Invisible Threads

John Surman, Nelson Ayres, Rob Waring

EN / DE
Saxophonist and clarinetist John Surman is often characterized as a quintessentially English improviser and composer, and hints of folk music and a pastoral ambience are attributes of his music on well-loved albums like “The Road to Saint Ives” or “Saltash Bells.” Yet he also has a long history of working with musicians from other countries and cultures, players united by such invisible threads as a shared feeling for melody that transcends the idioms. John Surman met pianist Nelson Ayres – known to aficionados of Brazilian jazz for his work with Airto Moreira, Milton Nascimento and Banda Pau Brasil – while on tour in South America. In Oslo, Surman came to know and appreciate the playing of Rob Waring, expatriate US vibraphonist (recently heard on ECM with Mats Eilertsen). The three musicians come together to play a new programme of Surman originals – plus Nelson Ayres’s “Summer Song” – in a session recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow studio in July 2017, produced by Manfred Eicher.
Der Saxophonist und Klarinettist John Surman wird oft als durch und durch englischer Improvisator und Komponist charakterisiert: Anklänge an Volksmusik und eine geradezu idyllische Atmosphäre haben sich zu Charakteristiken seiner Musik entwickelt – die sich in Alben wie The Road to Saint Ives oder Saltash Bells eindrücklich bemerkbar machten. Doch auch mit Musikern aus anderen Ländern und Kulturkreisen arbeitet Surman seit langem zusammen, Musiker, die durch ihr Gefühl für Klänge jenseits aller Idiome innig verbunden sind. Während einer Tournee durch Südamerika traf Surman zunächst auf den Pianisten Nelson Ayres, der den Liebhabern von brasilianischem Jazz vor allem durch seine Zusammenarbeit mit Airto Moreira, Milton Nascimento und Banda Pau Brasil bekannt sein dürfte. In Oslo lernte der Brite den aus den USA eingewanderten Vibraphonisten Rob Waring kennen und schätzen (bei ECM unlängst gemeinsam mit Mats Eilertsen vertreten). Im Juli 2017 fanden sich die drei Musiker schließlich im Osloer Rainbow Studio ein, um Werke von John Surman – inklusive Ayres’ „Summer Song” – neu einzuspielen. Produziert wurde das Album von Manfred Eicher.
Featured Artists Recorded

July 2017, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date

19.01.2018

  • 1At First Sight
    (John Surman)
    02:32
  • 2Autumn Nocturne
    (John Surman)
    06:50
  • 3Within The Clouds
    (John Surman)
    04:47
  • 4Byndweed
    (John Surman)
    05:09
  • 5On Still Waters
    (John Surman)
    04:41
  • 6Another Reflection
    (John Surman)
    01:31
  • 7The Admiral
    (John Surman)
    05:13
  • 8Pitanga Pitomba
    (John Surman)
    07:02
  • 9Summer Song
    (Nelson Ayres)
    05:19
  • 10Concentric Circles
    (John Surman)
    06:30
  • 11Stoke Damerel
    (John Surman)
    03:34
  • 12Invisible Threads
    (John Surman)
    05:39
Surman’s saxophone – heartfelt, gutsy, poignant, - has voyaged through progressive jazz, classical, ambient and electronica. Yet at the core of the Devon-born musician’s work is a love of English and Celtic folk. That is evident in ‘Invisible Threads’, a suite of 12 self-composed tunes full of sun-dappled pastoral charm. […] No one is grandstanding and no one is fighting for space as the trio create elegant, melodic chamber jazz.
John Bungey, The Times
 
A la tonalité douloureuse et aux songeries sombres des premiers titres se substituent progressivement des émotions plus douces, une complicité souriante qui tend vers davantage de sérénité, de plaisir. Et on s’étonne finalement de découvrir tant de verve et d’enfance inentamées chez ce Britannique de 73 ans qui n’a jamais renoncé à affiner sa sensibilité.
Louis-Julien Nicolaou, Telerama
 
