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John Surman

As part of Radio 3's coverage of the London Jazz Festival, Michael Berkeley talks to the saxophonist and bass clarinettist John Surman,.

As part of Radio 3's coverage of the London Jazz Festival, Michael Berkeley talks to the saxophonist and bass clarinettist John Surman, who over a career of dizzying versatility that spans more than fifty years, has shown us just how many different ways jazz can be made. Surman's hundreds of recordings include solos with synthesizers, saxophone trios, trios with voice and drums, with brass bands and big bands. He has made albums with church choirs, duos with church organs and with drums, as well as composing music for saxophone and string quartet.

He has worked with most of the jazz greats of the last half century, including Ronnie Scott, Alexis Korner and Gil Evans, and more unusually for a jazz musician he's worked at the Paris Opera, with the Trans4mation Quartet, and on modern reinterpretations of the songs of John Dowland. He's been the recipient of numerous awards including the 2017 Ivor Novello Jazz Award.

In Private Passions, John Surman tells Michael how his love for music began in his childhood in Devon, when he was a talented boy treble. He chooses Bach's St Matthew Passion, which he first heard in a Plymouth church, and Beethoven's "Pathétique" sonata (No 8, in C minor), which his father would play on the piano. Surman's love of jazz is entwined with his love of classical music, and among his musical passions Duke Ellington and Miles Davis go hand-in-hand with Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra and the voice of Kathleen Ferrier. Happily based in Norway for the last decade, Surman has chosen a music list to help him through the long dark Scandinavian winters.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3
Produced by Jane Greenwood.

Available now

37 minutes

Music Played

  • John Surman

    SAS Blues

    Performer: John Surman. Performer: Karin Krog.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Kommt, ihr Tochter (St Matthew Passion)

    Orchestra: Munich Bach Choir and Orchestra. Conductor: Karl Richter.
  • Trad.

    Blow the Wind Southerly

    Singer: Kathleen Ferrier.
  • Duke Ellington

    The Star-crossed Lovers (Such Sweet Thunder)

    Composer: Billy Strayhorn. Performer: Duke Ellington.
  • Béla Bartók

    Concerto for Orchestra (4th mvt: Intermezzo)

    Orchestra: The Philadelphia Orchestra. Conductor: Christoph Eschenbach.
  • Harry Ruby

    Three Little Words

    Performer: Sonny Rollins.
  • George Gershwin

    Gone

    Performer: Miles Davis.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Sonata in C minor, Op.13 (Pathetique) (2nd mvt: Adagio cantabile)

    Performer: Ingrid Fliter.

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