshop session, led by soprano/baritone player John Surman and featuring saxophonists Alan Skidmore, Ronnie Scott and Mike Osborne, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and trombonist Malcolm Griffiths, plus guests Fritz Pauer (piano) and trombonist Erich Kleinschuster.
Five pieces, three by Surman himself, the others by his Austrian guests, are solidly but energetically propelled by bassist Harry Miller and drummer Alan Jackson, and their frequently churning power (Jackson and Miller discernibly influenced by the day’s Rolls-Royce rhythm section, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison) provides the perfect platform for a series of steaming solos from the saxophonists (Mike Osborne in particular demonstrating just why he was so sorely missed on the UK scene from the 1980s onwards), and a gem of a solo from Wheeler (‘Once Upon a Time’), its poise, elegance and fluency rendering it worth the admission price alone.
Also of great interest is the influence of free jazz on the proceedings, Griffiths in particular bringing a blustering vigour to the session, and the entire band occasionally indulging in brawling free-for-alls that complement the more structured playing perfectly.
The session was filmed as well as recorded, so Surman et al. can be seen playing and discussing the music on a DVD accompanying the CD; this is thus not just a rousingly enjoyable session led by one of UK jazz’s most influential figures, but also an important (and fascinating) historical document.