At the risk of coming off as a "reactionary," all-improvised affairs can be hit-and-miss. It has to be the right confluence of improvisors, circumstance and inspiration, otherwise you could end up with a recording of people playing at-the-same-time as opposed to together. Fortunately, Invisible Nature virtually defines the former and sidesteps the latter. John Surman is a United Kingdom saxophonist who incorporates trad Celtic sounds into his brainy yet forceful approach to improvisation and composition; American Jack DeJohnette is a thoughtful composer as well as focused, driving percussionist (in his own bands or with Miles Davis, Bill Evans, etc.) and darkly lyrical pianist.
With only one piece having any pre-established structure, these two wizards pull not only a rabbit but rather a whole forest out of their collective hat (in front of an audience, yet). The ominous "Outback Spirits" features Surman’s keening soprano saxophone (with judicious use of electronics) intimating the sounds of whale-song, Indian shenai and North African musette, while DeJohnette undulating drums all but sing and hum a suspenseful, constantly ascending and descending rhythm figure. "Song For World Forgiveness" is a plaintive yet hopeful ballad where DeJohnette plays some genuinely pretty piano and Surman waxes soulful on bass clarinet like an enchanted cross betwixt Eric Dolphy and Gerry Mulligan. For those keeping score, this fine platter marks the first time since the 1981 ECM album The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon that these fellows have duo’d thusly - and this disc is highly recommended to fans of both men as well as those who contend that "free" improvisation can’t be emotional, rhythmically engaging and accessible.