Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Bottom, The Ache...

I've developed a huge infatuation with the baritone sax. It didn't start out that way. Like most jazz listeners, I started with Gerry Mulligan but his music (and Chet Baker's, for that matter) did nothing for me. I found it stultifyingly boring, and I still do. I assumed that the baritone sax was just not my cup of tea (what with Gerry's exaulted reputation in the jazz world). It wasn't until I heard Serge Chaloff that I began to get a glimmer of what was possible with the baritone sax. Chaloff played the instrument with a fleetness, a butterfly-like lightness I had only thought possible with the alto and tenor saxes.

Then I heard some of those seminal 80's ECM recordings and there was the baritone sax of John Surman.

As my listening experience increased I became aware of the fact that the British hornman (he also plays the bass clarinet and the soprano sax) had been central to the rise of the British jazz scene in the 60's and helped establish the London free jazz scene (along with Keith Tippett, Kenny Wheeler, Mike Osborne, Evan Parker, among others).

What we have here is his first record as leader, John Surman, for the Deram label from 1969. Accompanying John on baritone sax is Mike Osborne on alto sax, Malcolm Griffiths on trombone, Kenny Wheeler on trumpet, Tom Bennelick on french horn, Russell Henderson on piano, Dave Holland & Harry Miller on bass, Sterling Betancourt on drums, and Erroll Phillip on congas. The playlist is:
1. Obeah Wedding (6:29)
2. My Pussin' (5:53)
3. Good Times Will Come Again (6:11)
4. Carnival (5:46)
5. Incantation (5:44)
6. Episode (5:06)
7. Dance (10:05)

The concert we have here took place, 36 years later, in 2005 and is taken from an FM broadcast (with apologies for any talk - tried to delete as much as possible). It's a trio performance with bassist Jean Paul Celea and drummer Daniel Humair in Nevers, France. The playlist is:

1. No Finesse 19:21
2. Canticle 8:31
3. Vlada Ve 13:14
4. Round Trip 8:50
5. Falling 7:05
6. Westminster 8:43
7. Revised Edition 5:44
8. Sweet Lady 6:24



  1. I feel the same way about Mulligan. As for Surman, are you familiar with "Thimar"? Surman is great there. Very concentrated and very clear.

  2. Thanks, Zorz! I'm not familiar with that one. I'll be sure to search it out...

  3. Find more John Surman in my mp3blog and forum searches:

    HERE and

  4. Thanks, Rick! Got ya bookmarked...