Calling All Agents


Stu Martin and John Surman
Live At Woodstock Town Hall
Pye : 1976

SM, electronics, drums, percussion; JS, saxophone.

You’re fiddling with the dial but it’s mostly static. Then, finally, you start to douse some voices out of the ether. You find yourself dropped into the middle of a conversation, several men talking in clipped codes, urgent warnings, nonsensical directives. You aren’t told about the fog and shadows surrounding these men, but you can imagine it clearly enough. One of the men identifies himself: “Harry Lovett, man without a country.” And then a few ominous notes sound from the radio and silence. The program is over, for another week at least.

Featured on the first Jazz Satellites collection, “Harry Lovett” is a strange sort of Kozmigroov track. The throbbing electronic pulse is surprisingly brutal and menacing, very proto-industrial. Martin’s drumming splits the difference between funk and clatter, while Surman’s fleet sax expertly surfs the various sine waves. Clocking in under five minutes, it’s also pretty fetching in its fashion, perhaps the very theme song to the mysterious radio serial these tunes were created to accompany.

“Master of Disaster” ups the ante, adding a steamrolling electro-pulse and some remarkably distorted and processed saxophone that wouldn’t sound out of place on, say, Dark Magus. It’s a ferocious racket, and anyone only familiar with Surman’s more recent pastorale ECM fare will probably do a spit-take on first listen. Early Cabaret Voltaire fans, however, will find much to cheer. The vibe of the tune continues the feel of our radio serial, conjuring another episode of spies come in from the cold only to find there is nothing left that can even be called home.

Category John Surman, Stu Martin