21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
There is a haunting, but very British sound to this latest work from John Surman. Using a range of saxophones and other instruments, Surman has conjured the very essence of his childhood landscapes, a combination of sea-shore melodies with almost classical, romantic themes incorporated into his compositions. Backing himself on loops of sythesizers on some tracks adds a sense of time and space to the proceedings, and adds to the listening pleasure.
If an album of over-dubbed and over-recorded sax sounds a little inaccesible, prepare to be very pleasantly surprised indeed. This is one of the finest albums I've heard in terms of recreating memories of times past. Typically crisp, clean ECM production only adds to the audio experience. Recommended.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2012
This is another brilliant solo effort from John Surman easily the match and probably better than all his previous solo efforts on ECM. This time the synthesiser loop programming and added instrumentation such as harmonica is a bit more sophisticated and really adds weight to the arrangements rather than providing an interesting backdrop to the solo reed work. Mr Surman is a world class musician and composer who has never stood still and remains one of the most enthustiastic performers I have had the pleasure to support for the last 40 odd years. Long may he continue. Hopefully this will win the token no-hope jazz nomination in the next Mercury Prize - it may just do better than expected. In concert, he is simply amazing and never fails to give his all. What this man can play on a simple child's recorder is a thing of wonder and beauty. Thanks to the magnificent ECM label, hopefully he will continue to produce material of this high qulaity for many years to come.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 2012
I first discovered John Surmans music after hearing it used in Slavas Snow Show and have since become a great admirer. This new work is his best yet. I find I can't stop and gaze into the distance every time I play it. Haunting, evocative, atmospheric music unlike anything you're likely to have heard before. Never clichéd, it conjures beautiful images that are uniquely English. The guys a genius and deserves all the praise he appears to be getting in these reviews. Thank you John for my jazz album of the year.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2012
I am a massive fan of Mr Surmaan and have seen him live on many occasions,i especially remember his 50th birthday concert in the Purcel room in 1994,he was astonishing,especially when he played Road to St Ives in its entirity and now 18 years later another Cornish influenced album is issued.
"Whistmans wood" starts of the journey,with typical Surman playing,a very English "Miss Marple "type song,very impressive indeed.
"Glass Flower"isa a shorter track(three minutes and thirty seconds) but it is beautifuly played on the baritone sax with no synthesizer involved.
"On Sladdon heights"is the longest track so far and it benefits from having time to develope,shades of a Jan Garbarek influence can be heard.
"Triadichorum"again a short three minute track with multtitracking.
"Winter Elegy" an 8 minute wander around the musical soundscape that Surman so effortlessly evokes,this conjures up visions of Dartmoor(a place i know very well)on a misty morning.
"Aelfin"is a very dhort track that is followed by
"Saltash Bells" the title track,in which John gives a virtuoso performance,at over ten minutes,this explores the musicality of a fantastic musician.
"Dark Reflections"is a more jolly tune double tracked with John playing alto clarinet.
"The crooked inn" is a two minute track that sounds as good as anything on this CD
"Sailing Westward" is the longest track on the album and its epic quality shines through.
The packaging is as usual for ECM top rate.
Surman also thanks his son Pablo Benjamin for helping him find the right synthesizer sounds on the album.
This is a contender for album of the year
JOHN SURMAN.....SOPRANO,TENOR AND BARITONE SAXOPHONES,ALTO BASS AND CONTRABASS CLARINETS,HARMONICA AND SYNTHESIZERS
RECORDED IN 2009
RELEASED IN 2012
on 6 April 2015
Saltash Bells was recorded in Oslo in 2009. The ten tracks feature just one musician: John Surman. The ten tunes are composed by just one person: John Surman. John Surman is now renowned for producing solo albums, all with a similar "etherial" feel. I think that it is music to be totally absorbed by or completely dismiss. Not everyone's cup of tea. For me I admire what John does, I admire his playing and musicianship but only need his music in small quantities.
John is principally a saxophonist, and here plays soprano, tenor and baritones. In addition he plays alto, bass and contrabass clarinets. Much of this album involves multitracking so that John can accompany himself using other wind instruments, syntheser or harmonica. Ever since tape recording we have had multi-recording; Bill Evan's "Conversations with myself" must have been one of the earliest recordings. John is now an expert.
The music has an intellectual quality, and could only have been recorded by ECM.
I am tempted to drop one star simply because John is treading what is for him a well trod path, but he does it so well I won't.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2012
Fans of John Surman will certainly not be disappointed by his latest solo work Saltash bells. All the trademark colours and tones are there, with some fascinating electronic sounds in support of the horns. If you like "Road to ST Ives" then this is for you.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2012
I really enjoyed this CD, the first I have bought by John Surman after hearing his music on the radio. I will be buying more!