Manches auf ‚Threads‘ erinnert subtil an das Duo aus Gary Burton und Chick Corea, anderes an Wayne Shorters Native Dancer‘ oder das Modern Jazz Quartet. Am Sopran entwickelt der Brite einen starken Vokalcharakter, während der Schilfrohrklang der Bassklarinette, wenngleich in ganz unterschiedlicher Couleur, mit den Marimbas eine Traumehe eingeht.
Karl Lippegaus, Stereo
 
A reminder of the enduring class of eminent reeds-playing British composer John Surman appears this month with ‘Invisible Threads’ – featuring a new trio with Oslo-based US vibraphonist Rob Waring and South American pianist Nelson Ayres in seductive segues of soft Brazilian rhythms, cantering marimba sounds, and the warm-sunset swing of Surman’s smoky baritone sax on the title track.
John Fordham, The Guardian
 
Ayres is unassuming and elegant in a supportive role and has little interest in showing what he’s got, adding colourful nuances to Surman’s gripping sax song-like themes. While Waring’s Marimba creates a rich, deep earthy texture in liaison with Surman’s hauntingly bucolic baritone. Surman shows no signs of coming down from the numerous creative peaks to which he has climbed in the last half century and this is a very worthwhile addition.
Selwyn Harris, Jazzwise
 
The astute English saxophonist John Surman has always had a knack for combining the lyrical and the pastoral, and that’s as true as ever on his lovely new ECM release, ‘Invisible Threads’. The album features two attentive partners — the eminent Brazilian pianist Nelson Ayres and the expatriate American vibraphonist Rob Waring — in a program of new miniatures. The title track is a waltz with a graceful lilt, reminiscent of a lullaby by Gary Burton.
Nate Chinen, WBGO
 
‘Invisible Threads’ finds Surman exploring folk and world music, accompanied by pianist Nelson Ayres and mallet percussionist Rob Waring. The album features Surman's woodwind melodies bouncing atop piano and vibraphone/marimba patterns so smoothly that it becomes almost impossible to tell what is improvised and what is not. Surman's trio is an ensemble of the world, with Ayres hailing from Brazil and Waring from Oslo via New York. Both players are accomplished composers and performers in their own right, and bring unique flavor to Surman's sonic table. […] This band of veteran musicians achieves what it sets out to do on ‘Invisible Threads’, mixing their improvisational skill with the rhythmic intricacies that make the album's songs unique. The trio's light sound never becomes flimsy, each member occupying his varying amount of authority, moment by moment. Surman masterfully leads the group through his exercises in cohesion in the flowing and pulsing music.
Samuel Stroup, All About Jazz
 
Es gibt ja auch bemerkenswerte Trios im aktuellen Jazz, die kein Piano-Trio sind. Zum Beispiel die neue Band des britischen Saxofonisten und Klarinettisten John Surman. Ein Brite also - und ein US-Amerikaner, nämlich Rob Waring, - beide leben schon lange in Norwegen - treffen auf dem Album ‚Invisible Threads‘ auf einen geistesverwandten Musiker der brasilianischen Musikszene: Nelson Ayres hat schon mit prominenten Figuren wie Chico Buarque oder Astrud Gilberto aufgenommen – und auch er ist ein Botschafter der musikalischen Schönheit. Vor allem durch die variantenreich eingesetzten Instrumente wie Sopran-Saxofon, Bassklarinette, Vibraphon und Marimbafon entstehen beim Zusammentreffen dieser drei Musiker Klangfarben, die sehr bezaubernd und herzzerreißend sind. ‚Invisible Threads‘, das neue Album von John Surman, bekommt von mir auf jeden Fall die höchste Punktzahl.
Matthias Wegner, Deutschlandfunk Kultur
 
This absorbing album is another valuable addition to the immensely rich catalogue of recordings going back 50 years, which the great reedman John Surman continues to develop. Here he is featured with pianist Nelson Ayres and vibes player Rob Waring in a distinctly folk-ish collection of compositions, all written by Surman except Summer Song by Ayres. […] Waring and Ayres weave gorgeous patterns around Surman's lines, and though most of the pieces are gently atmospheric, there's also a lively spark in a tango track and in Ayres' Summer Song. A reflective, beautifully crafted album to treasure.
John Watson, Jazz Camera
 
