Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Review: John Surman - Coruscating

John Surman is a new name to me for the very simple reason that he's an improvisational saxophonist and, being a busy man about town, I perhaps haven't devoted as much time as I might to improvisational saxophony. If I'm honest, I suffer, or at least suffered, a terrible prejudice that free jazz = tuneless skronk, or at least ≠ a good time, especially if the instrument thusly abused is a saxophone.

That's my loss, since Coruscating is a quite amazing record, more composed than freewheeling, a union of rich chamber music and Surman's ethereal reed playing.

"For The Moment" is typical of the quite ravishing trick Surman's mastered here. He starts with a formal structure, a classical scaffolding upon which his phrasing can get asymptotically closer to free jazz before suddenly veering away to illuminate a new facet of the structure. That's right: aymptotically.

It's sensational stuff, which is not something I'd be saying about free jazz. Here's another sentence that strikes my protesting fingers as highly unlikely but that they're compelled to type: even the fretless bass solos on the album are captivating.

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