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Friday, January 18, 2013

John Stevens, Paul Rutherford, Evan Parker & Barry Guy: One Four and Two Twos (Emanem, 2012) ****½

On the last Schlippenbach Trio concert, when I was talking to Evan Parker for almost an hour after the gig, he told me that he has lived from day to day as to musical plans but now – at the age of 68 – it seemed time for him to realize that you could not live forever. This is why he plans to re-release some important out-of-print albums he made (or was part of) in the past, actually he named the seminal duo album “Chirps” on FMP (with Steve Lacy). “One Four and Two Twos” belongs to this plan as well because the first four tracks were released as “4,4,4” on View records (1980) and with the fifth track on this album here they were reissued under the same title on Konnex in 1993 (including an unissued SME track with Nigel Coombes and Roger Smith).

And it is soon quite clear why Parker wanted to have this album made available again, for it is a missing link. Guy (b, electronics), Rutherford (tb, euphonium), Parker (ss, ts) and Stevens (dr, voice) have all been members of the SME (Spontaneous Music Ensemble) in the late 1960s (e.g. on the legendary “Withdrawal” album) and here they have teamed up again about ten years later. Then in their twenties, they had wanted to explore new paths in music and especially improvisation, and you soon realize that they have moved on as personalities. All of them had socialized with musicians in the US or on the continent - especially Germany and the Netherlands - but they had kept on playing with each other as well (particularly Parker and Guy).  It is obvious that the music we have here has changed and the result is more extroverted free jazz compared to early SME stuff. The longest piece, “4,4,4”, is a wonderful interaction of these extraordinary players, with Stevens driving them in front of him, shouting in rapture like an Indian chief on warpath. But their roots are still audible in more contemplating, quieter parts (for example in “3,4,4”) where you can hear something which has always been the key element of this music: it is the ability to listen and to interact (or as Stevens put it: “If you don’t listen why are you in a band?”).

In addition to the original LP two previously unissued duo sessions have been added on this reissue. Paul Rutherford and Barry Guy were two thirds of Iskra, a revolutionary percussionless trio. According to Martin Davidson’s liner notes “they also performed as a duo from time to time, and the duo tracks heard here are from an Italian tour.” You can hear what a marvelous player the late Rutherford was (he is really missed!), all the three pieces are wild, sick rides, both musicians are struggling with each other on a high technical level and Guy is adding some interesting weird electronic sounds.

The 1992 pieces are a duo of Stevens and Parker sounding very much like early SME on the on hand, on the other hand it is truly Parker as he sounds in his duo with Paul Lytton, full of energy, a masterful player accompanied by another genius.

Although Evan Parker’s name was used in a prominent position he has always stated that the sessions were organized by Stevens. He said that these pieces were the sound check for a recording that had never happened. The musicians went to the pub and never got back. Can you imagine what they were able to do at real gigs?

You can buy the album from

© stef


Richard said...

What a fantastic story, that this was a sound check and they never made it back from the pub! I've heard about this album, at least the 4,4,4 bit. But never heard it. Now seems like a good time.

BTW, anyone who doesn't have the Chirps album should pounce on it when it gets reissued.

Martin Schray said...

Thank you, Richard.
I like this story as well, it is mentioned in the liner notes. As to "Chirps" I definitely agree, a wonderful album. For those who can't wait: It is also available on the website as a legal download (just follow the FMP hints).