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JOHN STEVENS

John Stevens’ Away

BEAT GOES ON BGOCD1198 [59:59 + 78:52]

 

 

 

John Stevens’ Away

It Will Never Be The Same

Tumble

Anni

C Hear Taylor

What’s That?

Somewhere in Between

Can’t Explain

Follow Me

Chick Boom

Spirit of Peace

Now

Mazin Ennit

Away

Sunshine!! Sunshine

Mazin Ennit

Whoops A Daisy

Touch of the Old

Still Here

Light Relief

God Bless

Temple Bless

Bonus Tracks:

Anni Part 1

Anni Part II

Can’t Explain Part 1

Can’t Explain Part 2

John Stevens’ Away : Trevor Watts (alto sax): Steve Hayton (electric guitar): Peter Cowling (electric bass): John Stevens (drums) recorded 1975

Somewhere in Between: Robert Calvert (saxophones): David Cole (electric guitar): Ron Herman (electric bass): Nick Stephens (electric bass): John Stevens (drums and percussion), recorded June 1976

Mazin Ennit: Robert Calvert (saxophones): David Cole (electric guitar): Ron Herman (electric bass): Nick Stephens (electric bass): John Stevens (drums), recorded October 1976

 

Three John Stevens LPs are reissued in this vividly remastered twofer from BGO. The first is the one that gives its name to the CD title, John Stevens’ Away, in which the British drummer fronts a combative quartet in a live set recorded in Berlin in November 1975. Trevor Watts is the defiant alto player, Steve Hayton the electric guitarist and Peter Cowling the electric bassist. Jazz Rock meets thrashing figures in this no-hold-barred five-tune set in which brusque and frantic playing alternates with more considered textures. If Tumble is thrash, Anni offers a more nuanced ensemble sound, expansively attractive. The punning title C. Hear Taylor announces a drum solo but the set ends on a high with What’s That? where some ornate and static figures offer much to intrigue.

Both Stevens and Watts were core components of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and at the forefront of new improvised music in Britain and on the Continent. However Somewhere in Between sees the drummer mesh with a larger ensemble than the Berlin quartet for a two-day recording session in June 1976. Here the sax lead was Robert Calvert – not the Hawkwind Robert Calvert, with whom he has occasionally been mistaken – whose funky, repetitive lines generate their own heated presence. With two basses, one electric and the other acoustic, the rhythm section wasn’t short on horsepower. Follow Me harbours some mournful tolling but soon David Cole’s guitar licks raise up the torpor with a quotient of colour and commentary and Calvert proceeds to squawk his message home. Chick Boom, a clearly onomatopoeic number, enshrines therefore a long drum solo, evidence of Stevens’ cutting edge percussionist skills – as he shows in Spirit of Peace he has something of Elvin Jones’ polyrhythmic mastery. This track incidentally shows how repetitive, hypnotic grooves get set up and maintained and how Calvert’s soprano sax adds to the density through repetition.

Mazin Ennit is rather a weird affair with elements of Milesian Funk rubbing shoulders with positively End of the Pier stuff (try Whoops A Daisy) and material more reminiscent of John Stevens’ Away. Funky guitar licks (excellent David Cole), terse Calvert soprano stylings, strange variants on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – well that’s what it sounds like in God Bless – fuse with Afro-Jazz influences. As a bonus there are 7” singles and the appearance of John Martyn and vocalist Terri Quaye on two of the pieces recorded on the first two albums, Anni and Can’t Explain.

Charles Waring’s extensive booklet note adds hugely to the success of this package in saluting the sadly short-lived and largely explosive Stevens.

Jonathan Woolf




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