Featuring the earliest published recordings of Barry Guy & Evan Parker, percussionist John Steven's presents transitional sextet and septet performances of his groundbreaking free improv group from 1966 & '67 with Trevor Watts, Paul Rutherford, Kenny Wheeler, and Derek Bailey.
"Here is a missing link between the first two Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME) recordings to be published. The music on CHALLENGE (recorded 1966 March and issued on a long vanished Eyemark LP) is mainly free jazz, with composed themes framing improvisations which are mostly accompanied by the rhythm section. On the other hand, KARYOBIN (recorded 1968 February, originally on Island and now on Chronoscope CD CPE2001-2) is radically different - a distinctive, translucent group improvisation with virtually no traces of jazz left. (Some earlier recordings of this highly influential SME or "atomistic" approach were recently issued as SUMMER 1967 on Emanem 4005.)
This CD, however, does not give the whole interim story - thirty years later one can only listen to the aspects that were recorded. The SME was then a collective grouping with John Stevens and Trevor Watts being the prime movers (and composers). Regular performances, mostly at the Little Theatre Club in London, featured some or all of these seven musicians (plus a few others) in various combinations, using pre-composed material at times. All the while, new approaches were being tried, but many did not make it to tape.
WITHDRAWAL was composed and recorded as the soundtrack to a 35 minute film of the same name, produced and directed by the American George Paul Solomos. The film was hardly begun, due to a funding crisis and a dispute with the British Film Institute. However, two (slightly imperfect) mono tapes of music, recorded to be used as the soundtrack, have survived. Special mention must be made of Kenny Wheeler's very fine playing in what is almost a concerto on PART 1, with Paul Rutherford's trombone and Trevor Watts' oboe providing most imaginative foils. PART 2 contains particularly excellent playing by Watts (on alto saxophone) and Wheeler. As before, Barry Guy's role is limited to providing a flexible drone.
These recordings are the earliest recordings to be published of the then recent SME recruits, Barry Guy and Evan Parker - and they will probably remain the earliest. It must be said that not much of Parker is heard here - he says he felt overawed in such company! The other four musicians had all been on the CHALLENGE LP, whilst Wheeler had appeared on numerous jazz records during the previous decade.