John Surman

Selected Recordings (Rarum XIII)

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Like guitarist Terje Rypdal, with whom he has collaborated, British saxophonist, bandleader, and composer John Surman has had a career on the ECM label that has covered the terrain of new classical music from chamber to orchestral, jazz of the vanguard and groove varieties, new music, and even folk music. This personal selection of his offerings from the label from the years 1976-1999 gives listeners the opportunity to be stunned by his versatility and commitment, and the incredible depth he possesses in each of his chosen fields of inquiry, but given the sheer breadth of his oeuvre, it is impossible on a single disc to give an accurate representation. As a result, what is here is nothing short of stellar. Surman's chosen ramble over the course of his career is in aesthetic rather than chronological order, so listeners have "Druid's Castle" from the 1994 set A Biography of the Rev. Absalom Dawe, a piece for solo soprano and baritone saxophones, kicking it off. Surprisingly, Surman offers "Number Six" from a Miroslav Vitous-led date in 1982 to follow, which is dovetailed with "Portrait of a Romantic," featuring another solo of bass clarinet, recorder, and synthesizer that feels informed by Delius. Thankfully, "The Returning Exile" from The Brass Project is included here, as is a brilliant piece from Adventure Playground in 1991 with sidemen Tony Oxley, Paul Bley, and Gary Peacock. But it is on the four or so solo pieces that the sheer mastery of Surman's command becomes evident, and for these listeners should be grateful.

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