292

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: A New Distance

John Eyles By

Sign in to view read count
Spontaneous Music Ensemble: A New Distance 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*.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Emanem | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read The Invariant CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny" CD/LP/Track Review Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 20, 2016
Read "Real Feels - Live Vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review Real Feels - Live Vol. 1
by Mark F. Turner
Published: December 13, 2016
Read "As If By Magic" CD/LP/Track Review As If By Magic
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: December 3, 2016
Read "Everybody Has A Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth" CD/LP/Track Review Everybody Has A Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth
by Doug Collette
Published: August 15, 2016
Read "What was said" CD/LP/Track Review What was said
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 20, 2016
Read "OUTgoing" CD/LP/Track Review OUTgoing
by Budd Kopman
Published: January 31, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!