John Surman: Invisible Threads (ECM Records)

Inspired by John Surman's performance at last month's Brighton Festival, Norman Miller casts an eye over the most recent album from the venerable British jazz legend.

Released Jan 26th, 2018 via ECM Records / By Norman Miller
John Surman: Invisible Threads (ECM Records) Featured strongly in John Surman's recent outstanding appearance at the Brighton Festival, Invisible Threads marks the legendary sax/clarinettist's first ECM appearance since his acclaimed solo disc Saltash Bells in 2012.

Surman – now based in Norway - is joined here by Brazilian pianist Nelson Ayres and Oslo-based American vibraphonist Rob Waring to form a trio that over a dozen tracks and hour of music celebrate the invisible threads that can unite different musical idioms as well as the thread of joyous melody that weaves through much of the album.

Waring's vibes and marimba make some striking contributions, notably coming together with Ayres' piano in a clutch of memorable opening sections to standout tracks like Pitanga Pitomba and Concentric Circles – the former draped with lilting sax and a staccato piano/sax interlude, the latter scoring for its sparse modernist feel.

The gentle sax swing and lush piano of Stoke Damerel and slinky sway of the title track have a richness that suggests they'd work just as well with a big band behind them. By way of contrast, there's an almost spacey looseness to the brilliant On Still Waters.

Surman and his trio offer plenty of variety in mood throughout. The opener At First Sight offers a pleasing air of Balkan melancholia, Autumn Nocture (as the title suggests) has an almost classical piano feel, while Byndweed is a sweet and mournful beauty featuring skipping soprano sax.

Ayres puts some trippy piano tinkles into Within The Cloud, complemented by joyful piano flourishes on Summer Song that go well with Surman's bass clarinet. And there's a pleasing stateliness to the all-too-short Another Reflection.

Despite being released in the winter months, this beautiful album actually works very well indeed as a soundtrack to summer. Enjoy.