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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: New Surfacing 1978 & 1992

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This album offers a snapshot of the post-1976 version of the legendary free-jazz improvisational unit, Spontaneous Music Ensemble's (SME) reign as a quartet. Two thirds of the material is derived from performances by the guitar-violin-percussion rendition, captured at a 1978 concert in Newcastle, England. It was previously released on Trio & Triangle (Emanem, 1978) but the recording quality was less than desirable, emanating as it did from a cassette tape. Producer Martin Davidson cleaned it up, yet eventually tracked down the master copy on reel-to-reel, marking a significant audio improvement evidenced on this release. The third piece, “Complete Surfaces," was ...

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Contrasting Faces of Spontaneous Music Ensemble

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For years, the Emanem label has had so many releases by Spontaneous Music Ensemble in its catalogue that it has become the de facto guardian of the SME legacy, the keeper of the flame. Although there have been excellent SME recordings on other labels--Karyobin (Island, 1968; Chronoscope, 1993) and Spontaneous Music Ensemble (Marmalade, 1969; Polydor, 1972) spring to mind--no other label's SME releases match the breadth, depth, richness and variety of those on Emanem. As well as seeking out unreleased SME recordings and getting them fit for release, Emanem proprietor Martin Davidson is continually finding ways to improve ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Spontaneous Music Ensemble & Orchestra: Trio & Triangle

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Given the quantity of SME music released by Emanem, cynics might be thinking that quality control must have slipped, that the barrel is being scraped. Miraculously, nothing could be further from the truth. Each new release adds to the body of work available, shedding further light on the exploits of John Stevens' multifaceted ensemble, and putting the whole into sharper perspective. Trio & Triangle is no exception, matching the high standard set by other recent SME releases.

The first three tracks here were recorded in 1981, and released on LP as SME + SMO In Concert (SFA, 1982). The trio ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Bare Essentials 1972-3

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John Stevens and Trevor Watts are vitally important in the history of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (and so of improvised music) but the only previous album of the duo alone is Face to Face (Emanem, 1974). From 1968 to 1976 the two often were the SME. But when recording opportunities came up, Stevens usually opted for an expanded version rather than this minimal version. However, from 1970 onwards, Watts recorded SME performances onto cassette tapes. This release comes from his tape archive, and dates from 1972 and 1973--a treasure trove of previously unreleased music. (Incidentally, the tapes have cleaned up ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Frameworks

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All of the freely improvised music collected here is previously unissued and, to the best of my knowledge, only the duo of percussionist John Stevens and reed player Trevor Watts has been extensively documented on record before now, notably on Face To Face (Emanem, 1973). The duo is featured on “Flower here. The piece was recorded in the same period as the music on Face to Face and it's in the same austere and minimal vein.

The thirty minutes plus of “Familie Sequence is, however, another matter entirely. Part of its duration is an example of the “Sustained Piece a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Quintessence

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After releasing this music on two LPs and then on two CDs, Emanem now re-release it on a double CD. In the process, the performances are put into a more sensible order. The vast bulk of their 1974 ICA concert (seventy-five out of the eight-five minutes) is now together on one CD. This concert featured the “superstar" line-up of John Stevens, Evan Parker, Trevor Watts, Derek Bailey and Kent Carter, not the usual SME line up of the time. “Forty Minutes" is frequently cited as one of the best free improvised group performances ever, and it is not ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Frameworks

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Increasingly, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble recordings released on Emanem (which now number ten CDs, not including Spontaneous Music Orchestra releases) resemble the pieces of a large and intricate jigsaw puzzle. The recordings span some twenty-eight years, at least twenty-five recording occasions ("sessions not being the appropriate word) and numerous line-ups--John Stevens being the only ever-present participant.

Despite this proliferation, each new release brings fresh insights into this vital and pioneering group. This CD adds three more key pieces to the jigsaw, its tracks dating from 1968, 1971 and 1973. The first two tracks are from the (relatively undocumented) period in ...



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