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John Surman - Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop - April 1969 (Cuneiform, 2011)

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Saxophonist and composer John Surman was at the beginning of a lengthy and successful career when this was taped with the star-studded British group which had the likes of Ronnie Scott, Kenny Wheeler and Mike Osbourne on board. The big band frames the music nicely, and Surman is featured as a soloist, playing soprano and baritone saxophone, and getting extensive solo space on four of the five tracks. “Mayflower" opens the album nicely with some blazing pinched soprano saxophone revolving around the larger horn ensemble. “Once Upon a Time" features some fine fine trumpet with deep and burly baritone following hot on its heels. “Puzzle" is powered by fast strong big band riffing led by trumpet, developing a strong fast full band sound, making room for sputtering trombone and a tough drum solo. Things slow down a bit with “Gratuliere" with it's lilting melody just right for pointed soprano shining through, like the Sun through a layer of clouds. Horns frame the sax very well as Surman switches to baritone, improvising off the gentle melody and setting up a thick bass solo. “Flashpoint" concludes the album with the group at its wildest. A cacophonous free opening swirling vortex resolves into string of fast riffing. Surman's saxophone swirls and glides on thermals, with his unique squeezed sound going all out in a Coltrane like fashion. Torrid lengthy gales of saxophone, gives everyone a chance to stretch out and blow in an exhilarating fashion. Apparently there is a DVD included in the CD package as well, but since I downloaded the mp3's from Amazon, I didn't get the chance to view it. If anybody checks it out, let me know how it is. Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop April '69—amazon.com

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