This release brings the very welcome return of an August 1978 studio session involving four legends of British improv: drummer John Stevens, trombonist Paul Rutherford, saxophonist Evan Parker and bassist Barry Guy. The first four of its five quartet tracks were originally released on LP in 1980 by View; all five were rereleased on CD in 1994 by Konnex, accompanied by a 1992 Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME) track. Here, all five are accompanied by three unreleased 1979 duo tracks from trombonist Paul Rutherford and bassist Barry Guy, and two unreleased 1992 duo tracks by drummer John Stevens and saxophonist Evan Parker, hence the title.
It is no exaggeration to say that without the players here the course of improvised music in Britainand, hence, the worldwould have been very different. All four were members of SME in 1966-67 (alongside those other founding fathers, guitarist Derek Bailey, saxophonist Trevor Watts and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler), as evidenced on Withdrawal (Emanem, 1997). At one time, the duo of Parker and Stevens was SME, and the two frequently played as a duo. Guy and Rutherford were two-thirds of that other key improvising ensemble, Iskra 1903, first with Bailey then with violinist Philipp Wachsmann as the third member.
On the five quartet tracks here, all four play together most of the time, creating a full soundscape that is indebted to free jazz as much as to improvisation. Stevens and Guy deftly straddle the genres, largely adopting the role of a conventional rhythm section, maintaining a steady pulse that underpins the quartet, with each of them occasionally opting for some freer playing. Even in the drummer's more wayward moments, Guy remains steady as a rock, a firm foundation on which to build. Over the top, the saxophone and trombone fit together and perfectly complement one another as they each play their own way, while allowing the other just enough space. Rutherford's highly distinctive swoops repeatedly command attention; rich and fruity, they are a reminder of just how great a player he was... and how sadly missed he is.
On the quartet tracks, Guy is credited with using electronics, but they are barely noticeable beyond an occasional high-pitched drone or chirrup which does not feel integral to the musicthe use of electronics in improv was still in its infancy at the time. Likewise, on the duo tracks by Guy and Rutherford, the trombonist employs electronics; they are rather more evident as a third voice and fit in more with the music. As an improvising pairing, Guy and Rutherford demonstrate the benefit of their time together in Iskra 1903, being totally integrated and sympathetic throughout, sometimes even seeming close to playing in unison.
The pairing of Parker and Stevens is just as experienced and compatible, sounding decidedly energetic and active compared to the more stately bass and trombone combination. Anyway, why compare? These are four great musicians in peak form, with five newly released tracks from a golden age. Who could ask for anything more?
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.