Mick Goodrick guitar
John Surman soprano and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet
Eddie Gomez bass
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded November 1978 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
After guesting on three Gary Burton collaborations (The New Quartet, Ring, and Dreams So Real), guitarist Mick Goodrick broke out with his first album as leader—and what better place than ECM to open his art to its fullest, for this would be his last recording for the label. In Pas(s)ing consists entirely of Goodrick originals, save for the collectively improvised title cut, giving us an unassuming view of the thoroughly sanded figures that are his themes.
“Feebles, Fables And Ferns” is morning and dusk, a crepuscular confection wrapped in drums (DeJohnette), bass (Gomez), and tenor sax (Surman), and all tied with Goodrick’s sonic filaments. The latter’s airy, John Abercrombie-like tone is pensive and glows like embers. The bass is shallowly miked, making it seem an extension of the guitar. Its player often vocally anticipates his supporting lines, as in the lovely solo granted passage here. Surman’s equally mellifluous sound rolls off the tongue like a poem. “In The Tavern Of Ruin” continues the lush quartet sound, only this time with a brittle edge. Surman leads a slow procession of hooded figures before his soprano trails into Goodrick’s darkening clouds. Distant cries seize us as Surman again wraps his cosmic fabric around our ears. This makes “Summer Band Camp,” the album’s shortest track, all the brighter in its nostalgia. Surman smiles through his sound, as do all gathered, gently kissing the art into which they have grown. Gomez’s doublings add a chorused, rhythmic aphasia that foreshadows an ecstatic close. A tender bass clarinet lacquers “Pedalpusher” with molasses, sealing in an array of tactful changes which do nothing to obscure the phenomenal bass work therein. In closing, we find ourselves “In Passing,” which throbs with yielding yet intense sentiment. DeJohnette stitches a fine seam here, even as Surman cuts his thematic restraints in favor of more visceral forms of communication.
Goodrick’s elasticity throughout is a comforting presence, while Surman shines in what amounts to a starring role. These energies, buoyed by a plastic rhythm section, coalesce into what is easily one of my favorite ECM releases.