Live Review: Brighton Festival – John Surman
St. George’s Church, Kemptown, Brighton
Thursday 10th May, 2018
A performance by virtuoso musician John Surman is a rarity in the UK as the 73 year old veteran currently resides in Norway, and his last performance in Brighton was back in 2014. His musical collaborations with Norwegian pianist and accompanist Vigleik Storaas date back to the mid-1990s with the Nordic Quartet with Karin Krog and Terje Rypdal.
For Brighton Festival their performance embraced original pieces by Storaas and music from Surman’s extensive back catalogue, mostly from his critically acclaimed ECM recordings. These included classics such as Druid’s Circle (from his 1995 ECM solo album A Biography of the Rev. Absalom Dawe) and Going for a Burton (from his 2009 ECM album Brewster’s Rooster). More recent material included an intriguing composition entitled Pitanga Pitomba, from his 2018 ECM album Invisible Threads.
Surman created some of the beautiful melodic lines that he is renowned for, whilst Storaas proved himself to be an empathetic and responsive accompanist and a very accomplished soloist. Both musicians contributed to an evening of music that was highly engaging, and often ethereal-sounding.
With a crowded St. George’s Church and rapturous applause at the end of their final set they returned for a intriguing encore. Surman is famed for playing mostly original compositions so it was a surprise to hear him perform a unique and beautiful interpretation of the jazz standard Skylark.
John Surman, soprano saxophone, recorders, effects; Vigleik Soraas, piano.
Invisible Threads was released in January 2018 on ECM with Brazilian pianist/composer Nelson Ayres and American-in-Norway vibraphonist Rob Waring.
(Photo of John Surman by Tim Dickeson)