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

John Law’s Congregation: Configuration

Collective nouns for birds are both wonderful and weird at the same time – a siege of bitterns, a prayer or pantheon of godwits,...
Advertisement

Obituary: Norman Simmons

Highly respected, especially by singers, throughout a long and fruitful career Norman Simmons was active as performer, composer, arranger and educator. He was born...
Advertisement

Don Joseph, jazz poet /3

In 1954 Joseph recorded four titles with Art Mardigan’s sextet along with some other Open Door regulars plus trombonist Milt Gold, who was with...
Advertisement

Sittin’ In – Jazz Clubs Of The 1940s And 1950s

This is a handsomely produced, sturdily made book with the unusual dimensions of eight inches high by nine and a half wide. Its genesis...
Advertisement

Green Book

Fifty-six years after LBJ officially ended racial discrimination in the USA with the pen-stroke that signed the Civil Rights Act, the years immediately preceding...
Advertisement

JJ 04/70: The Problem of Pop, by Richard ‘Dig’ Fairweather

'Humphrey Lyttelton’s famous "I ask myself if I want the New Statesman – breathing hotly down my neck every time I lift up the trumpet to blow?" (The Second Chorus, MacGibbon & Kee, 1958) foresaw the days, now with us, when jazz has been dragged from pit to respectability, com­plete with Arts Council Grants and unlimited space in the Sunday press'