Release Date: Jun 26, 2012
Record label: ECM
John Surman's solo albums are few and far between, but they're always worth waiting for. Here he uses three kinds each of saxophone and clarinet, harmonica and synthesizer to build a soundscape so vivid you can almost see it. Like all his solo works this is inspired by memories of Surman's West Country boyhood, of sailing on the Saltash Passage to the sound of church bells: "the echoing bells, the river going by, gulls turning in the sky".
The title evokes the sounds Surman heard across the water from Saltash Church while out on his father's dinghy as a child, and they are represented in the computer-generated bell tones and circling loops underpinning his first unaccompanied set in 18 years. The opening Whistman's Wood sets a frosty, pinging computer repeat behind overdubbed baritone-sax lines – one emphasising the traditional harmony turns of a bassline, the other softly blowing yearning hoots and slithering runs. On Staddon Heights is a whirling folk dance building to playful soprano-sax variations against riffing low clarinet figures and percussive synths.
A solo LP of great merit that pays tribute to its maker’s West Country upbringing. John Eyles 2012 For many devotees of saxophonist John Surman, his solo albums are the quintessential recordings in his extensive and diverse discography. Following his 1979 ECM debut, Upon Reflection, the label regularly released fine solo albums such as Road to St Ives (1990).