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An encore – after 25 years

Blog | By Nigel Summerley | Nov 15, 2017

One of the highlights of the current London Jazz Festival was a performance by the iconoclastic saxophonist John Surman.

At 73, he has done more than enough to earn his status as a legend and he could be forgiven for acting like a star. Instead, both off stage and on, he is modest and unassuming, and so obviously appreciative of, and delighting in, the playing of not only his contemporaries and but also upcoming jazzers half a century younger than him.

He exudes the wisdom and good humour of a life creatively lived – plus a certain amount of patience that might elude younger players. He waited 25 years to play for only the second time the beautiful big band suite The Traveller’s Tale which he co-wrote with Canadian jazz composer John Warren, now 79.

The original idea for what became known as The Brass Project was to augment the then John Surman Trio (sax, bass and drums) not, as conventionally, with a piano or a guitar, but with a ‘choir’ of brass instruments.

Nine brilliant young jazz students from the Royal Academy of Music were drafted in to join the reunited Surman Trio for The Brass Project’s 2017 incarnation.

And together players old and new produced such a passionate and powerful brew of driving arrangements and heart-touching solos that Surman and Warren (in the role of conductor) were visibly emotionally moved.

Maybe they’ll do it again in another couple of decades. Age certainly doesn’t seem to be dimming their enthusiasm.


Picture: John Surman live at Kings Place, London, on 12th November