A future progressive-jazz and improvising icon, British saxophonist John Surman’s 1969 NDR workshop session for a German broadcast equates to previously unreleased material featuring other rising stars. With Canadian trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and British saxophonist Mike Osborne on hand, the large ensemble casts an exciting aural glimpse of the burgeoning European jazz movement. Moreover, Surman’s signature compositional acumen shines radiantly throughout, which in a sense, typifies the British jazz movement’s integration of fluid orchestrations, tonal warmth and yearning melodic hooks. A significant release, the added bonus of the DVD reemphasizes the excitement in the studio, marked by Surman and his band-mates’ debriefings of the respective arrangements.
The black & white footage offers a memory lane type snapshot of the musicians and era, teeming with charismatic imprints of an ensemble, pursuing technical excellence and unconditional zeal. Surman’s soul-searching soprano sax lines on “Mayflower,” rekindle a latter-day Trane manifesto, founded on whirling intensity. Here, a budding sense of urgency prevails to complement the horn section’s zinging regality, acutely accented by pianist Fritz Pauer’s sweeping chords and blustery single-note attack. Harmonically resplendent, a major portion of this outing resides within the musicians’ continual reworking of a given theme or melody.
On “Once Upon A Time,” the ensemble renders swarming harmonic overtures atop a buoyant jazz-waltz underpinning, tinted with soft colors and emphatic solo spots. Then trombonists Erich Kleinschuster and Malcolm Griffiths stand up and counter each other like two goliaths in a ring, evidenced on “Puzzle,” where a punchy theme adds a booming edge.
The title track “Flashpoint,” opens in free-mode, followed by a massive aerial assault and up-tempo swing vamp. Therefore, It’s a supersonic finale to a cogent and enlivening gala that sounds as novel and cutting-edge forty-two years afterward. Folks, Flashpoint looms as a major discovery that withstands the annals of time and signifies a pivotal chapter in Surman’s storied legacy.