Friday, 9 March 2018

John Surman - Upon Reflection (1979)

As Devon-born reed legend John Surman returns for his first ECM release in six years, let's dig out the all-solo-with-overdubs masterpiece that kicked off his relationship with the label.  Surman's credited here on soprano & baritone saxes, bass clarinet and synth, and it's a shimmering, crystalline loop of the latter that introduces the first track here, giving it an Azimuth-like feel straight away.  The 10-minute Edges Of Illusion then proceeds to introduce its various sax lines in an engrossing patchwork.

The following Filigree is based entirely of sax tape loops with a melody winding over the top, and the folky Caithness To Kerry just lets its joyous melody spin into the air unaccompanied.  Little ice crystals of synth return for the last track on the original side one, as the noirish jazz balladry goes on a melancholy closing time swagger.

Upon Reflection's second half starts on an equally sombre intro, but soon picks up the pace as the 'dance' part of Prelude And Rustic Dance starts to hold sway, the overdubbed parts again interlocking perfectly.  The Lamplighter's synth pulse sets its darker tone, before an upbeat minute-long interlude for baritone sax and reverb sets the stage for the 8-minute closer Constellation.  With a suitably sci-fi synth sequence providing the momentum, Surman weaves yet more magic, with the result sounding like a jazzy Deutsche Wertarbeit.  Surman would go on to grace the ECM catalogue with several more great albums, with different groups of musicians and varying styles, but this solo effort remains a jewel in his discography.

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