Invaluable CD reissue for Spontaneous Music Ensemble’s groundbreaking and inspirational Karyōbin (1968) - a pivotal moment in the history of free-jazz/improvised music featuring the combined talents of Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Dave Holland, John Stevens and others, now presented by Martin Davidson’s lagendary Emanem label on its golden jubilee, remixed and remastered from the original tapes with new liner notes.
The histories of free-jazz, with subsequent narratives of improvisation which grew from it, are difficult to trace. What began as a distinctly African American art-form, rapidly became a rallying cry for freedom, adopted and reformed by countless artists, stretching out across the globe. Though not without its complications and missteps, this music is bound to the idea of communion - an open and deeper means through which to converse - something American culture has never fully embraced, particularly across racial and cultural lines. In the sixty or so years since it originally took form, it has consistently found a more welcoming home in Europe, be that for its originators, fans, or new subsequent, localised forms. Off all the remarkable gestures of free-improvisation which sprang up in Europe from the 1960’s on, few have commanded the respect and renown of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, a project whose seminal second release Karyōbin, originally released on Island in 1968, we are thrilled to have before us now.
The Spontaneous Music Ensemble was founded in South London by John Stevens and Trevor Watts, during the mid 1960’s, following a set of perimeters set forth by Stevens - If you can't hear another musician, you're playing too loud, and if the music you're producing doesn't regularly relate to what you're hearing others create, why be in the group?. While these principles have been adopted so widely, that they have almost come to define the root principles of improvisation itself, at the time they were radical, giving way to a new philosophical movement in sound. Where most improvisation of the era drew on a furious, emotive fire, SME introduced a deeply introspective, often extremely quite, form. Scraping out jagged shards of jazz that felt truly free — abandoning structure, melody, rhythm, and logic in favor of an ever-changing, whimsical, disorienting, wholly instinctual tumult of activity.
It isn’t hard to spot the politics at the heart of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble’s efforts. Through sound, it attempted to achieve democratic aims - to offer importance to every voice within the collective. This can be seen within its constantly evolving line-up, as much as the music it made. Over the course of its existence - until Stevens' untimely death in 1994, it folded an astounding group of improvisators into its ranks - Barry Guy, Dave Holland, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Ian Carr, Jeff Clyne, John Butcher, Kenny Wheeler, Kent Carter, and Paul Rutherford, among numerous others. Arguably more than any single project, it is the great emblem of British Jazz - its greatest voices, sculpting what have become many of its most important lasting legacies, in real time. Karyōbin, which is the project’s seconded recorded release, features one of the more well represented line ups within the ensemble during this era, pulling Dave Holland, Dennis Bailey, Evan Parker, and Kenny Wheeler into its standing ranks. The result is a soulful, considered conversation in sound - intricate and challenging, as it elemental. This is the distinctly British sound and approach to free improvisation at its very best.
One of the great artifacts of its era, as historical important as it is creatively and sonically engrossing, we are thrilled to see Karyōbin returned to our hands. Remixed and remastered from the original tapes. Absolutely essential for any fan of free improvisation and jazz. Grab it while it lasts.