John Surman & Bergen Big Band: Another Sky

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: John Surman & Bergen Big Band
LABELS: Grappa
ALBUM TITLE: Another Sky
PERFORMER: John Surman (sax), Bergen Big Band etc

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Those of my generation probably first heard this remarkable musician in big-band contexts, notably the Mike Westbrook Concert Band, studded with future stars. Despite many other projects with various-sized groups, Surman has never lost his taste for working with large bands, and has been associated with the Bergen Big Band (BBB) for two decades.

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With Another Sky he has created a superbly cohesive programme, occasionally using material from his past but transformed to showcase the splendid sound and ensemble playing of the BBB. All the compositions (bar Thelonious Monk’s ‘Ruby My Dear’) and all the arrangements are his. And they all exploit the ensemble’s warm textures and full sound while providing opportunities to showcase the excellent soloists, not least Surman himself. This release forms part of the celebrations marking Surman’s 70th birthday year, and proves he is still as vibrant as when he burst on the scene in the late 1960s. Barry Witherden