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