All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

292

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: A New Distance

John Eyles By

Sign in to view read count
We all owe great thanks to Emanem, without whom there would be very little music available by the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. The archive of SME recordings on the label now numbers twelve, ranging from Challenge, recorded in 1966-7, when free improvisation was in its infancy, through to these recordings from 1993-4, not long before John Stevens' premature death in September 1994. In the intervening years, SME personnel changed many times, with Stevens being the only constant member, but its working methods and ideology remained focussed, thanks to Stevens clarity of purpose. Despite his central role, he was not the leader, that idea would have been met with scorn; SME was always a democracy.

Poignantly, this album opens with the voice of Stevens, introducing the long opener, "Stig, where the trio of Stevens, John Butcher, and Roger Smith gives a typically intense performance in front of a large audience (at Conway Hall). The concentration of the audience is almost tangible. The concentration of the players reinforces that notion of democracy. No one dominates; everyone is listening so hard it hurts. The smallest stimulus is met by a response, which in turn becomes a stimulus, and so on, back and forth, round and round. More intimate, but no less intense are four pieces recorded at the Red Rose Club before a small audience. Sometimes they require extreme concentration, being almost at the threshold of audibility, but such concentration is never wasted—it is always repaid.

The album closes with two previously unissued studio recordings that add flute to the trio. Stevens' spoken introductions offer a fascinating insight into the SME's working methods and the serious thought he gave to the methodology of free playing. These alone are enough for me to strongly recommend this album to you. They offer a rare, priceless glimpse into the production of this music.

The influence of SME, via players who passed through its ranks or were inspired by seeing them perform, is incalculable but vast. They changed the way that many people heard; music would be hugely different had they not existed. Can there be greater praise?


Track Listing: spoken Intro; Stig; So this is official; Tape delight; Uneasy options; A certain elegance; spoken intro; Peripheral vision*; spoken intro; With Hindsight*; spoken conclusion

Personnel: John Stevens, small drum set & mini-trumpet; John Butcher, soprano & tenor saxophones; Roger Smith, Spanish guitar; Neil Metcalfe, flute*.

Title: A New Distance | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Emanem

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Karyobin

Karyobin

Emanem
2017

buy
 

New Surfacing

Not On Label (Spontaneous Sound Self-released)
2013

buy

Related Articles

Read Live! CD/LP/Track Review
Live!
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: July 19, 2018
Read My Favorite Things(1960-1969) CD/LP/Track Review
My Favorite Things(1960-1969)
by Jerome Wilson
Published: July 19, 2018
Read The Acadian Orogeny CD/LP/Track Review
The Acadian Orogeny
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 19, 2018
Read Drift CD/LP/Track Review
Drift
by Paul Rauch
Published: July 18, 2018
Read Journey Moments CD/LP/Track Review
Journey Moments
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: July 18, 2018
Read Moku Maluhia - Peaceful Island CD/LP/Track Review
Moku Maluhia - Peaceful Island
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 18, 2018
Read "Let Your Mind...Space Out" CD/LP/Track Review Let Your Mind...Space Out
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 31, 2017
Read "The Sum Of My Pardon" CD/LP/Track Review The Sum Of My Pardon
by Jim Olin
Published: June 22, 2018
Read "Volume III: Magnetic Cycles" CD/LP/Track Review Volume III: Magnetic Cycles
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 19, 2017
Read "Dawn" CD/LP/Track Review Dawn
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 27, 2018
Read "Backstage Pass" CD/LP/Track Review Backstage Pass
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2018
Read "Random Acts of Order" CD/LP/Track Review Random Acts of Order
by John Sharpe
Published: November 15, 2017