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Road to Saint Ives Import, Original recording reissued

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, Original recording reissued, November 18, 2008
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 18, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import, Original recording reissued
  • Label: Ecm Import
  • ASIN: B00000DTFP
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,550 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Gavin Wilson on June 10, 2001
Format: Audio CD
St Ives is a coastal town in Cornwall, close to the south-west tip of England. It attracts many painters, who say the light is very good. John Surman, who was born and brought up next to Cornwall, says in the sleevenotes that this CD is not intended to be a set of musical portraits of places. Methinks he is being overly modest: on 'Trethevy Quoit', for instance, you can hear the wind scurrying past the megalith.
I have to say that I'm normally wary of intensely solo projects. (Why should I buy a CD containing just one man's ideas when I can pay the same price for a CD containing the contributions of many?!) I'm suspicious of tunes spun out beyond their natural conclusion, and look out for 'fillers'. But here everything works in a wonderfully impressionistic wash of bass clarinet, sax and keyboards. There is some percussion, but no drums. You get rhythms, but these are created by keyboard riffs.
This album was top of the jazz charts for a number of weeks on its 1990 release in the UK, where Surman is almost as popular as Jan Garbarek. The two have covered similar territory with their solo ventures, though Surman has a highly distinctive reed voice and technique.
The most rock-oriented track is #10, 'Piperspool', which is the one that got the most radio play.
I love this album, as it sheds an entirely different light on the West Country, whose popular cultural image has been dominated by the bleak moors of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I am new to ambient music, but I am finding there are many musicians I really like. This Music of John Surman and his album which seems to be focused on the history of Cornwall - Early inhabitants go back to Paleolithic man . Cornwall's location was covered in a previous review. This piece is part jazz and part ambient Sax, keyboards and percussion with a lot a variation. I like this music for it is good for my imagination. I can picture things as it plays. Every time I listen I seem to hear something I had not heard before. Good background music when you are thinking or dreaming while awake.
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Format: Audio CD
I bought this album almost 20 years ago and every time I put it on it just grabs my attention. Brilliantly played, understated saxophone explorations by a master of the instrument wrapped up in a superbly evocative set of arrangements. What John Surman sets out to do here is to use his skills to capture the atmosphere of Cornwall. If you don't know the area the scale of his achievement might pass you by, but, if you do... if you've been to these places... it's breathtakingly successful. This is Cornwall, evoked in a way that's so much better than any other medium. Better than paragraphs of words or pages of photographs because this is exactly what it's like: off the beaten track, watching the waves and the misty moors while you slowly take it all in. Beautiful, and for those of us who are lucky enough to be able to relate to what he's seeking to describe in this stunningly good album... perfect, timeless, and an absolute masterpiece.
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Format: Audio CD
SURMAN, John. Road to Saint Ives. ECM. 1996. JS, comp. & arr., sop and bari sx, keybds, perc.

SURMAN, John. The Spaces In Between. ECM, 2007. JS, comp. & arr., sop and bari sax, bss clari; Chris Laurence, b, and Trans4mations (Rita Manning & Patrick Kiernan, viol; Bill Hawkes, viola; Nick Cooper, cello).

John Surman is one of the underrated jewels of modern jazz. His jazz credentials are strong, dating back to his collaboration with guitarist John McLaughlin on the pivotal jazz-fusion album, Extrapolation (1972) and extending up to today. He never disappoints, not on his more obviously jazzy outings (listen to him on Tomasz Stanko's From the Green Hill, 2000) and even less on his solitary and small group musings for ECM records. Here are two, ten years apart. Both highlight Surman's strengths as composer as well as soloist but in quite different contexts.

St Ives is a solo outing. Surman double and treble tracks to create his own accompaniment or he just goes off on his own. (The solo tracks are all on soprano sax, which makes sense - it's by far the nimblest of his three horns.) The album is sheer joy. It's good jazz but you don't have to be a jazz lover to enjoy it, because it's also good non-jazz composed music and also good Easy Listening (though not as vapid as that genre of music typically is). In short, it's an album you can listen to casually or deeply and either way, it will reward you.

Spaces is one of the strongest albums Surman has released on ECM, using a string quartet augmented by string bass. Surman's writing skills are apparent on this exceptional album. He leaves plenty of space for the strings to proceed alone, building up mood and tension before he enters on whichever horn he plays on a particular cut.
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Format: Audio CD
Excellent. Very impressive
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