John Surman / Westbrook: Untitled (John Hassell 1965)

I found this LP a few years ago and at the time did upload a pic and sound clip to the board in the hope someone might be able to shed some light on it and did a bunch of other attempts to discover more. Since then, attempting to gain further information on the recording ground to a halt. That is until recently when I was digging through a copy of jazz journal ( 25 / 9 Sept 1972) Which made mention of the recording (you can have a read of this snippet of info below).

There are some faults that can instantly be picked in this info: A) in 1956 John Surman was 12 years old (I think it may be a typo. ‘65 certainly sounds right). B) The cut Blues De Camera is credited to Surman but on the record I have this cut is credited to Westbrook. Both Surman and Westbrook are westcountry lads and both attended the jazz club at Plymouth arts centre where some if not this entire 3 track LP was possibly recorded. I know of no other copy of this LP, and I’d love for it to receive a new lease of life and a nice pressing. I hope this can, at some point happen. For me at least this is some of the best material I’ve heard from either artist. In the mean time I’ve recorded a snippet of the Westbrook cut Blues De Camera. Apologies for cutting it short (Hope you understand). In total the LP runs for 46 odd minutes.

“Blues De Camera”

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  • I believe he was from my hometown of Rochester, NY and part of a jazz band that did some records on Chrysalis back in the 80s. If only I could remember the name. Sorry. Maybe a Chrysalis discography? It was a one word name. I’ll look and see.

  • okay, I think I have it. The Name of the band was AURACLE
    and if I’m right, they did at least two LP for Chrysalis that I could find:
    ‘Glider’ 1977 CHR 1172
    ‘City Slicker’ 1979 CHR 1210

    I remember picking them up because there was a Rochester connection; if I had to guess, perhaps John Surman was an Eastman School of Music Graduate. They were and still are known for cranking out some cracking jazz musicians as well as classical players.
    I vaguely remember hearing one of these LPs and liking it well enough to pick up a second (don’t recall which) and playing them a bit in the club where I was a DJ.I believe they were pretty progressive jazz-fusion (perhaps like Steps Ahead?), which certainly made them fairly unique on Chrysalis. We had live acts of all genres and I played before, between sets and til closing 6 nights a week. I also worked in a New & Used Record Store as aa buyer and had a lot of access to ‘used’ promos and free ones, too, which is where I no doubt picked them up.

    I really hope that this is the guy. I’m thinking a keyboard player, but might have played a horn (Trumpet or sax) also.
    Let me know if this helps, wontcha? I’m on Facebook, too under my given name. Cheers.

  • I could be TOTALLY wrong about Surman being the Rochester connection…BUT I DO think this was the band he was in AND the Chysalis UK connection makes sense, probably more sense than my 30+ year old hazy memories. Again, let me know.

  • I know John Hassell and his family very well. they recorded in John’s old house on nassau rd in london. he is survived by his two daughters. i have been in the very recording studio where this album was created. John and his wife, Felecity did a lot of pioneer work in ‘dub’ and raggae…circa late 60’s and in to the 70’s. i am still in touch with the youngest of the two daughters. if you would like, i can, with her permission, bring you both together.

  • Duncan that would be great, it’s a wonderful recording and I’d love to learn more about John Hassell and his involvement. Many thanks in advance – Please PM

  • From the Galata Bridge Surman discography:

    John Surman – private lp
    Recorded 1 September 1965, Plymouth
    John Surman, soprano and baritone saxophones; Mike Westbrook, piano; Ken Foster, bass; Stuart Hutchinson, drums (1); Gordon Clarke, drums (2,3); Penny Weekes, percussion (2)

    Blues de Camera (Surman) private pressing
    A Night In Tunisia (Gillespie)
    The Furore (Surman)

    This information comes from a note in Jazz Journal 25/9 (September 1972) by John Voder, which details the album as ‘a private album recorded in Plymouth, September 1, 1956. Probably only 20-30 copies were pressed’. In 1956 Surman was 12, and 1965 or 1966 are surely the correct dates. No copy of this recording is known to exist (although John Surman may have it of course).

    Rarer than a clean Hum Dono!

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