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John Surman: Way Back When

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“What you are hearing accurately reflects the sound of the ’60s.” That’s saxophonist John Surman on the long-lost jam session tapes just released as Way Back When. Seems he’s talking about the recording quality-neither he nor Cuneiform opted to remaster or re-edit a dank, murky minute of it-but he could be talking about the music itself.

Miles Davis’ moody electronic jazz had a big influence on what Surman and his sidemen were up to, but mid-’60s hard bop figures just as strongly on this 1969 session. Drummer John Marshall brings a little snap to an otherwise soggy rhythm section (which also includes bassist Brian Odgers and John Taylor on electric piano). Saxophonist Mike Osbourne makes a cursory appearance on two tunes.

The main attraction, however, is Surman, who sticks largely to the soprano horn and claims most of the solo space with his swirling, extended lines. At the time of this recording, Surman’s colleagues, John McLaughlin and Dave Holland, had just left London for Davis’ band. Surman was about to leave himself and arranged for one last throw-down at Tangerine Studios before he did. This will probably only interest committed fans of the London scene and Surman’s music.