MANY SIDES 0F SURMAN
Following in the illustrious footsteps of Benny Carter and Gerry Mulligan. the Glasgow Jazz Festival now welcomes the revered English saxophonist John Surman as (‘omposer in Residence. As well as appearing solo. and with his quartet. he‘ll be joining his ongoing Brass Project. besides performing and arranging with the Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra.
The most auspicious occasion. though. will probably be the (‘horal premiere at Glasgow Cathedral. where an evening of music will include a new commission for the Festival. uniting Surman with the talents of acclaimed pianists Gordon Beck and John 'l'aylor. Norwegian singer Karin Krog. and the massed
ranks of the Glasgow Phoenix Choir.
‘l‘ve always tended to work with a number ofdifferent musics.‘ notes the forty-five year-old Surman. ‘and this gives me the opportunity to do them all in the same festival. What
appealed very much was that this was
something ofa community project. and as (‘omposer in Residence l was interested in doing something that would involve the people of (ilasgow.‘
To this end. he‘s already been up to
Scotland to prepare the charts for Bobby Wishart‘s Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra (‘We‘re doing a quite difficult new piece called (ireerzwoods. but I gather they‘re gettingon quite well with it‘). and will be continuing theassociation after the festival is over. with a London concert in August.
While part of his forthcoming programme includes a schools‘ workshop and a presentation for local music teachers. he cites the (‘horal event. where the participation of the Phoenix choir will mean ‘eighty or so bodies on stage who maybe haven‘t encountered jazz before‘ as the kind ofenterprise that‘s ‘rewarding because you get feedback from people through giving them a feel of what this music is all about.‘
Accessibility is a keynote of Surman‘s recordings for the German E(‘M label. ()n solo records like last
Composer. multi- instrumentalist and occasional educator John Surman is expanding the role ofthe Composer in Residence at this year‘s Festival. TREVOR JOHNSTON
J olm Surman Brass Project. The Tram way. 2311mm Quartet. The Vic ('afe. 24 June; Solo. Vie. 2511me.‘ Wit/z .S‘YJO, RSAMI). 26 June; (‘horal Premiere. Glasgow (.‘athedral. 27lune.
year‘s Private City. he weaves throbbing synthesizer patterns with an evocative top layer of baritone or soprano :.ax to create a gorgeously textured music one only needs a pair ofears to enjoy. He claims Sonny Rollins. Duke Ellington. Debussy. Bartok and (‘eltic folk as his listening pleasures and inﬂuences. which should give some idea of the richness of his melodic resourcefulness.
Surman‘s baritone and arranging skills first came to the fore with the Mike Westbrook band in the 1960s. before playing on guitarist John McLaughlin‘s classic debut album Iz‘xtrapolation (Polydor). He went on to form an extraordinary trio with bassist Barre Philips and drummer Stu Martin. and another with fellow saxophonists Skidmore and ()sborne. He‘s since gone on to work with major European improvisers like (ierman trombonist Albert Manglesdorff. and collaborate with (‘anadian John Warren in providing the material for The Brass Project (Surman plus two trumpets. two trombones and rhythm).
Extremer adept on tenor and soprano saxes. and a skilled exponent of the post-Dolphy bass clarinet. he is able to transcend the intrinsic limitations of the baritone saxophone. and achieves a marvellous flexibility on the often cumbersome horn. partly due to his development of a truly convincing higher register. The quartet with pianist (iordon Beck should allow him to stretch out. but the sight of Surman struggling with the baritone's unwieldy bqu will no doubt prompt a few to wonder how he ever took up the beast of an instrument in the first place.
‘Well. I was looking in the shop window.‘ he recalls. "l‘he alto was £37 8s‘()d and so was the baritone. so I thought that l was going to get a lot more for my money if I bought the baritone. l blundered on ahead with it before I ever heard Harry (‘arney with the Duke Ellington band. and realised how it should sound. ()fcourse by that time it was toolate . . .‘
The List 16— 2‘) June 198911