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

Bill Frisell: Valentine

Recorded at the culmination of over two years touring, Valentine presents Bill Frisell’s trio with Thomas Morgan on bass and...
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

Patty McGovern: The muse never stops singing

The demise of big bands in the 40s gave way to the 50s era of the solo vocalist. Mostly women, a few like Ella,...
Advertisement

Blues People

I don’t think anyone would disagree with David Freeman’s claim in his book that the blues changed the world. It is much more than...
Advertisement

Ronnie’s: Ronnie Scott and His World-Famous Jazz Club

Ronnie Scott was, as someone once put it, a very interesting bunch of guys and Oliver Murray has got together a very interesting bunch...
Advertisement

JJ 01/61: In My Opinion – Humphrey Lyttelton

This is one of a series of taped interviews with musicians, who are asked to give a snap opinion on a set of records...