Brewster's Rooster

John Surman, John Abercrombie, Drew Gress, Jack DeJohnette

After ECM recordings with organ (“Rain on the Window”), strings (“The Spaces In Between”), brass ensemble (“Free and Equal”), choir (“Proverbs and Songs”), and early music experiments with the Dowland Project (“Romaria”). John Surman offers an album unequivocally jazz in its orientation. Soulful ballads, hard-driving pieces and fiery improvisations are all to be found here, and Surman is in best creative form on baritone and soprano saxophones. Both Surman and guitarist Abercrombie have long musical relationships with powerhouse drummer DeJohnette, and all three are in accord at a high level. A strong showing, too, for bassist Drew Gress in his ECM debut. Music is all by Surman, apart from “Slanted Sky” by old comrade John Warren, and the timeless “Chelsea Bridge” of Billy Strayhorn.

Featured Artists Recorded

September 2007, Avatar Studios, New York

Original Release Date


  • 1Slanted Sky
    (John Warren)
  • 2Hilltop Dancer
    (John Surman)
  • 3No Finesse
    (John Surman)
  • 4Kickback
    (John Surman)
  • 5Chelsea Bridge
    (Billy Strayhorn)
  • 6Haywain
    (John Surman)
  • 7Counter Measures
    (John Surman)
  • 8Brewster's Rooster
    (John Surman)
  • 9Going For A Burton
    (John Surman)
Événement, Jazzman
The stimulating dialogue between England’s John Surman and America’s Jack DeJohnette is at the heart of Surman’s new quartet album, Brewster’s Rooster. The percussive, low-end honks of Surman’s baritone sax encourage him to play rhythmically, while DeJohnette is the rare drummer who seeks melody and harmony in the forgotten corners of drumheads. They find a common ground where no one thought to look.
Geoffrey Himes, The Washington Post
The baritone sax is arguably best-suited to portentous pronouncements of elegiac eloquence. … John Surman is one of the few, who can make it really skip and caper. … Brewster’s Rooster is what Surman does between Bartok-ian string quartets, glorious brass ensembles and organ-led choirs. … It’s music played with precision and yet immediacy, performed with authority but also with exquisite delicacy. In a way, it sums up John’s long career in the music.
Duncan Heining, Jazzwise
Featuring long-time collaborators John Abercrombie and Jack DeJohnette, and with the excellent Drew Gress on bass, this is Surman’s loosest and jazziest album in years. The stunning DeJohnette seems to be in the midst of a polyrhythmic renaissance, and Surman’s deep sound retains its folksy nimbleness.
John Fordham, The Guardian
The textures and tones are high gloss, the ideas mature and the interplay effortless. Surman’s originals trade biting grooves, bustling modernism and lilting ballads.
Mike Hobart, Financial Times
Reunited in New York with guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Jack DeJohnette, one of Britain’s undisputedly world-class soloists returns to what he does best. Mostly playing his best instrument, baritone sax, he delivers seven lively originals and two ballads with prime dexterity, poise and authority.
Jack Massarik, Evening Standard
A l'écoute de leurs toutes dernières retrouvailles, on constate une nouvelle fois comment, au baryton comme au soprano, l'instinct mélodique et le sens instantané de la forme, double griffe du jeu de John Surman, sont magnifiquement stimulés par le drumming si inventif de DeJohnette. Leur entente quasi télépathique fonctionne au fil des plages à plein régime, sans la moindre chute de présence, même dans les improvisations les plus véhémentes et enflammées. A preuve Kickback. Une oasis de fraîcheur et de sensualité à signaler.
Pascal Anquetil, Jazzman
Ein Mann kommt nach Hause. Lange ist er weg gewesen, sehr lange, unterwegs, auf Entdeckungsreise. … Doch nun ist er wieder hier, trifft alte Freunde, Vertraute, und die Chemie funktioniert wie damals. Und gleichzeitig ganz anders, hörbar gereift, nach dem langen Weg weist sein Spiel Jahresringe auf, Schatten von Erfahrungen. Und den drei Musikern, mit denen er sich trifft, geht es nicht anders, auch sie sind Reisende, weit herumgekommen in den Welten des Jazz. Es weht ein Hauch von Wiedersehensfreude, von entspannter Lässigkeit durch Brewster’s Rooster.
Stefan Hentz, Die Zeit
Drew Gress gibt dem Treiben zwischen scheinbar klassischen Up-Tempo-Nummern, Freigeisterei und rockenergetischer Pace ein stabiles, aber gleichermaßen biegsam-flexibles Rückgrat. John Abercrombies Gitarrenspiel leuchtet und funkelt wie gewohnt. Und während John Surmans Klang sich vom flüssigen Gold in heißes Magma verwandeln kann, ist Jack DeJohnette weiterhin einer der coolsten Vertreter seiner Zunft – wenn er mit einer geradezu unverschämten Lässigkeit … die Becken und Trommeln auf ihre attraktiven Ur-Impulse abklopft.
Guido Fischer, Jazzthetik
Mit einer an Abgeklärtheit und Souplesse nur schwer zu übertreffenden New Yorker Entourage hat der Brite ein Album eingespielt, auf dem er als Lyriker und als Raubein brilliert.
Basler Zeitung
After many adventures through the genres, a jazz album. The wide range of John Surman’s musical interests has, in the last several years seen him in contexts ranging from early music with John Potter’s Dowland Project to Arab modes with Anouar Brahem, while his own albums have included encounters with church organ (“Rain on the Window”), strings (“The Spaces in Between”), classical brass ensemble (“Free and Equal”), and choir (“Proverbs and Songs”). “Brewster’s Rooster”, however, is in another tradition. For long-time Surman listeners it will likely bring to mind earlier meetings with his extraordinarily mobile baritone and fleet soprano – on his own “Stranger Than Fiction” or “Adventure Playground” albums, perhaps, or on Mick Goodrick’s “In Pas(s)ing” (a disc that also featured Jack DeJohnette’s drums), or with The Trio on Barre Phillips’s “Mountainscapes” (which also included a guest role for John Abercrombie).

