22 April 2010

John Surman Trio - Live in Altena

Here's an item I've been hunting for quite a while and finally managed to get on a cd-r, sourced from the LP above. This is the Trio, which made two albums for Dawn records during their comparatively short life span, this one which was only out in small quantities, I believe, and a fourth one, which I'll come back to later. Any guesses?

The Trio was probably John Surman's freest moment, and after this burst, went quiet and released "Westering Home", radically removed from the Trio, and drawing upon musical memories during his childhood in the southwest in England. His lyrical side has been much more to the fore in later releases than in this explosive, no holds barred frenzy of reed overdrive. This is not to deny that there are not quieter moments on this fine recording.

To me this is one of the highlights of John Surman's prodigious output, if not the highlight. We've posted the Trio before as well as the SOS project with Mike Osborne and Alan Skidmore. Do look up Michel Portal's "Alors" which has Surman dueting with Portal and the ret of the Trio. In the top rank of European free jazz, no questions asked. Barre Phillips and Stu Martin provide the tightly knit environment of three-fold impro. It's a bit of a misnomer to call this album John Surman Trio as the group pretty much was leaderless, though one may guess it was for marketing purposes.

Five pieces on this album, though they run very much together. Three of the pieces were first featured on the first Trio album, so listening to this one and the first Trio, I suspect it runs something like this:

Side A:
Billy the Kid (Martin)
Tallness (Surman)
Dee Tune (Surman)
Side B:
In Between (Surman)
Spikenard (Phillips)

John Surman (bs,ss, cl)
Barre Phillips (bs)
Stu Martin (ds)

Recorded on 10.1.1970 in Altena, Westfalen.


kinabalu said...




john said...

this looks great, and I hadn't heard of it. The Trio was a great group; presumably the fourth album you mention is 'Conflagration' featuring an expanded line-up, very severe and abstract music I find but exciting none-the-less. I'll look forward to hearing this live trio you've posted, many thanks.

kinabalu said...

No, that was the second one for Dawn.

amnesia said...

Thanks for this, The Trio also released "By Contact", recorded April 1979, on the Ogun label, which includes one track with John Surman playing cornet!

amnesia said...

Sorry, the sleeve details say 1979, but the sleeve note gives the highly probable date of 1971

kinabalu said...

That's the one. The band didn't last beyond 1971, so that's the correct year. Probably a typo I would think.

SOTISE said...

thanks for sharing this gem!!
i ave the double lp on dawn ..which was posted a couple of years back by boromir ...

that has now been reissued as a double cd with conflagration.

we also have the wonderful Gottingen.. 12/10/70

Anonymous said...

There are a few other things by The Trio also in circulation. One is a 20 minute LP side from Warsaw 31 October 1970. Another is a brief (8 minute) appearance on the Austrian Ossiach June/July 1971 festival 3LP set.

serviceton said...

thanks kinabalu!
This was -for me - one that was heard *of*, but not heard.
To be recitified in a few minutes time - looking forward to it.

glmlr - what is the '20 minute LP side from Warsaw' of which you speak ?

wightdj said...

Nice to hear this, thanks.

Owen said...

Thanks for this!


This album is listed in the JG Records discography at http://myfavouritejazz.proxudo.de/html/jg01-33.html as JG18. The author notes the album has been released with three different covers on two different labels. You can see the other sleeve variations at the link.

Also, if you check out JG 21/22 "Internationales New Jazz Meeting Auf Burg Altena 1970" you'll also see The Trio listed as contributing half a side to this 2LP set.

There's also yet another Trio contribution to JG24 / 25 "Remembering ´70" with Alan Skidmore guesting.

But the above mentioned unavailable Ogun LP 'By Contact' is the one I most covet next (nudge nudge wink wink).

Anonymous said...

Serviceton: It is side one of "At The Warsaw Jazz Jamboree 1970" on Muza 0697. (Side two is by other musicians entirely).

See here:


Or Barre Phillips' discography here:



kinabalu said...

Thanks for all the additional information. If anyone has the Trio contributions to the above comps, we would certainly be interested in posting them here.

Meanwhile, I will post the Ogun lp as announced and a concert recording from Berlin 1969 which I've got from the Dime network.

Wallofsound said...

I've been looking for a copy at a price I was willing to pay for years, so many thanks, thanks kinabalu.

Nice to see so many people interested.

1009 said...

Excellent! I really like the Trio stuff I've heard, and the live set posted here some time ago is also wonderful. Looking forward to giving this a spin.

I have the *Conflagration* disc from the Dawn two-fer sotise mentions. I could post that in some kind of lossless format at some point, but at the moment I'm on the road. FWIW I'm not terribly fond of that big-band session.

I actually hear a lot of Surman in Ken Vandermark's sound. Wondering if anyone else has made that connection.

Owen said...

Oh, and there is of course Barre Phillips' "Mountainscapes" ECM LP from 1976, which is basically another album by The Trio, though it's still readily available, so not really a contender for this blog...


It's a great album btw, though quite different to what these three recorded as 'The Trio'.

serviceton said...

glmlr - thanks. That's a little more light thrown on a fairly microscopic discography [The Trio].
Live in Altena not as 'coruscating' as I'd been led to expect - clearly quite composed thematically / structurally. Frequently meditative. I found myself enjoying Phillips & Martin's playing every bit as much as Surman's. (which should be the case in *any* good Trio I suppose).
Thanks kinabalu, and looking forward to the 'more' promised ..

paul w. said...

hi kinabalu,
many many thanks for this rarity. i had it on my list for over 30 years and couldn't find it anywhere. i even started thinking that the best thing was to forget about it. it won't appear anywhere. and of course i was wrong.
my opinion as in earlier comments is that the best surman is definitely with the trio. his concert in gottingen posted here earlier was incredible.
i have also lower opinion on "conflagration" as other commentators. i fully agree with the opinion that barre phillips "mountainscapes" is great. discussing surman discography we should mention also very good duo album (lp) with stu martin - "live at woodstock townhall" on dawn from 1975. by the way - all surman's recorded material for dawn
was re-issued in the form of 3 cd set under title "glancing backwards" - you will find there material from 5 lp's including very good collaboration with john mclaughlin "where fortune smiles".

possibly the last of the great surman albums was in my opinion "such winters of memory" on ecm from december 1982 with karin krog and pierre favre.

i don't know yet "by contact" lp on ogun - another title on my want list for over 20 years, but if it's the trio - it must be good.


paul w.

Frank said...

Thanks for this. Stu Martin is one of the least known major drum innovators of all time, a sad loss.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks, once again.

It's raining Trio today. Great post. Also much useful info in the comments on the Trio discography.

By the way; Stu Martin drums on Swedish prog artist Pugh Rogefeldt's album "Hollywood" (1970 or thereabouts). The album is rock and folk, not jazz.

akaboshi14 said...

Could you re-up this?

onxidlib said...

It's posted on Vitko's blog > http://differentperspectivesinmyroom.blogspot.de/2016/06/john-surman-trio-life-in-altena-lp-1970.html