Now half way through the year, this is the 26th of Jon Turney’s weekly selections. It features an early highlight from one of our most distinctive, and distinguished, UK jazz artists.
This was a rare John Surman album sans baritone sax, but soprano sax and bass clarinet fit superbly with the other instrumentation. There’s more electricity in the sound, perhaps even in the air, than in Surman’s later – and continuing – stream of peerless albums for ECM, although only Terje Rypdal on guitar and, some of the time, John Taylor’s piano are actually electrified here. There’s an urgency about this assembly of youngsters – the leader, bassist Chris Laurence and Rypdal all still in their twenties. They’re all superbly accomplished, and you can feel the delight in their ability to play so freely together.
The overall feel is gnarlier than the sound most associate with Surman’s later ECM recordings. There are six voices here creating together, with few stretches where the band fall into front line and rhythm section roles. Here there’s a brief, exploratory, bass intro, joined by drums, then piano, before a rocking statement of the main theme, with Surman’s soprano soaring above the ensemble. Malcolm Griffiths’ agile trombone joins him when he reaches the riff at the end, with brief comments from the guitar. Then Surman, Griffiths and Rypdal play around the riff together. Nothing sounds pre-planned: the bulk of the track has all the players (or perhaps none) soloing together –Weather Report style. There’s a slight change of pace when Surman switches to atmospheric bass clarinet, and the horns drop out for a while when Rypdal tears things up on heavy wah wah guitar that perhaps sounds very 1973, but fits perfectly here.
More on this recording on Jon’s Bristol Jazz Log
Read Jon’s introduction to the ’52 tracks’ series
Week Twenty-five, Statues, Jack Bruce
Spotify link to full album
Spotify playlist for the series.