These newly reissued jewels from the Brit free-jazz/new music archives were initially found on LP (1988) and CDs (1997) and realigned for the advent of this two-CD set. Some of the key and founding fathers of Europe’s "spontaneously" driven movements are represented here in various groupings, captured at the ICA Theater and Little Theater Club London venues, spanning 1973-74. Not jazz by any stretch, as you won’t find a trace of syncopated rhythms anywhere on these discs, where percussionist/cornetist John Steven’s Spontaneous Music Ensemble loomed as an ongoing collective of sorts.
On the 1974 ICA Theater live recordings; Stevens, Evan Parker (soprano sax), Trevor Watts (soprano sax), Derek Bailey (guitar) and Kent Carter (cello, bass) venture into a realm of avant-chamber and microtonal passages. It’s somewhat verbose yet capacious, as musical notions pop-up like a smattering of electrical pulses traversing an endless loop. And in other areas, the quintet converges and moves outward towards the logical perimeters of sound and scope. On the improvisation titled "Forty Minutes (part 2)," Watts and Parker engage the upper registers of their soprano saxes via extended notes that bend and wave amid yearning choruses and hauntingly abstract lyricism.
In effect, the musicians decompose the jazz idiom. They intermittently broach minimalism while establishing variable flows and tempi. The 1973 Little Theater Club performances highlight the scaled-down trio. Here, Stevens, Watts and Carter execute scurrying motifs that signal in a microscopic musical foundation. Yet they also pursue fast and furious dialogues, often comprised of passages that dissolve and reappear in various flavors. And Stevens occasionally kicks matters into high-gear during his asymmetrically-oriented, rough and tumble rhythms. Regardless, the musicians’ idiosyncratic interactions and explorations are irrefutably enduring, mesmeric and utterly enigmatic. (Essential SME.... )