“Brewster’s Rooster” draws upon much shared musical experience. Abercrombie and DeJohnette have also played together often since the early 70s, the former a member of several of the latter’s bands. Guitarist and drummer also played on sessions for ECM artists from Collin Walcott to Kenny Wheeler, and comprised two-thirds of the powerful Gateway trio.

John Surman and Jack DeJohnette, meanwhile, have collaborated intermittently for more than 40 years, first meeting at a jam session at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in 1968 when Jack was in London with Bill Evans. In 1974 Surman spent six months living in Woodstock, New York, and in this period played live with DeJohnette’s Directions group, whose line-up included Abercrombie. In 1981 Surman and DeJohnette began playing in duo, and recorded “The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon” for ECM; a second duo album, the concert recording “Invisible Nature” was issued 20 years later. In recent seasons Surman has toured with Jack’s Ripple Effect band (album on DeJohnette’s Golden Beams label), and in concert this has also offered opportunities for some unbridled blowing.

For “Brewster’s Rooster”, the trio of old friends – Surman, DeJohnette, Abercrombie - is joined by bassist Drew Gress. Making his ECM debut here, Gress is a vastly-experienced player whose early work included gigs with Buddy Hackett, Zoot Sims and Cab Calloway. Now a bandleader in his own right, he has also been heard frequently in bands led by Tim Berne, Fred Hersch, Ravi Coltrane, Tony Malaby, Mat Maneri and others. Later this year he will tour Europe with John Abercrombie’s quartet.

Recorded in New York’s Avatar Studio in September 2007, “Brewster’s Rooster” features a broad span of material - soulful ballads, hard-driving uptempo tunes and fiery improvisations are all to be found here. Repertoire includes new tunes by Surman, plus Billy Strayhorn’s wistful “Chelsea Bridge” and “Slanting Sky” by John Warren, once co-leader of the Brass Project with Surman (see ECM 1478).
2024 May 25 RNCM Theatre Manchester, United Kingdom
2024 June 10 Ronnie Scotts London, United Kingdom
2024 June 12 Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall Istanbul, Turkey
2024 July 21 Inntöne Jazzfestival Diersbach, Austria