The Upshot: Veteran woodwindist’s trio avoids the sterility that plagues much chamber jazz and becomes a delight.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Veteran woodwindist John Surman has played it all in his five decades of activity, from free jazz to fusion to chamber music, with everyone from John McLaughlin to John Abercrombie to Jack DeJohnette. Invisible Threads finds the Englishman in a quiet but extroverted mood, thriving in the company of Brazilian pianist Nelson Ayres and American vibist Rob Waring. Surman’s horn work glides the melodies over the changes, swooping up the scale and down again, avoiding flash with just enough energy for momentum. Ayres’s frisky fingerings and minimalist chords and Waring’s expertly placed mallet strikes conjure warm backdrops for Surman’s excursions, setting the perfect stage for gorgeous treatments of “On Still Waters” and “Autumn Nocturne.” Surman gives his lyrical lines a Middle Eastern feel on “Byndweed” – his soprano sounds like it’s charming snakes atop of Ayres’ busy keyboard work. He switches to a lush tenor for “Concentric Circles,” a track that also highlights Waring’s ringing vibraphone. Surman’s woody clarinet tone soothes Ayres and Waring’s restlessness on “The Admiral,” while his soprano dances playfully around his compatriots’ swirls on “Pitanga Pitomba” and “Summer Song.” He returns to tenor for the relaxed swing of the title track, which closes the record on an irrepressibly upbeat note. With a certain whimsy driving the playing and the obvious joy the trio has in working together, Invisible Threads avoids the sterility that plagues much chamber jazz and becomes a delight.
DOWNLOAD: “Byndweed,” “Autumn Nocturnes,” “Concentric Circles”