Free and Equal finds its place somewhere between John Surman's past collaborations with Jack DeJohnette and his Brass Project with composer Peter Warren. Less atmospheric than the duos with the drummer and less jazzy than the latter, it still bears the inimitable stamp of the British reed player. It harks back to his pastoral and even medieval leanings and his arranging skills certainly capture the spotlight, his lyrical and often fragile compositions soaring with incredible grace. Compared to his Warren collaboration, Surman chooses a different approach, since his brass section is not comprised of seasoned jazz musicians. London Brass are primarily a classical chamber music ensemble, although some of the group's members clearly show an understanding of the jazz idiom and improvisation. As a result, the leader goes for a more collective and cohesive sound. The brass ensemble often serves the same purpose as a choir, and Surman's beautiful voicings for its various sections surely benefit from that. DeJohnette appears comfortable in this setting. He is allowed on some occasions to turn up the heat, although his main role remains as a colorist. Ultimately, the album does a fine job of documenting another facet of Surman's writing for brass instruments and provides for a beautiful aural experience.
AllMusic Review by Alain Drouot