March 3, 2021

John Surman, the British cabal | Culture

John Surman, the British cabal | Culture



The maturity of the saxophonist is enviable and clarinetist John Surman, a living legend of British jazz and, by extension, European, which at 74 years old still plays at a great level, composing and recording, without renouncing that sense of risk and search that makes a great jazzman keep the form.

The saxophonist arrived at the International Jazz Festival of Madrid to present his new album Invisible Threads, published, as usual in it, with ECM. His relationship with the German label has been constant throughout the last four decades, making Surman one of the most emblematic names in his catalog and one of the musicians who has best assimilated and represent the aesthetic and creative lines of its founder , Manfred Eicher.

Accompanied by the same musicians who participated in the recording, the New York-based vibraphonist from Norway, Rob Waring and the Brazilian pianist Nelson Ayres, Surman offered a concert in Madrid last night that inevitably sent almost all of this Invisible Threads, without too much space for the retrospective on his career, except in some piece like Going For a Burton, that the trio took to the terrain of its particular instrumentation with all naturalness. This instrumentation, with the soprano saxophone or bass clarinet of Surman wrapped exclusively by the piano and the vibraphone, is as suggestive as it is risky, but the expertise of the musicians involved and the care of the compositions and the arrangements do not make it tedious or that the frequencies – so close in the piano and the vibraphone – do not get stuck, which is not easy.

The music of the saxophonist with this trio it is a kind of chamber jazz, very much supported by the composition and the organized disposition of what each instrument plays. According to Surman himself, Ayres had flown from Brazil only for this concert, and this may be a logical reason -for lack of rehearsal, perhaps- to explain the few moments in which the trio was slightly lost or in which the things sounded in their place, but without getting to take off completely, as they did when they touched the precious Autumn Nocturne, for example.

In the concert there was room for improvisation when the piece required it, but above all we attended a sample of the virtues of Surman as a composer. This one was closer to the warmth and closeness of a small English village – like the Tavistock from which it originated – than to the classic British phlegm, and did not deprive himself of regretting what was happening with "this stupidity of Brexit" (sic). ) just before interpreting On Still Waters, which was another of the best moments of his recital in the Conde Duque Cultural Center auditorium.

Exactly fifty years ago John Surman published his first album as a leader, inaugurating a career that has taken him through all kinds of paths, from the free jazz to the jazz-rock, without losing coherence or stop cultivating a personality of its own. Today, the British is still a complete and restless creator who shows no intention to stop writing and playing music.

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