A welcome reunion for these two old sparring partners...
John Eyles 2002
The association between John Surman and Jack DeJohnette dates as far back as 1968, when they used to jam in the afternoons at Ronnie Scotts, with the likes of Dave Holland, John McLaughlin and Tony Oxley. (Phew!) Incredibly, it is over twenty years since their previous duo release, The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon. This album is its long overdue follow-up. The pair have intermittently played together live, and this album was recorded in November 2000, at concerts in Berlin and Tampere, Finland.
With the exception of the DeJohnette composition, "Song For World Forgiveness", all the music here is completely improvised. However, it is light years away from free improvisation as we might understand it elsewhere. Surman is one of those improvisers more properly termed an instant composer. He spontaneously generates melodic lines and develops them at length, so that one is left incredulous that this is all improvised. As most of Surman's recent releases have focussed on his compositions, it is good to hear him in full flight as an improviser.
As on Simon Simon, Surman uses synthesisers to alter, shape and extend the scope of his reed playing. DeJohnette plays drums, piano and electronic percussion, the latter allowing him to simulate a wide range of percussion sounds including tablas and pedal-tympani. Between the two of them, they can produce a lot of sound; at times, it sounds as if four or five players are in action. However, they are probably at their best on "Underground Movement" when they play it straight, Surman on soprano sax, DeJohnette on trap kit.
A fine, enjoyable album. Lets hope it's not another twenty years until we have the next instalment...