Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

8

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Oliv & Familie

John Eyles By

Sign in to view read count
Issued twenty years after his death, aged just fifty-four, Oliv & Familie serves as a fitting reminder of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble's charismatic and controversial drummer and leader, John Stevens. Not only does this release return to circulation the two "Oliv" tracks that constituted the SME's eponymous third album, originally issued on vinyl by Giorgio Gomelsky's Marmalade label in 1969, it also adds the two previously unissued "Familie" tracks which shed much light on the ensemble's evolution and development. Most importantly, leaving history aside, this album is over an hour of mesmerizingly beautiful music.

Crucially, compared to SME's previous two instrumental albums—Challenge (Eyemark, 1966) and Karyobin (Island, 1968)—their third documented a period in which the SME featured female vocalists including Pepi Lemer, Maggie Nichols, Carolann Nicholls, Norma Winstone and (though not heard here) Julie Tippetts. So, the cover photograph of a four-piece SME fronted by a mini-skirted Nichols may not sit easily with many people's expectations of the group! Leaving aside the musicians' appearance and moving on, we find that the vocals are a welcome addition to the SME sound, sitting comfortably alongside the instrumental components and being highly compatible with them.

The album opens with the first version of "Familie," performed by an eleven-member SME that included both Lemer and Winstone on vocals. It was recorded in January 1968, the month before Karyobin, and features Stevens plus Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and Dave Holland from that album's line-up. The first half of the piece is structured and evolves slowly with extensive use of sustained notes by everyone, particularly the vocalists, who are featured prominently and contribute greatly to the track's tranquil mood. Although this version is previously unreleased, its structure and atmosphere are similar to a previously-issued July 1968 quintet version on Frameworks (Emanem, 2007) that was characterised by its effective use of Winstone's voice on sustained and click pieces plus passages of free improvisation. Despite its variety, the version of the piece on Oliv & Familie hangs together well, with the eleven players never cluttering it but combining together effectively.

As well as Stevens, the album is notable for the contributions of those other late, great SME stalwarts, Kenny Wheeler and Derek Bailey. "Oliv I" showcases the two of them together, with Wheeler playing an extended flugel horn solo over a drone-like accompaniment created by the voices, saxophone, bass and drums, offset by frequent interjections and support from Peter Lemer's piano and Bailey's guitar. In typical Wheeler fashion, the end result is a solo that is both meticulously constructed and executed, his tone being plaintive throughout so that it oozes emotion, even when he at his most garrulous. Altogether, touchingly beautiful—as fine a way as any to remember Wheeler's understated brilliance. After the second track from that Marmalade album, "Oliv II" featuring the quartet pictured on the cover—Stevens, Nichols, Trevor Watts on alto saxophone and Johnny Dyani on bass—a reprise of "Familie" concludes this very welcome addition to the SME discography.

Track Listing: Familie; Oliv I; Oliv II; Familie (alternative ending).

Personnel: Pepi Lemer: voice (1, 2, 4); Norma Winstone: voice (1, 4); Trevor Watts: piccolo (1, 4), alto saxophone (2, 3); Brian Smith: flute (1, 4); Evan Parker: soprano saxophone (1, 4); Peter Lemer: piano (1, 2, 4); Derek Bailey: electric guitar (1, 2, 4); Nik Bryce: cello (1, 4); Jeff Clyne: double bass (1, 4); Dave Holland: double bass (1, 4); John Stevens: small drum set (1, 3, 4), drum set (2); Kenny Wheeler: flugel horn (2); Maggie Nichols: voice (2, 3); Carolann Nicholls: voice (2); Johnny Dyani: double bass (2,3).

Title: Oliv & Familie | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Emanem

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Roads Less Travelled
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 I Always Knew CD/LP/Track Review
I Always Knew
by Paul Rauch
Published: December 12, 2018
Read It's Alright To Dream featuring JD Allen CD/LP/Track Review
It's Alright To Dream featuring JD Allen
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 12, 2018
Read Volume One CD/LP/Track Review
Volume One
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: December 12, 2018
Read Songs in the Key of Wonder CD/LP/Track Review
Songs in the Key of Wonder
by Geannine Reid
Published: December 12, 2018
Read SHIFTED CD/LP/Track Review
SHIFTED
by James Fleming
Published: December 12, 2018
Read Vilddjur CD/LP/Track Review
Vilddjur
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 11, 2018
Read "After Caroline" CD/LP/Track Review After Caroline
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 24, 2018
Read "Pacific Northwest '73-'74: Believe It If You Need It" CD/LP/Track Review Pacific Northwest '73-'74: Believe It If You Need...
by Doug Collette
Published: October 7, 2018
Read "Heuristics" CD/LP/Track Review Heuristics
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2018
Read "Last Things Last" CD/LP/Track Review Last Things Last
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 26, 2018
Read "Solano Canyon" CD/LP/Track Review Solano Canyon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 23, 2018
Read "Lessons Learned" CD/LP/Track Review Lessons Learned
by Jerome Wilson
Published: December 5, 2018