JJ 08/83: Miroslav Vitous – Journey’s End

Forty years ago, Simon Adams recognised the bassist as a master of musical exploration but thought sideman John Surman went even further. First published in Jazz Journal August 1983

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Using essentially the same group as its two ECM predecessors, this album develops and expands the musical terrain already mapped out. Vitous’s tendency towards intro­spection is apparent on all the tracks, and sets the tone for the whole album, but repeated listenings reveal a far wider range of emotions. The clear melodic delineation and juxtaposition of each clear instrument, the subtle harmonic structure, the clarity and precision of recording, and above all the performances of each member of the quartet render this album truly sublime in its overall impact.

Vitous has been criticised for being unadventurous, but while superficially the music might appear simple, the very simplicity gives each musician space to breathe, to explore each piece to its full. In this exploration Vitous is of course a master, but it is Surman who most responds to the challenge, and his playing here is quite simply superb. Tess, his own composition, finds him exploring an essentially wistful theme with an increasing confidence that transforms an initially mel­ancholic piece into something al­together more powerful. Likewise his clarinet playing on the opening track defines the whole piece, and makes of a potentially disparate piece a seamless whole.

So much more could be said about each player, their individual techniques and performances, but that would be to detract from the essential fact that this is a collab­orative album of rare quality, that truly does rise above four individual talents to create a collective triumph.

Discography
U Dunaje U Préspurka; Tess; Carry On No. 1 (20.24) – Paragraph Jay; Only One; Windfall (79.47)
Miroslav Vitous (b); John Surman (sps/bs/bcl); John Taylor (p); Jon Christensen (d). Oslo, July 1982.
(ECM 1242)