Such Winters of Memory
John Surman baritone and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet, recorder, piano, synthesizer, voice
Karin Krog voice, Oberheim ring modulator, tamboura
Pierre Favre drums
Recorded December 1982 at Talent Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Walking into a John Surman album is like wearing a blindfold. The remarkable reedman provides just enough sensory information to orient us. At times claustrophobic, at others airy and spatial, each composition and improvisation alike seem knitted by the same needle. On Such Winters of Memory, he is joined by percussionist Pierre Favre and vocalist Karin Krog for a calm and collected session sure to please admirers of his solo work. The drones of “Saturday Night” are like a chain of limpid pools from which Surman draws mercury lines. Out of these dreams comes “Sunday Morning,” which reprises the sequencer of “Nestor’s Saga” that would play such a key role in albums to come. Where the electronics were cold and windy at the start, here they are warm, still, and brimming with daybreak. Surman makes the baritone saxophone sing here like no other, and with it he renders even the most contrived surroundings into a strangely organic whole. Decidedly jazzier contours await us in “My Friend,” a loosely woven braid of voice and bass clarinet. Thus uplifted, we float through “Seaside Postcard 1951” on a jet stream of soprano whispers and glittering cymbals, content to be “On The Wing Again” through the approaching dusk. There we linger in monochrome, like the album’s cover, somewhere between steam and cloud. After the solo piano sweetness of “Expressions,” we are left to ponder the adhesive raga of “Mother Of Light / Persepolis,” following an echoing recorder across piped horizons.
Surman is a musician of gentle persuasion and even gentler philosophy. One can always count on an immersive experience, Such Winters of Memory being but one carefully brushed example. And while one may be hard-pressed to see into the autobiographical details of these titles, at least in their articulation one gets an immediate sense of the environments they so meticulously render into graspable sound.