John Surman
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John Surman
John Surman
John Surman 2.jpg
Surman performing in Birdland, 2 September 2009
Background information
John Douglas Surman
Born (1944-08-30) 30 August 1944 (age 74)
Tavistock, Devon, England
Genres Jazz avant-garde, free jazz, modal jazz
Musician, composer, arranger
Instruments Baritone saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, synthesizer
Labels Deram, Dawn, ECM
John McLaughlin, Barre Phillips, Stu Martin, John Warren, John Potter

John Douglas Surman (born 30 August 1944) is an English jazz saxophone, bass clarinet, and synthesizer player, and composer of free jazz and modal jazz, often using themes from folk music. He has composed and performed music for dance performances and film soundtracks.[1]

Life and career

John Surman at the 2017 Oslo Jazz Festival

Surman was born in Tavistock, Devon. He initially gained recognition playing baritone saxophone in the Mike Westbrook Band in the mid-1960s, and was soon heard regularly playing soprano saxophone and bass clarinet as well.[1] His first playing issued on a record was with the Peter Lemer Quintet in 1966. After further recordings and performances with jazz bandleaders Mike Westbrook and Graham Collier and blues-rock musician Alexis Korner,[2] he made the first record under his own name in 1968.

In 1969 he founded the well-regarded and influential group The Trio along with two expatriate American musicians, bassist Barre Phillips and drummer Stu Martin.[3] In the mid-1970s he founded one of the earliest all-saxophone jazz groups, S.O.S., along with alto saxophonist Mike Osborne and tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore. During this early period he also recorded with (among others) saxophonist Ronnie Scott, guitarist John McLaughlin, bandleader Michael Gibbs, trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, and pianist Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath.

By 1972 he had begun experimenting with synthesizers. That year he recorded Westering Home, the first of several solo projects on which he played all parts himself via overdubbing. He recorded his final album with Mike Westbrook, Citadel/Room 315 in 1975.[1]

Many of the musical relationships he established during the 1970s have continued to the present. These include a quartet with pianist John Taylor, bassist Chris Laurence, and drummer John Marshall; duets and other projects with Norwegian singer Karin Krog; and duets and other projects with American drummer/pianist Jack DeJohnette.[1]

His relationship with ECM Records has also been continuous from the late 1970s to the present, as Surman has recorded prolifically for the label playing bass clarinet, recorders, soprano and baritone saxophones and using synthesisers, both solo with a wide range of other musicians.

In recent years he has composed several suites of music that feature his playing in unusual contexts, including with church organ and chorus (Proverbs and Songs, 1996); with a classical string quintet (Coruscating); and with the London Brass and Jack DeJohnette (Free and Equal, 2001). He has also played in a unique trio with Tunisian oud-player Anouar Brahem and bassist Dave Holland (Thimar, 1997); has performed the songs of John Dowland with singer John Potter formerly of the Hilliard Ensemble; and made contributions to the drum and bass album Disappeared by Spring Heel Jack.

Other musicians he has worked with include bassist Miroslav Vitous, bandleader Gil Evans, pianist Paul Bley and Vigleik Storaas, saxophonist (and composer) John Warren, guitarists Terje Rypdal and John Abercrombie and trumpeter Tomasz Sta?ko.

Awards and honors

  • 1999: Spellemannprisen in the category Jazz, with Karin Krog for the album Bluesand
  • 2013: Spellemannprisen in the category Jazz, with Karin Krog for the album Songs About This and That


As leader

As sideman

With Paul Bley

With Graham Collier

With Christine Collister

  • 1998 The Dark Gift of Time
  • 2000 Songbird
  • 2002 An Equal Love

With Alexis Korner

  • 1970 Both Sides
  • 1980 The Party LP
  • 1982 Alexis Korner and Friends

With Karin Krog

  • 1978 Cloud Line Blue
  • 1986 Freestyle
  • 1999 Bluesand
  • 2002 Raindrops, Raindrops

With Chris McGregor

  • 1969 Chris McGregor Sptet/Up to Earth (Fledg'ling 2008)
  • 1970 Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath

With John McLaughlin

With Mike Osborne and Alan Skidmore

  • 1972 Shapes
  • 1974 Looking for the Next One
  • 1975 SOS

With Barre Phillips

With John Potter

  • 1999 In Darkness Let Me Dwell
  • 2003 Care-Charming Sleep (ECM)
  • 2006 Romaria
  • 2013 Night Sessions

With Miroslav Vitous

With Mike Westbrook

  • 1967 Celebration
  • 1968 Release
  • 1969 Marching Song
  • 1975 Citadel/Room 315

With others


  1. ^ a b c d "John Surman Biography". 
  2. ^ Conrad, Thomas (6 September 2005). "John Surman:Listen and Trustl". All About Jazz. Retrieved . 
  3. ^ Kelman, John (30 May 2005). "CD/LP Review: Way Back Whenl". All About Jazz. Retrieved . 
  4. ^ "John Surman | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017. 

External links

Preceded by
Espen Rud Sextett
Recipient of the Jazz Spellemannprisen
Succeeded by
Petter Wettre and
Per Oddvar Johansen
Preceded by
Sidsel Endresen and
Stian Westerhus
Recipient of the Jazz Spellemannprisen
Succeeded by
Marius Neset and
Trondheim Jazz Orchestra

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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