Surman performing in Birdland, 2 September 2009
|Birth name||John Douglas Surman|
30 August 1944 |
Tavistock, Devon, England
|Genres||Jazz avant-garde, free jazz, modal jazz|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, arranger|
|Instruments||Baritone saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, synthesizer|
|Labels||Deram, Dawn, ECM|
|Associated acts||John McLaughlin, Barre Phillips, Stu Martin, John Warren, John Potter|
John Douglas Surman (born 30 August 1944) is an English jazz saxophone, bass clarinet, and synthesizer player, and composer of free jazz and modal jazz, often using themes from folk music. He has composed and performed music for dance performances and film soundtracks.
Life and career
Surman was born in Tavistock, Devon. He initially gained recognition playing baritone saxophone in the Mike Westbrook Band in the mid-1960s, and was soon heard regularly playing soprano saxophone and bass clarinet as well. His first playing issued on a record was with the Peter Lemer Quintet in 1966. After further recordings and performances with jazz bandleaders Mike Westbrook and Graham Collier and blues-rock musician Alexis Korner, he made the first record under his own name in 1968.
In 1969 he founded the well-regarded and influential group The Trio along with two expatriate American musicians, bassist Barre Phillips and drummer Stu Martin. In the mid-1970s he founded one of the earliest all-saxophone jazz groups, S.O.S., along with alto saxophonist Mike Osborne and tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore. During this early period he also recorded with (among others) saxophonist Ronnie Scott, guitarist John McLaughlin, bandleader Michael Gibbs, trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, and pianist Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath.
By 1972 he had begun experimenting with synthesizers. That year he recorded Westering Home, the first of several solo projects on which he played all parts himself via overdubbing. He recorded his final album with Mike Westbrook, Citadel/Room 315 in 1975.
Many of the musical relationships he established during the 1970s have continued to the present. These include a quartet with pianist John Taylor, bassist Chris Laurence, and drummer John Marshall; duets and other projects with Norwegian singer Karin Krog; and duets and other projects with American drummer/pianist Jack DeJohnette.
His relationship with ECM Records has also been continuous from the late 1970s to the present, as Surman has recorded prolifically for the label playing bass clarinet, recorders, soprano and baritone saxophones and using synthesisers, both solo with a wide range of other musicians.
In recent years he has composed several suites of music that feature his playing in unusual contexts, including with church organ and chorus (Proverbs and Songs, 1996); with a classical string quintet (Coruscating); and with the London Brass and Jack DeJohnette (Free and Equal, 2001). He has also played in a unique trio with Tunisian oud-player Anouar Brahem and bassist Dave Holland (Thimar, 1997); has performed the songs of John Dowland with singer John Potter formerly of the Hilliard Ensemble; and made contributions to the drum and bass album Disappeared by Spring Heel Jack.
Other musicians he has worked with include bassist Miroslav Vitous, bandleader Gil Evans, pianist Paul Bley and Vigleik Storaas, guitarists Terje Rypdal and John Abercrombie and trumpeter Tomasz Stańko.
Awards and honors
- 1999: Spellemannprisen in the category Jazz, with Karin Krog for the album Bluesand
- 2013: Spellemannprisen in the category Jazz, with Karin Krog for the album Songs About This and That
- John Surman (Deram, 1968), his debut album, acoustic jazz with Caribbean rhythms
- How Many Clouds Can You See? (Deram, 1970)
- Way Back When (1969), free jazz session with John Taylor on electric piano, drummer John Marshall and saxophonist Mike Osborne. Re?-released on Cuneiform in 2005.
- Live in Altena (1970)
- Room 1220 (Trio, 1970) with Albert Mangelsdorff in Tokyo
- The Trio (Dawn, 1970) with Barre Phillips and Stu Martin
- Conflagration (Dawn, 1970) with The Trio as part of a larger group including Dave Holland, Nick Evans and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler
- Tales of the Algonquin (Deram, 1971) with Canadian saxist John Warren alnd British musicians Alan Skidmore, Wheeler and Osborne.
- By Contact (Ogun, 1971), studio recording with The Trio
- Westering Home (Island, 1972)
- Morning Glory (Island Records, ILPS 9237, 1973), with Terje Rypdal
- Bass Is (Enja, 1974)
- Live at Woodstock Town Hall (Dawn, 1976), a duet with Stu Martin
- Live at Moers Festival (Moers, 1975), featuring Tony Levin on drums.
- Upon Reflection (ECM, 1979), overdubbed solo improvisations
- The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon (ECM, 1981), duet with Jack DeJohnette
- Such Winters of Memory (ECM, 1982)
- Withholding Pattern (ECM, 1985), solo
- Private City (ECM, 1987), overdubbed solo improvisations, playing saxophones, recorders, bass clarinet and keyboards
- Road to Saint Ives (ECM, 1990), solo, overdubbed layers of soprano and baritone saxophone and bass clarinet
- Adventure Playground (ECM, 1991) with Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, and Tony Oxley
- The Brass Project (ECM, 1992) with John Warren
- Stranger than Fiction (ECM, 1994), John Surman Quartet with John Taylor, Chris Laurence, and John Marshall
- Nordic Quartet (ECM, 1994) with Karin Krog, Terje Rypdal and Vigleik Storaas
- A Biography of the Rev. Absalom Dawe (ECM, 1995), overdubbed solo clarinets, saxophones and keyboards.
- Proverbs and Songs (ECM, 1997)
- Coruscating (ECM, 1999) with the Trans4mation String Quartet and bassist Chris Laurence
- Invisible Nature (ECM, 2000)
- Free and Equal (ECM, 2002)
- The Spaces in Between (2006), the revival of the Coruscating jazz-classical collaboration with a string quartet and bassist Chris Laurence.
- The Rainbow Band Sessions (Losen, 2011), big band recorded 2006–07 at the Rainbow Studio, Oslo.
- Rain on the Window (2008) with organist Howard Moody
- Brewster's Rooster (2009) with Jack DeJohnette, John Abercrombie and Drew Gress
- Saltash Bells (ECM, 2012), solo performance with soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones, alto, bass and contrabass clarinets, harmonica and synths.
- Songs About This And That (Meantime, 2013), feat. Karin Krog, including with Ivar Kolve, Bjørn Klakegg, Terje Gewelt & Tom Olstad
- Rarum, Vol. 13 Selected Recordings (ECM, 2004)
- Glancing Backwards (Sanctuary, 2006), anthology of his recordings for Dawn Records (1970–1976) including The Trio, Conflagration and Live at Woodstock Town Hall
|This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2011)|
With John Abercrombie
- November (ECM, 1992)
With Misha Alperin
- First Impression (ECM, 1997)
With Paul Bley
With Anouar Brahem
- Thimar (ECM, 1997)
With Graham Collier
- Hoarded Dreams (Cuneiform, 1983 )
With Mick Goodrick
- In Pas(s)ing (ECM, 1979)
With Karin Krog
With John McLaughlin
With Mike Osborne
- Shapes (Future Music, 1972)
With Barre Phillips
With John Potter
With Tomasz Stańko
- From the Green Hill (ECM, 1998)
With Stan Tracey
- Sonatinas (Steam, 1978)
With Miroslav Vitous
With Richard Galliano
- Nino Rota (Deutsche Grammophon, 2011)
With the Mike Westbrook Orchestra
- Celebration (Deram, 1967)
- Release (Deram, 1968)
- Marching Song (Deram, 1969)
- Citadel / Room 315 (RCA, 1975)
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