When I was about 19 years old, I read a book on improvisation in music and started to get into Free Music.
One of the records that moved me the most -- and still does -- was called Karyōbin, by a group called the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. It's one of my 20 favorite records ever, really.
Later on in life I got hip to the songwriter John Martyn, and his record Live At Leeds, and was astonished to discover that today's birthday guy was the drummer on that tour. This also became one of my favorite albums of all time.
The common denominator was born this day in 1940 and died in 1994.
His name was John Stevens, and he was as legendary a figure in non-idiomatic free improvisation -- where it's not intended to adhere to the standard premeditated structures and sounds and devices we are all used to -- as any you could name.
We will celebrate the occasion with a half hour of pristine SME footage, thought lost for decades and only ever broadcast once, on the NRK-TV webchannel.
Spontaneous Music Ensemble
01 introduction & explanation by John Stevens
02 1-2 Albert Ayler
04 Tickets Please
Total time: 29:43
John Stevens - drums
Trevor Watts - soprano saxophone
Julie Tippetts - vocals & guitar
Ron Herman - bass
HD FLV file, digitally captured from the NRK website, of a never-broadcast performance from Norwegian TV
514 MB FLV here
Look out in this show for the extraordinary vocalist Julie Tippetts, who is in many ways the star of the thing.
I'll be back in a few days and I apologize for being lazy about this page. But do check into this NRK SME extravaganza, and remember the completely unique musician that was John Stevens.--J.
6.10.1940 - 9.13.1994