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A Biography of the Rev. Absalom Dawe

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Album Review

John Surman is an artist with an amazing range and depth of style, from contemporary classical to jazz to electronic music. In few places is this more evident than on A Biography of the Rev. Absalom Dawe, on which Surman acts as a sort of one-man wind chamber ensemble, playing baritone saxophone (his signature instrument) as well as soprano sax, alto and bass clarinets, and keyboards. The electronic elements are few and unobtrusive, and the keyboard's bright tones are a good match for the fluid, breathy sounds of the wind instruments. The music itself is nearly always ethereal and atmospheric, without journeying into the territory of askeletal new age softness. Instead, the execution seems precise and intentional; each instrument was recorded separately and then mixed as individual units into the whole, giving Surman additional opportunities for crispness of sound. The spare waves of music occasionally part to give way to energetic solos, like on "'Twas but Piety" where ribbons of clarinet and funereal organ-esque sounds are bookends for passionate saxophone sections. Elements of modern composition, jazz, and European folk can be heard throughout and the mood is one of reflection and wintry quiet. Overall, this is one of Surman's most daring and yet most successful projects to date.


Born: August 30, 1944 in Tavistock, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

John Surman was one of the very few saxmen in England to find a significant audience in rock during the late '60s, playing gigs regularly at venues like the Marquee Club in London. Also a clarinetist of some renown, and no slouch on keyboards either, the atmospheric sounds that Surman creates on his horns has been a major asset to the ECM label ever since the late '70s; but, before that, he was an extremely prolific artist on Deram, Futura, Dawn, and Island, cutting seven solo albums between 1968...
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A Biography of the Rev. Absalom Dawe, John Surman
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