John Surman soprano and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet, synthesizers
Jack DeJohnette drums, electronic percussion, piano
Recorded November 2000, Tampere Jazz Happening and Berlin JazzFest
Engineers: Ralf Sirén and Ekkehard Stoffregen
Produced by Steve Lake and John Surman
Since first recording for ECM as a duo on The Amazing Adventures Of Simon Simon, multi-reedist John Surman and drummer Jack DeJohnette have maintained a connection that finds deeper traction on the seven enhancements of Invisible Nature. Surman gurgles his way through the organ drone of “Mysterium,” which combined with a plodding bass line sounds like the seed of Jan Garbarek’s RITES. It is a silvery tapestry unspooling in flourishes that escape our ken. The music is so much of its own world that to hear applause segueing into “Rising Tide” is jarring. It reminds us that we’re still on Earth, that what we’ve been hearing has come from human hands and breath. The fantastic sweep of baritone amid DeJohnette’s frenetic pacing here elicits a wide spectrum, and charts the same balance of delicacy vs. punch that makes tracks like “Underground Movement” and “Ganges Groove” such inspiring excursions. Painting his snare like the eye of a hurricane, DeJohnette crystallizes steady grooves for Surman’s cerebral and biologically direct highs in the former, while in the latter he paints with his tabla generator a scene as lush as it is arid. “Outback Spirits” makes gorgeous use of digital delay in a trip filled with cinematic tension, equal parts Nicolas Roeg and Stanley Kubrick. It is the elegance of uninhibited joy, the patter of the disembodied. A welcoming freedom of expression prevails. “Fair Trade” is the masterwork of the collection and shows the depth and breadth that these two legends are capable of when the gloves come off and all that’s left to feed on is fire. Between the crunchy baritone and DeJohnette’s astonishing ear for space, there is more than enough to savor for future listening. “Song For World Forgiveness,” the only piece not entirely improvised, floats a swanky bass clarinet on a river of lipstick and smoky alleyways: an homage to roots, to loves, and to new beginnings.
For all the trickery, there is at this album’s core a duo of infinite potential, one that walks a tightrope—blindfolded—across wide canyons. The nature of this music may be invisible, but man, is it ever audible.