Surman, John Douglas (b. 30th August 1944, Tavistock, Devon). Began playing jazz locally; invited to join ensemble led by pianist and arranger Mike Westbrook; studied music at London College of Music; active in London freelance scene; first recording with pianist Peter Lemer, Local Colour; by now featured soloist in Mike Westbrook’s Concert Band appearing on Celebration (1967); Release (1968); Marching Song (1969) and Citadel/Room 315 (1975), the latter written especially to feature his playing; member of Ronnie Scott’s large ensemble on Ronnie Scott & The Band (1968), Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath Septet (1969) and Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath (1970); John McLaughlin’s Extrapolation (1969), Mike Gibbs’ Mike Gibbs (1970) and Tanglewood ’63 (1971); Alexis Korner Both Sides (1970); debut as leader in own right John Surman (1968), How Many Clouds Can You See? (1969); Tales of the Algonquin (1971).
In 2011, a CD of a Surman ten piece band (including Kenny Wheeler, Mike Osborne, Alan Skidmore, Ronnie Scott, Malcolm Griffiths amongst others) recorded for a telecast by the German broadcaster NDR was released as John Surman NDR ’69. Trio with Barre Phillips (b) and Stu Martin (d) The Trio and Conflagration (both 1970); 1972 formed S.O.S. with Alan Skidmore (ts) and Mike Osborne (as) Shapes (1972), Looking for the Next One (1974) and SOS (1975); began to feel less fulfilled with free jazz — “I’d run into a brick wall” he said later, “playing and playing and playing and then a block. I just wanted to hear some clear triadic harmony and then did Westering Home” — Westering Home (1972), his first solo album using synths and overdubbing, reflected his West Country origins; from 1979’s Upon Reflection Surman began a lasting association with the Munich based ECM label where much of his finest work is to be found, including The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon with Jack DeJohnette (1981); Such Winters of Memory (1982); Withholding Pattern (1985); Road to St. Ives (1990); The Brass Project that reunited him with Canadian John Warren, who had arranged Tales of the Algonquin; A Biography of the Rev. Absalom Dawe (1995); Brewster’s Rooster (2009); Saltash Bells (2012).
In addition he has recorded prolifically with other leaders including Miroslav Vitous First Meeting (1980), Miroslave Vitous Group 1981); Journey’s End (1983); four albums under his wife Karin Krog’s name including Bluesand which was the recipient of a Spellemannprisen in 1999; with Anouar Brahem and Dave Holland Thimar (1998); with Tomasz Stanko From the Green Hill (2000).
In 2014, Surman celebrated his 70th birthday with a series of concerts including concerts in Europe with his son Ben Surman and wife singer Karin Krog; with the Bergen Big Band in Norway, the Dowland Project in Germany and in Sao Paulo, Brazil, while the London Jazz Festival presented a series of events in his honour.