Karyōbin album cover

Spontaneous Music Ensemble

Island Records

Another angle on collective improvisation are these renegades from the jazz tradition. In Spontaneous Music Ensemble, the players work in micro-gestures – it’s insectile, miniaturist improvisation that feels incrementally detailed, as though each musician is tickling the other’s instrument with a feather duster. All the players here were heavyweights of the field, from leader, drummer John Stevens, who’d downsized his kit so he could play more quietly, to guitarist Derek Bailey, saxophonist Evan Parker, trumpet player Kenny Wheeler, and double bass player Dave Holland. It was probably the dream line-up of SME, and Karyōbin still sounds like their lasting masterpiece for the way it crystallised new ways of playing together.

Jon Dale

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