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Album Review

Recorded in May of 1977 and released a year later on Spotlite, No Fear is one of drummer John Stevens' excellent jazzier sessions. Backed by his regular acolytes Trevor Watts and Barry Guy, the leader of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble revels in the hot free jazz licks he and the saxophonist came up with. His playing is superbly detailed by the recording, the interplay between his hi-hat cymbals and snare drum being particularly impressive in this jazz context. Watts pours a lot of soul into his horn, occasionally sounding like an alto version of Charles Gayle. Guy's bass work is brilliant but slightly undermined by the recording. No Fear may belong to Stevens' jazzier output (like the Spontaneous Music Ensemble's mid-'60s LP Challenge), but the music allows much freedom to the players and would send any jazz purist screaming bloody murder. The title track opens the album with a bang, its quick-fire riff throwing the trio into an exhilarating romp — Guy goes mad permuting the notes of the bassline and stretching the theme over any limit. Cleverly, they follow with a more textural and introspective free improv (the only one of the set). "Ah!" tries to repeat the trick of the first track, but it works less convincingly. Watts' "Speed From the Light," a quasi-waltz in 3-3-2, gives better results. "Just a Matter of Time" contains some very nice moments despite a sloppy intro. If an anthology of Stevens' music ever gets put together, the title track of this album needs to be on it. No Fear was reissued on CD in 2002 by Hi 4 Head. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Biography

Born: 10 June 1940 in Brentford, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

One of the founding fathers of free improvisation in Britain. In the mid-'60s, Stevens helped found Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME), an influential group that included most of England's top experimental jazz musicians. The band's lineup evolved and fluctuated, but at one time or another Paul Rutherford, Trevor Watts, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Kenny Wheeler, and Julie Tippetts were among the members. Stevens' father was a tap dancer, a factor in his decision to become a musician. Stevens joined...
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No Fear (No Fear), John Stevens
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