22 March 2009

John Stevens - Chemistry


Continuing with some more Ray Warleigh, as announced last week, here's a different setting with a select group of very eminent players on the UK scene from the mid-70s. Led by John Stevens, this is a different mix from his chamber-like SME or his foray into jazz-rock fusion with Away (similarly to Trevor Watts' Amalgam). The accent here is on chemistry, finding a group of players who have not interacted much before, doing it on the spur and creating that live feeling and keeping in the rough edges; anything to avoid that smoothness. Although John had played with the others individually and in smaller groups before, the group as such was new to this adventure.

The line-up:

Kenny Wheeler - trumpet/flugelhorn
Ray Warleigh - alto sax
Trevor Watts - alto sax
Jeff Clyne - bass
John Stevens - drums

01_Bass Is
02_Coleman
03_The Bird

The legacy of Coleman is quite evident in these pieces, certainly in the lightness and rhythmic fluidity of Watts' playing, another Colemanian trait and one Watts was going to refine in the years to come. Warleigh inserts a grittier, earthier counterpart to Watts' flights of fancy. Wheeler juts in with some tight, jagged spurts on both the second and third tracks. Clyne leads in the first piece slowly and deliberately with the group gradually joining in and with Stevens holding down an airy, light and very elegant groove. While the first piece is tentative, the two following pieces are machine-gun charged. Both open with short, sharp statements played at a breakneck pace with Watts heading off into the first solo on the second piece and Warleigh on the third. Both Clyde and Stevens get to do short, succinct solos, only broken up by restatements of the theme. However, at the mid-point of the third and last piece, the urgency of the piece suddenly breaks off into an introspective, elegiac mood which might recall the chamber intimacy of the SME, though never getting as taut and abstract. With John Stevens, always expect the unexpected!

All in all, ultra-fine playing from all concerned, indicating that the chemistry was indeed there on the day or more precisely, during three hours of studio recordings in November 1975. This was made at the Riverside Studio, presumably in London, but released on the Berlin-based Vinyl label in 1977 and never rereleased on cd, as far as is known. Steve Lake provided detailed sleeve notes on the back cover of the record, which has been reproduced here and appended to the tracks.

More Stevens up next ...

16 comments:

kinabalu said...

Les mp3s:

http://rapidshare.com/files/212301991/John_Stevens_-_Chemistry_mp3_.rar.html

Les flacs:

http://rapidshare.com/files/212295657/John_Stevens_-_Chemistry_flac_.part1.rar.html

http://rapidshare.com/files/212309153/John_Stevens_-_Chemistry_flac_.part2.rar.html

http://rapidshare.com/files/212315656/John_Stevens_-_Chemistry_flac_.part3.rar.html

http://rapidshare.com/files/212321543/John_Stevens_-_Chemistry_flac_.part4.rar.html

Anonymous said...

Thanks much for posting another rarity that we missed entirely Stateside. Kenny Wheeler's tone never fails to compel.

ubu said...

This certainly looks great, thanks a lot!

slovenlyeric said...

I am thrilled to get to hear this one. Thank you for posting it. I do feel however that someone should mention that these gentlement did work togehter and record together, if not exactly in this grouping, somewhat more frequently than indicated in the description.

Steve H said...

Yeah, this is a great one to see. I remember seeing this once in a record store, 30 or so years ago. I was young and very afraid, probably would have hated it at the time. But, man, I wish I had bought it! Thanks for sharing.

1009 said...

Thanks for this -- I'd never heard of it, though of course I've heard many of these players. A preliminary listen is very interesting -- not at all the SME thing I was expecting, but hot anyhow. Very happy to listen.

Wallofsound said...

kinabalu, thank you for sharing this John Stevens. I haven't got this, and I am looking forward to listening. The promise of more Stevens-led bands is also most welcome.

sotise said...

yes indeed K,this is a superb record and very little known ...i have never seen it ..i havent heard nearly enough of Stevens non SME related projects... thanks ...
regards
M

amnesia said...

These tracks were subsequently issued on Konnex KCD 5045, entitled "John Stevens Works - SME Big Band and Quintet", released in 1993. Good to see them available for more to hear again.

matt w said...

Let me echo the others -- it's great to see some John Stevens (especially his jazzier work) and especially great that more is coming!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot !

Igor said...

Thank you for sharing this one, kinabalu.
So happy to hear Trevor Watts again.

kinabalu said...

Igor, I'm always happy to post Trevor Watts. He strikes me as one musician who is constantly evolving, from SME to Amalgam to the various Moiré constellations from the 80s onwards, but without compromising his vision and integrity at any point of the way.

noteworthy said...

Another artist who is new to me. Thanks for continuing my jazz education. You guys are some of the best teachers I've ever had. :)

gilhodges said...

Kinabula,
This one's a beauty. You never fail to surprise and delight with your exquisite selections. Many thanks!

kinabalu said...

Definitely more John Stevens forthcoming ...