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Live At the Plough

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Album Review

Almost anything the late John Stevens recorded is significant for its historical value alone. The legendary drummer inspired scores of British musicians from both the free music and more traditional jazz scenes. Stevens was, at heart, an organizer; an instigator who was able to attract and lead some of the most exciting small groups (and on rare occasions, larger ones). These seven tracks were recorded live at the Plough in London in 1979, and if the sound quality is not up to par, the musicians nonetheless sustain a strong set for more than an hour. Stevens backs Mike Osborne on alto sax, with a young Paul Rogers on string bass. While the trio was evidently not a regular group, it performed tightly and comfortably this evening in what might be described as a sort of free bop. Osborne blows hard and long, with lots of quotes along the way. He is not nearly as accomplished an improviser as some of his influences — who, including Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, number among the kings of modern jazz — but Osborne plays confidently and fluidly. Stevens is a joy to hear, with a decent helping of solos for him and bassist Paul Rogers, who was still years away from achieving his powerful reputation.


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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Live At the Plough, John Stevens Trio
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