|Excerpts from sleeve notes:
Nigel Coombes, a former member of John Stevens' Spontaneous Music Ensemble, was fond of a story of the dance band led by Chick Webb. They were said to have such quiet intensity that the sounds of the dancers' feet could be clearly heard above the music.
Byron Wallen's solo entry in DO BE UP is a perfect example of the intimate power of the Stevens quartet. That was around the time I walked into the tent at Crawley - there was an expectant, listening hush in the audience you rarely find at such an event.
The music was not exactly strange, but it had things in it that we hadn't heard before. It was not at all tense, but it gripped like an RKO thriller.
Like Chick Webb, John Stevens is a drummer/bandleader. He was in the first wave of Europeans who developed their own free-improvised music. But, in addition to that, his understanding of the music they call 'jazz' seems to me to go much deeper than those performers Lester Bowie says 'tinker with the music of twenty-five years ago'.
Remarkably, Stevens has figured out how to define a specific area of activity, a tone of voice for an entire group if you will, which can be explored at length and to great effect. To me, that's an extension of the auteurism of Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington. Crosby, Jones and Wallen are all young but experienced leaders in their own right.
What John calls 'rhythmelodics' - a quality he hears in the music of Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins and Chet Baker - can bring out hidden qualities in an individual's playing. 'Rhythmelodic players are ones who get closest to a speech-like approach as opposed to an arpeggio type of playing. Any rhythm has an innate melodic content.' And vice versa.
This reissue contains all of the Quartet's festival set in the order it occurred. The applause and John's announcements have been retained in addition to all of the music. The opening version of DUDU'S GONE was omitted from the original issue probably because the recording engineer was still adjusting levels. I have attempted to cancel out these changes, so that this excellent performance can also be enjoyed.