Advertisement
Advertisement

JJ 08/70: John Stevens – Spontaneous Music Ensemble

Fifty years ago Graham Boatfield, ready to dismiss John Stevens' SME as rubbish, realised "it needed very careful attention". First published in Jazz Journal August 1970

The producer of this musical experience considers that all it requires is an open mind. I think it requires the same capacity for appreciation as those who sit and listen to Aeolian harps, or sea-watchers. It is tuneful, rambling, unorganised, intense, obviously passionate.

My first thought was ‘neatly packaged rubbish’. But most musical rubbish belonging to today is pretentious and surrounded like a cocoon by the outpourings of verbalisers. This is not pretentious, although Mr. Gomelsky’s few words on the album sleeve could with advantage be deleted.

Advertisement

Nor is ‘rubbish’ normally associated with the work of Kenny Wheeler, whose horn here sounds sad and enormous like the little-mad-bull blarings of a younger Miles Davis at his bluesey best.

I don’t know what to make of it. But from getting ready for a quick listen and a rapid consignment of this record elsewhere l real­ised it needed very careful attention. Unlike some fashionable, and often ill-mannered, bits of musical self-expression this is at times magical, introvert, and entirely self-contained.

The duet between Maggie Nichols’ husky, abstracted voice and Trevor Watts’ fluid, yelping alto in ‘Oliv II’ is memorable, music for a secret dream. Or, if you insist, non­sense; but that opinion, while tenable, is one I reject.

Self-contained is the operative phrase. What goes on here is a private pleasure, a musical back-water. This is no new thing, no way forward. Like the work of Moondog, it is for a few addicts. The rest should disregard it.

Discography
(a) Oliv One (18 min) – (b) Oliv Two (16 min)
(a) Kenny Wheeler (flg-h); Trevor Watts (alt): Derek Bailey (el-gtr); Peter Lemer (pno); John Dyani (bs); John Stevens (perc/glockenspiel); Maggie Nichols, Carolann Nicholls, Pepi Lemer (vcl).
(b) Trevor Watts (alt); John Dyani (bs); John Stevens (perc/glockenspiel); Maggie Nichols (vcl).
(Polydor Standard 2384.009 29s 10d)

Latest audio reviews

Advertisement

More from this author

Advertisement

Jazz Journal articles by month

Advertisement

Russ Lossing: Changes

Here’s some nourishing refreshment, and it comes from a piano, bass and drums trio which, while working broadly within a continuum defined by Paul...
Advertisement

Alt. takes 02/19

You know that thing when your desk gets so cluttered that if you slide something more onto the front something falls off the back...
Advertisement

Chris Spedding: living life backwards /2

Shortly after the release of Mantle Piece, Chris Spedding was approached by trumpeter Ian Carr to join jazz/rock combo Nucleus. The band was completed...
Advertisement

Rabbit’s Blues – The Life And Music Of Johnny Hodges

Johnny Hodges died in 1970, nearly half a century ago and it’s rather amazing that until now there has been no book devoted entirely...
Advertisement

Modern Jazz Quartet: Live

The glut of plastic that is choking the oceans of the world is entirely due to the surfeit of CDs and DVDs by the...
Advertisement

JJ 03/59: Duke Ellington – Newport 1958

Here are many of the numbers that Duke featured on his recent visit, now released here for the first time. The whole constitutes the...