(Grappa GRCD4459) The guest composer/soloist with a big band is a tried and true recipe for stimulating and stretching an established ensemble while also giving the composer a chance to stretch themselves, often re-arranging smaller group music for greater instrumental forces. In the liner notes to this album, the English saxophonist explains the origin of some of the pieces here. Carpet Ride, for example, was originally written for the trumpeter Henry Lowther and is expanded here; Spending My Time was an old composition of his Surman found yellowing in a box and he contacted the original arranger, John Warren, to resurrect it; other pieces here were written especially for this project, while the only non-Surman composition is Ruby My Dear. A bit of Monk never goes amiss. Surman and the band have a particularly close friendship going way back, and it shows in the music, the band really sounding like Surman writ large while still retaining their individuality, especially in the solo sections. Surman’s music has always had such a strong connection to the landscape – specifically his South West England home – and I guess the strongly influential landscape of Norway plays a part in that synergy of expression. There are striking textures when vibes are set against saxophones, or an electric guitar picks over an atmospheric pointillism of bass and percussion – and, naturally, the star soloist’s soprano saxophone and, especially, baritone are a particular joy to listen to, embraced as they are by the lush harmonies of the massed horns.
- As part of a Surman At Seventy residency at Kings Place during the London Jazz Festival Another Sky will be performed in concert on 15 November.
- To buy John Surman/Bergen Big Band’s Another Sky go here.
Categories: CD review