On the route to the City of Light
Gavin Wilson | 06/11/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"St Ives is a coastal town in Cornwall, close to the south-west tip of England. It attracts many painters, who say the light is very good. John Surman, who was born and brought up next to Cornwall, says in the sleevenotes that this CD is not intended to be a set of musical portraits of places. Methinks he is being overly modest: on 'Trethevy Quoit', for instance, you can hear the wind scurrying past the megalith.I have to say that I'm normally wary of intensely solo projects. (Why should I buy a CD containing just one man's ideas when I can pay the same price for a CD containing the contributions of many?!) I'm suspicious of tunes spun out beyond their natural conclusion, and look out for 'fillers'. But here everything works in a wonderfully impressionistic wash of bass clarinet, sax and keyboards. There is some percussion, but no drums. You get rhythms, but these are created by keyboard riffs. This album was top of the jazz charts for a number of weeks on its 1990 release in the UK, where Surman is almost as popular as Jan Garbarek. The two have covered similar territory with their solo ventures, though Surman has a highly distinctive reed voice and technique.The most rock-oriented track is #10, 'Piperspool', which is the one that got the most radio play.I love this album, as it sheds an entirely different light on the West Country, whose popular cultural image has been dominated by the bleak moors of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'."
nicjaytee | London | 05/28/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this album almost 20 years ago and every time I put it on it just grabs my attention. Brilliantly played, understated saxophone explorations by a master of the instrument wrapped up in a superbly evocative set of arrangements. What John Surman sets out to do here is to use his skills to capture the atmosphere of Cornwall. If you don't know the area the scale of his achievement might pass you by, but, if you do... if you've been to these places... it's breathtakingly successful. This is Cornwall, evoked in a way that's so much better than any other medium. Better than paragraphs of words or pages of photographs because this is exactly what it's like: off the beaten track, watching the waves and the misty moors while you slowly take it all in. Beautiful, and for those of us who are lucky enough to be able to relate to what he's seeking to describe in this stunningly good album... perfect, timeless, and an absolute masterpiece."