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I caught up with John Surman after his Masterclass at the Royal Festival Hall

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Alyn Shipton Alyn Shipton | 12:20 UK Time, Wednesday, 18 November 2009


One of the busiest musicians at this year's London Jazz Festival is bass clarinetist, soprano and baritone saxophonist John Surman. On Wednesday he's got a major concert celebrating his 65th birthday, and he's also meeting me at 6pm in the Front Room to record Saturday's edition of Jazz Library. I went along to his masterclass at the RFH on Saturday, which was enthralling. Not only did he demonstrate the mysterious art of circular breathing ("Anyone can do it," says John. "No they can't!" said a voice from the back, "You tried to teach me 20 years ago and I still can't make it work!") but he gave insights into practice regimes, the incredible range he has developed on the baritone and on the way he has absorbed folk music into his compositions. We heard about his early years in London, coming up from Plymouth, and about his blues playing, his free jazz colleagues and his early European adventures. There'll be more on Wednesday night, but here's part of a quick chat I had with John as he was packing up his horns on Saturday morning.
Photo credit: John Surman Masterclass at the Southbank Centre, by Emile Holba

Listen to our conversation.


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