JJ 10/73: Spontaneous Music Ensemble – So, What Do You Think?

Long before three-minute culture took hold, Martin Davidson praised John Stevens' half-hour improvisations for avoiding boring accessibility. First published in Jazz Journal October 1973

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So, what do I think? I think that this is a magnificent example of group music played by five of the best perfor­mers of that idiom. It is further proof that John Stevens’ concept, of every in­strument (or voice in other instances) having an equal role in relating to each other, is one of the most viable of the new musics.

However, it is not always the easiest music for the listener to get into. For instance, after Stevens’ written arrange­ment, which lasts a grand total of seven seconds, the whole of side one consists of a continuous group improvisation without any of the traditional landmarks that were hitherto associated with jazz. But, with each subsequent listening one does find more and more incidental landmarks and more and more amazing events in this extended five-way con­versation (unlike so many records on which everything can be found in one boring sitting).

Side two has more ob­vious variety with three distinctive, agit­ated conversations separated by a guitar/bass duo and a drum solo, and encased by two beautifully serene pass­ages. Once again, this side extrudes more joy with each further listening, even though it is possibly easier to get into.

The only reservation about the music is that Dave Holland sometimes sounds rather contrived, which is not very surprising when one considers that he had already spent a couple of years with Miles Davis and Chick Corea. For the other four musicians there can be noth­ing but the highest praise. Undoubtedly, this will be one of the records of the year. I wonder how many of the Record of the Year selectors will bother to listen to it, though.


Discography
So, What Do You Think? – Part 1 (26¼ min) – So, What Do You Think? – Part 2 (23¼ min)
Kenny Wheeler (tpt/flg-hn); Trevor Watts (sop); Derek Bailey (gtr); Dave Holland (cello/bs); John Stevens (dm). London, 27/1/71.
(Tangent TGS 118 £1.82)