TALES OF THE ALGONQUIN
Stuart Jefferson | San Diego,Ca | 05/15/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One disc 47 minutes in length approximately. The sound is open and spacious,with good delineation between the highs and lows. This set was recorded in 1971,and features John Surman,among others,playing some very fine music. This is an unexpectedly fine example of big band jazz. For those listeners who only know Surman from his fine recordings with the guitarist John McLaughlin on the fierce EXTRAPOLATION or WHERE FORTUNE SMILES,or his group THE TRIO,this will be a revelation. The other musicians on this set were,at the time,the "cream of the crop" in British jazz. Among the musicians on this set,Surman has recorded with the bassist Barre Phillips and the drummer Stu Martin extensively in their group THE TRIO (look for "Glancing Backwards the Dawn Anthology" under Surman's name),putting out several fine albums of (obviously) small group jazz. The pianist,John Taylor,played on a good recording from 1969 (only released in 2005) "Way Back When",which is also recommended for those who like jazz fusion playing from that era. Jazz listeners will recognize other names,such as Kenny Wheeler,Alan Skidmore,and the composer/sax player John Warren. The band consists of sixteen members,most,who seem to be playing on all of these finely arranged tracks. There is a variety of horns/flutes (trumpet,clarinet,trombone,saxophones,alto flute,flute) on this set. The fine musicianship,along with some great arrangements,make this album stand out from the dross. Even giving an allowance for the recording era (over 35 years ago)-this could stand with any modern,post be-bop big band today. As an example,once in a while,the sound is akin to what Charles Tolliver's big band is currently playing (listen to EMPEROR'S MARCH) that,happily,have audiences in rapture. So no one misunderstands-they are not interchangeable-some of the arrangements sound similar at times.
This is intelligent,well arranged jazz,played with a great deal of thought and emotion. This recording helps prove the old axiom that good music is timeless. Hopefully ,these words will encourage jazz listeners,who like this style of music,to add it to their music library. On hearing this recording,hopefully you'll spread the word. Surman (and others) are still playing jazz somewhere in this world-help support them,not only for the musicians benefit-but ours as well."