Steve Tromans & Mark Sanders
Mountains, Meditations, Murmurations
Discus 157CD
Available formats: CD/DL


“Absolutely a meeting-of-minds. Practically tailor made for all the Freeness listeners among marlbank readers.” – MARLBANK

“The unity and continuity is part of the brilliance, and from passages that dance, to those that go to a quiet place and ponder, the journey is stimulating. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!” – Lee Henderson BIG BEAUTIFUL NOISE

“There is a lightheartedness that shines through and it is that stretch across emotions that really gives the album its subtle power. One for any time of the day or night.” – Mr Olivetti, FREQ


Steve Tromans – piano
Mark Sanders – drums and percussion

Two mountains, three meditations, and three murmurations, interwoven in dynamic duo performance, presented in order of emergence at the time of the music’s making. Tromans and Sanders have worked together on a number of projects in the last decade, including Tromans’ Birmingham-Chicago Improvisers’ Ensemble (as featured on BBC Radio 3) and Sid Peacock’s acclaimed Surge Orchestra, but this is the first time they have recorded together in a duo setting. The session was suggested by Sanders in early 2022 and realised later that year at Birmingham’s Sansom Studios.

The emergent structure of the pieces suggested the titles and themes of the release. Three contrasting approaches to structuring music meet in the 8 tracks of an album. The mountains are stoic, grounded in the earthly elements of their own becoming; the meditations are ephemeral as midnight moonlight on rippling water reflected in the eye of another; the murmurations, fleet and mercurial, spelling mutating shapes in a vast blue sky of musical imagination of piano and percussion.

Mountains, Meditations, Murmurations has been made possible with the support of Tony Dudley-Evans (TDE Promotions) and Fizzle Birmingham.


I first saw drummer Mark Sanders “live” with various Evan Parker projects back in the mid to late 80s and was immediately impressed with his combination of power and precision and the way he achieved a multiplicity of textures and effects with, often, a kit that was as basic and economical as John Stevens’s. He can also be an extremely subtle and responsive player, a characteristic on display through much of this project with Tromans, a musician and composer with a wide range of interests from Charles Ives to Frank Zappa. This is not the first time Tromans and Sanders have worked together and their improvisations here often suggest that they are inside each other’s heads, so intuitive and instinctive is their interaction. But then that’s just what such excellent improvisers do. For me the highlight is the 12½ minute Golden Mountain, a beautiful piece with echoes of traditional Japanese music, where Tromans produces some of his most delicate and beguiling work, but all the tracks command proper attention. The Murmurations are generally the most turbulent and ominous pieces, whilst the Meditations are more reflective, as you might expect. Silver Mountain is even more meditative and tender to begin with but gradually builds to a more intense climax, yet still never abandons control and restraint. It’s one of those sets where each hearing reveals more elusive details. – Barry Witherden, JAZZ JOURNAL

UK improvisers pianist Steve Tromans and drummer Mark Sanders recording here together as a duo for the first time – the recording was made in Birmingham’s Sansom Studios last year. Often serene and certainly thoughtful avantist Tromans can be rhapsodic while Sanders is a careful listening presence in response, his approach sometimes sparking thoughts of Sunny Murray in terms of sheer expansiveness and coiled power. Often hush laden and introspective the major extended piece is ‘Golden Mountain,’ much longer than the rest but it’s an album where little moments count and hook you in. Certainly the pair follow a mindful approach that often reaches a sort of logical conclusion. And it’s a soothing recording although sometimes you think Mountains, Meditations, Murmurations is only the start of a journey that might be developed productively on a further recording. Pick of the pieces is the shattering excursions Tromans builds on ‘Third Murmuration’ that contrast with the aching tenderness he finds at the beginning of the second of the three murmuration pieces. Sanders’ cymbal dints and dings on ‘Silver Mountain’ are a good place to zone in to explore how his often minimalist touches do so much to add a more panoramic sense to the whole feel of what is absolutely a meeting-of-minds. Practically tailor made for all the Freeness listeners among marlbank readers. – MARLBANK

