John Surman: Haywain




John Surman (baritone sax)


Brewster’s Rooster (ECM 2046)

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John Surman (baritone sax), John Abercrombie (guitar), Drew Gress (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums).

Composed by John Surman


Recorded: New York, September 2007


Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

In 1992, Surman and Abercombie teamed up with Peter Erskine and Marc Johnson for Abercrombie’s exceptional November platter and the album began with the free-from group improvisation “The Cat’s Back.” Seventeen years later the two Johns combine with DeJohnette and Gress taking Erskine’s and Johnson’s place for the Surman-led Brewster’s Rooster. And once again, the saxophonist and guitarist lead an ensemble through a composition that’s conceived largely on the spot, “Haywain.”

This one begins and ends with DeJohnette, who is better than just about anyone else behind a drum kit at applying his available tools at the right moments in the right measures. He listens closely to the exchange Surman and Abercrombie are having and detects even the slightest mood changes and responds accordingly, including the point of peak intensity erupting just before the five minute mark. He does all this while simultaneously synchronizing his hi-hat to Gress’ rapid runs.

That’s not to diminish the contributions of the others; Surman, Abercrombie and Gress are playing telepathically, too. The drummer, however, pushes “Haywain” out to its substantial potential.

Reviewer: S. Victor Aaron

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