Monday, January 09, 2006

John Surman - Way Back When (Cuneiform, 2005)

This is a very worthwhile CD which brings out previously unreleased music from the beginning of the jazz-rock fusion era. It's interesting how fusion seemed to evolve simultaneously in England with Surman and others like Ian Carr's Nucleus, and then in the United States with the music of Miles Davis. This particular album languished in the vaults for 36 years, but the music remains very fresh. Leading things off, is the jam session suite "Way Back When Suite" which finds Surman in the midst of an epic swirling soprano saxophone solo with very good sounding accompanyment by John Taylor, who plays some wonderfully shimmering Fender Rhodes electric piano. This lengthy jam is split up into four parts with Surman's sweeping soprano leading the way.

The remainder of the album is balanced out by a couple of shorter tracks. Surman switches to baritone saxophone and Mike Osbourne joins in on alto saxophone on "Owlshead" with the two improvising over a nifty Rhodes led beat. There is some nice alto work over agressive drumming by John Marshall. Then the baritone comes in and takes an intensely climaxed solo before a nicely reflective electric piano interlude. The bass sets a good groove for Surman to improvise over on the final tune "Out and About." The alto chimes on also with a high-pitched solo. For fans of early fusion or Fender Rhodes piano, like Miles Davis' In a Silent Way LP, this is highly recomended.

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