In my eyes (and especially my ears) I am always highly impressed when an album (even a song) is noted to be ‘Free Improvisation’ yet sounds so precise and wonderful you take it in as if it was all composed and fully planned. This is one such release. First of all it speaks loudly about the long and varied experience of all the musicians at hand, and then it rates high on the skill level of these artists. The ability to instantly grab dozens of ideas coming out into the ether, all players hearing the subtle change or single note (s) that move or push the piece in another direction, perhaps even escalate the music to another region from where it began. For lesser musicians, anything on this order would be tough to get through, but on ‘Mountains, Meditations, Murmurations’ the pleasure center is fully touched (even massaged). What a wide open first track that brings on the golden years (mid 1970’s) of ECM, and forgive me to all the unaware, but parts reminds of a more developed Shadowfax (if you have not heard their debut then do not judge this statement) off the ‘Watercourse Way’ (back in 1976 on the Passport label) where no signs of the ‘New Age’ tag were present, that this American progressive rock jazz fusion band got sucked into after this first release. In short, the works on this beautiful and stunning Steve Tromans & Mark Sanders duo is absolutely perfect. If Rainer Brüninghaus and Jon Christensen had put out a duo, this very well might have sounded as fine. And spots of Oregon and other ECM acts with John Taylor (piano) could be brought up. Just references mind you. The fluidity and meticulous performance of these two masters is beyond reproach to say the least. Tromans (piano) has a library list several miles long stretching from working with Elton Dean, Evan Parker, and Paul Dunmall (so many more), and same goes for Sanders (drums and percussion) who also worked with Elton Dean and has a varied project resume with folks like Jah Wobble and dozens of other notable musical gurus. It should be noted that these two have previously worked together on a few projects including Tromans’ Birmingham-Chicago Improvisers’ Ensemble and Sid Peacock’s Surge Orchestra. The wide scope of atmospheres and landscapes is nearly unbelievable. The divided (but so wonderfully arranged in a seamless order) pieces of Mountains, Meditations, and Murmurations could not have been improved upon by any stretch of the imagination. To top off the package (the physical CD of course) the artwork inside and out (a gatefold digipak and also a picture disc) is presented by the fantastic Greek artist Silena Lena called ‘City Lights In The Liquid Town’. Much appreciation for Martin Archer who continues to package the Discus label CD releases in the clean plastic sleeve (the discs) and beautiful art. And most of all, the high quality music that has always been released on his label. ‘Mountains, Meditations, Murmurations’ will turn heads and give older ECM lovers something to reflect about, as well as the mixture of the more subtle and contrasting lauded moments. The extraordinary result is what perks up the listeners ears from the first seconds to the end. The unity and continuity is part of the brilliance, and from passages that dance, to those that go to a quiet place and ponder, the journey is stimulating. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!. – Lee Henderson BIG BEAUTIFUL NOISE

Da kommt einer daher und gibt Leibniz’ bester aller möglichen Welten und Inbegriff alles ‘Kompossiblen’ mit etwas Deleuze und etwas Musik einen ‘inkompossiblen’ Dreh ins Multi¬verse. Als ‘Garden of the Incompossible’, aus dem Adam und Eva nicht vertrieben werden, egal ob sie den Apfel essen oder nicht. Auch und insbesondere ‘imkompossible’ Konzepte zeitigen etwas extraordinär Neues – so wie Derek Bailey & DJ Ninj auf „Guitar, Drums ‘n’ Bass“. Der so denkt, der auch denkt, dass there is philosophy in the notes of the piano, and there is music in the words, ist Dr. STEVE TROMANS, Jazzpianist, Spielgefährte von Mike Green, Paul Dunmall, von Mark Hanslip in Ed Gauden’s Crux. Und praktizierender Musik-Philosoph in Birmingham, wo ihn Mountains, Meditations, Murmurations (Discus 157CD) im Spiel mit dem Drummer MARK SANDERS zeigt. Als Demonstration der magi¬schen Bedeutung der 3: 3 Starenschwärme aus quecksilbrig schwärmenden Tönen, 3 Me¬ditationen, bei denen Töne präpariert plonken und von Tasten, Saiten und Metallscheiben blinken wie Mondlicht, das im Wasser funkelt. Dazwischen ein Berg aus Gold, ein Berg aus Silber, Quell silbriger Wildbäche, goldener Ströme. Pure Mystik, und Sanders dabei ein Ausbund handfester Leichthändigkeit. – Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY[BA 121 rbd]

L ’album mélange 2 montagnes (une en or, l’autre en argent), 3 méditations et 3 murmurations, comme si on avait mélangé 2 suites et 2 poèmes symphoniques en fonction de l’humeur du moment, tout en assurant la cohérence de cet album de jazz où on assiste, à plusieurs moments, à une avalanche de sons. – Guy Stuckens, RADIO AIR LIBRE

There is a meditative quality to the recent collaboration between pianist Steve Tromans and percussionist Mark Sanders that allows its gentle insinuations to permeate the psyche. Thoughtful minor key repetition is allied to rolling percussion, a background rush that evokes cars passing on wet streets. It is no surprise that the first four pieces are titled “Murmurations” and “Meditations”, the minimalist scene setting of the two finds the insistence of the piano notes needled by the prodding of drums that bubble and turn with constant presence. Some of it is so gentle that you have to lean into the speakers to make out the softly falling tones as cymbals flash like temple bells. There is also melancholy here, but the sort that warms the stomach, an early morning suggestion that gathers momentum as birds gather and cajole, the swaying motion palpable as you lay on your back allowing the spectacle to unfold and then dissipate as the days crawls onward. Barely above a whisper in places, the rustle and whine of the cymbals reflecting the percussive nature of the piano as insides are stroked and teased, a rhythmic patter eked out. As the album progresses, so the reflective spaces fill, as much a meditation as before but building into something stronger, tempos more insistent. There is a curiously far Eastern echo, the drums as spare as possible but exactly right, the piano at times driving a triplet home, pushing it onto the listener, a twin-pronged seduction that works even when taking an inprov tumble, scattering noes to the four winds. There is a lightheartedness that shines through and it is that stretch across emotions that really gives the album its subtle power. One for any time of the day or night. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ

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