John Surman Saltash Bells

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COMPOSERS: John Surman
ALBUM TITLE: John Surman Saltash Bells
WORKS: Saltash bells
PERFORMER: John Surman


Although Surman made his name in the ‘new wave’ of British jazz in the 1960s, pushing the baritone into registers and feats of agility it did not seem designed for, there were always hints of a lyrical, pastoral side to his talent, first fully-revealed with his 1972 solo album, Westering Home. Synthesiser loops played an important part for SOS, his trio with fellow saxophonists Mike Osborne and Alan Skidmore, but usually in a ferociously jostling free-improvisation context. The Westering Home thread was picked up with his first solo ECM album, Upon Reflection (1979) and then in classics such as The Road to St Ives and other sessions displaying his love of Cornwall, his native Devon and Thomas Hardy’s Wessex.

Here we get further examples of this aspect of Surman’s work: haunting compositions played with considerable grace, undulating, rich-textured ostinatos from synthesiser or pre-recorded reeds interwoven with melodies that sometimes dance, sometimes soothe and sometimes spook just a little.


Barry Witherden