Man vermisst keine Sekunde lang ein Bass/Schlagzeug-Gespann, vielmehr scheinen sich in Anbetracht des konzentrierten und zumeist luftig-leichten Musizierens die zwölf großteils von Surman eigens für dieses Projekt geschriebenen Kompositionen zu einer Suite aneinanderzureihen. Die drei exzellenten Musiker agieren wie äußerst geschmackssichere Maler, die mit feinen Pinseln und delikaten Farben gemeinsam an wunderbaren Stimmungsbildern malen, die stets höchsten ästhetischen Ansprüchen genügen, aber dennoch immer auch erdverbunden und emotional ansprechend sind.
Peter Füßl, Kultur
 
Mit seinem neuen Album ‚Invisible Threads‘ stellt der 73-jährige Brite John Surman ein neues Trio vor, das in seinem Zusammenkommen und auch in der Instrumentierung ungewöhnlich ist: Zum Trio gehören der brasilianische Pianist Nelson Ayres und der US-Amerikaner Rob Waring am Vibraphon und der Marimba. Letzterer lebt, wie Surman, in Norwegen. Der Brasilianer kommt kurz vor der Aufnahme dazu. Nach nur fünf Tagen geht das Trio zur Aufnahme ins Osloer Rainbow Studio und produziert ohne Rhythmusgruppe ein ganz besonderes Album, ja: ein Juwel an fokussierter Musik. […] Ayres und Waring, selber herausragende Musiker und Komponisten, gelingt es, mit ‚Invisible Threads‘ im Trialog mit Surman eine Musik zu kreieren, die bei leicht pulsierendem Rhythmus verschiedene Motive zu einem eigenen musikalischen Geflecht verbindet, oder, um beim Album-Titel zu bleiben, gemeinsam einen unsichtbaren roten Faden spinnt. Sehr relaxed, mit einer Portion (Alters-)Humor entsteht eine ruhige, introvertierte Musik, die zum Inne-Halten geradezu auffordert, die ihre Kantilenen aus einer imaginären Folklore schöpft und sich dabei bis an die Grenze zur Gefälligkeit traut. Herausragend!
Heinrich Brinkmöller-Becker, Nrwjazz.net
 
Aus sehr unterschiedlichen Richtungen kommen, stellt improvisierte Musik hier eine Schnittmenge dar, in der Latin, Contemporary Jazz, balinesische Gamelanmusik und zeitgenössische Klassik unaufgeregt sublimiert werden.
Harry Schmidt, Jazzthetik
 
Haunting compositions played with grace, and ostinatos interwoven with fleeting melodies that sometimes dance, soothe or evoke n ethereal mood. His plaintive soprano sax enhances the delicate beauty of several tunes.
Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine
 
‘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 […] 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.
Michael Toland, Blurt
 
His music has seldom sounded more purposefully beautiful than it does throughout ‘Invisible Threads’. […] Surman is a natural melodist and his themes have an unforced gracefulness that is immediately engaging.
Julian Cowley, The Wire
 
Three distinctly different voices, from different cultural and musical backgrounds, superbly brought together by Surman's wonderful compositions (the only exception is 'Summer Song' written by Nelson Ayres) and woven into an ensemble that is fully of joy and melodies that are fresh and invigorating. Surman's soprano dances over the wonderfully titled 'Pitanga Pitomba', and the sonorous bass clarinet that opens up 'Within The Clouds'. […] A couple of reviews published this month make references, even this early into 2018, about possible candidates for selection in Albums of the Year feature, and it must be said that ‘Invisible Threads’ is makes a strong case for being included in  this list.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views
 
