The Amazing Adventures Of Simon Simon
John Surman soprano and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet, synthesizer
Jack DeJohnette drums, congas, electric piano
Recorded January 1981 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
When reviewing jazz albums, I tend to abbreviate the word “saxophone” as “sax.” Yet somehow, when describing the music of John Surman, only the full spelling seems appropriate, for he as well as anyone fleshes out the inner architecture of the instrument in whatever form it may assume in his proficient hands. One might say likewise about drummer Jack DeJohnette, whose array of talents fully arches the backbone of the eight originals and one folk tune (the arboreal “Kentish Hunting”) on this curiously titled album. A delicate sequencer washes over us first in “Nestor’s Saga (The Tale of the Ancient)” along with bass clarinet amid awakening drums. Such tonal contrasts are a running thread through “Merry Pranks (The Jester’s Song),” “The Pilgrim’s Way (To The Seventeen Walls),” and the lumbering “Within The Halls Of Neptune.” Like some lost klezmer dream, floating on illumined clouds, these tunes step over vast plains before setting foot upon mountaintops. The finest moments are to be found in the soprano work, featured to varicolored effect in “The Buccaneers” and most engagingly in “Phoenix And The Fire.” DeJohnette holds his hands to the pianistic fire in “Fide Et Amore (By Faith And Love),” each chord a glowing ember beneath the bare feet of Surman’s baritone. “A Fitting Epitaph” mixes two drops of clarity for every one of forlornness and leaves an airy aftertaste in the sequencer’s final rest. This first in a continuing collaboration between two of ECM’s finest has aged well and is a good place to start on this intriguing duo.