February 26, 1970

GIGS: John Surman Trio – February 1970, Torrington, Finchley; 100 Club, London. Barry McRae in Jazz Journal 23/4 (April 1970) wrote: “Judging from the size of audiences at Finchley’s Torrington and the 100 Club during his February visit, London fans were as pleased to see John Surman as he was to be home. Musically, he reflected this enthusiasm and the new trio, copiously rehearsed in Belgium, is the best he has ever fronted. Bassist Barre Phillips has worked here with Jimmy Giuffre, John Tchicai and our own S.M.E. and both he and fellow American Stu Martin read the Surman method with style and aggression. At the Torrington the trio provided the entire programme and, after acoustical teething problems had been solved offered the best sound balance of the two venues. Phillips’ inventive bass work is not always delivered with either the power or incisiveness to cut through the busy ensemble and at the 100 Club he was occasionally lost in the welter of sound. He did, however, have much to say, and with Martin fragmenting the rhythmic lower layer, it was the bass that carried the responsibility for providing tempo maintenance and chorus ending demarcation lines. Surman, as always when in form, veered from rhapsodic and orthodox balladeering to ragingly hysterical screaming, without any suggestion of incongruity. In fact, in some of freer moments he produced extempore, thematic snippets that show why he produced such good tunes when he sits down in the cold light of day.

At the 100 Club he shared the bill with Mike Osborne. The altoist is now himself an extremely potent performer and he enjoys the very vibrant support of Harry Miller (bs) and the indefatigable Louis Moholo (dm). In a sense their rhythmic approach is the very antithesis of the Surman Trio….

These two trios rate with any in Europe and quite a large number in America and prove that when a saxophonist is truly inventive, he will find no better platform from which to air his voice than a sympathetic trio.”


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