Not so long ago, the UK’s multi-reedsperson John Surman and the USA’s great drummer Jack DeJohnette collaborated on freely improvised (yet marvelously cohesive) duets on/for the live album Invisible Nature. Now they’re back again, this time under Surman’s leadership for a unique project, Free and Equal, where the duo play a program of JS originals along with the 10-piece classical ensemble The London Brass. These compositions feature crisp, dynamic, contrapuntal writing for brass that’s rich w/ overtones of baroque and Renaissance music (and of Gil Evans and Woody Herman, too!), buttressed by DeJohnette’s crackling, kinetic drumming and gently lyrical piano. But don’t get the notion the classical guys are strictly background, no indeedy - Surman left space for them to let it rip now ‘n’ again, and do so in ways that does proudly the rippling brass tradition of Roswell Rudd and the Ellington chaps. JS is up to his usual standard of excellence - his singular, UK folk-influenced, and subtly voice-accented burnished tone on the deep reeds is singularly compelling. (Not to knock his soprano playing, which dramatically soars, with a soft, tasty center, besides.) Solemn yet never gloomy or self-absorbed, this set is perfect music for wintry afternoons and late-night contemplation.
Artist / Group Name:John Surman
CD Title:Free and Equal
Musicians:J. Surman: soprano & baritone saxes, bass clarinet; Jack DeJohnette: drums, piano; The London Brass.