On ‘Invisible Threads’ he’s joined by pianist Nelson Ayrres and vibraphonist/marimbist Rob Waring, a unique pairing of chordal instruments that adds fathomless nuance and depth to Surman’s originals. Melody – uncomplicated and uninhibited – always has been chief among Surman’s compositional priorities, which is why the songs on ‘Invisible Threads’ ring with such ungarded emotion and pristine simplicity. […] ‘Invisible Threads’ is an exceptional addition to Surman’s discography, balancing both the heft of a concept album and the levity of a folk revue. The saxophonist’s ability to create such lush landscapes from delicate, minimal parts never ceases to amaze.
Brian Zimmerman, Downbeat
The great British saxophonist and clarinettist John Surman introduces a fascinating new trio with Brazilian pianist Nelson Ayres and US vibraphonist Rob Waring, and a programme of engaging compositions whose evocative themes invite subtle instrumental interaction.
The story of the project really begins a decade ago, when Surman was playing with Jack DeJohnette’s Ripple Effect group. The rapport between Surman and singer Marlui Miranda in that ensemble led to an invitation to visit her Brazilian homeland, and to participate in a recording inspired by the songs of the Juruna people of the Amazon Basin. Out of this collaboration came the first meetings with pianist Nelson Ayres.
 
Ayres is highly regarded in Brazil as an arranger, composer and soloist, and he has worked with Airto Moreira, Milton Nascimento, Chico Buarque, César Camargo Mariano, Astrud Gilberto amongst many others, as well as visitors from Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Carter to Anat Cohen. Ayres led his own big band through the 1970s and into the 1980s, and in the early 1990s became conductor and artistic director of the Orquestra Jazz Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo, bringing a Brazilian orchestral aesthetic to bear on contemporary music, often with jazz soloists. He is perhaps best known for his work with the group Pau Brasil.
 
The experience of playing together, both live and on Marlui Miranda’s album Fala de Bicho, Fala de Gente, left both Surman and Ayres with a wish to do more, and John began drafting material, initially for a duo album. “But almost as soon as I began writing I was hearing a third musical voice in my mind.” That third voice was to be Rob Waring, the New York born mallet percussionist who, like Surman himself, is now a resident of Norway.
 
Last heard on ECM with Mats Eilertsen on the album Rubicon, Rob Waring has been based in Oslo since 1981. His work spans a broad spectrum of musical approaches and styles. He studied classical percussion at the Juilliard School, and has played jazz improvised music in many forms. In 2002 he studied music in Bali, an experience which has been source of inspiration for his own music. Waring was a member of the experimental jazz band Søyr from 1986 to 2006 and has performed and recorded with David Friedman, Jon Eberson, Misha Alperin and many others, and composed commissioned works for soloists, chamber ensembles, jazz groups and choirs, as well as electroacoustic music.
 
With his contributing musicians living 10,000 kilometres apart, Surman had little opportunity to road-test his new material: “Nelson and I managed to meet up in São Paulo for a couple of days to try out a few ideas and I later played through some of these ideas with Rob in Oslo.
Eventually, a few days before the recording session, Nelson arrived in Oslo and we played together as a trio for the first time. Happily we all felt comfortable playing as a trio immediately - perhaps because we share a wide range of musical interests. Although we all have a background in jazz improvisation, Nelson brings with him a wealth of experience performing Brazilian instrumental music, whilst Rob's work as a classical percussionist and his interest in a broad scope of contemporary music adds yet another colour."
 
Almost all the pieces were created for this album, although “Stoke Damerel”, named for the Plymouth parish where Surman once lived, was in the concert repertoire of John’s duo with organist Howard Moody (the duo can be heard on the album Rain On The Window.) Two pieces emerged in the course of the session: “After we’d finished playing the tune called ‘Byndweed’, there was a feeling that there was something more to be explored in its harmonic content. We were looking at that, and Manfred suggested we make some sort of chorale out its harmonies. So the piece which is called ‘At First Sight’ grew out of that idea, and so did ‘Another Reflection’…”
 
Invisible Threads was recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in July 2017 and produced by Manfred Eicher. Plans for a 2018 European tour by John Surman, Nelson Ayres and Rob Waring are currently being finalised.
YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
2024 April 17 G-Livelab Helsinki, Finland
2024 April 18 G-Livelab Tampere, Finland
2024 May 07 MaiJazz Stavanger, Norway
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