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John Stevens Trio - Live at The Plough

Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic

If you're expecting the intricate, crystalline insect music of John Stevens' Spontaneous Music Ensemble, you can put this one back in the rack.
Stevens was equally at home playing rowdy jazz rock and hard-swinging bop, and March 1979 found him in one of his familiar haunts, a sweaty, smoky London pub called the Plough, fronting a trio with veteran British altoist Mike Osborne and a young Paul Rogers on bass. Not only that, but the programme on offer here includes two venerable chestnuts, "Summertime" and "Cherokee", as well as Jackie McLean's "Blue Rondo" and four straight-head originals by Osborne.

Jan Ström's Sweden-based Ayler label has got quite a bit of flak recently (from me included) regarding the occasionally dodgy sound quality of its releases, but with historic material such as this (and Ström apparently has several thousand concerts in his archive!), as with some of the legendary Charlie Parker live recordings and the early Leo releases whose tapes were smuggled under the Iron Curtain, such criticism is petty and small-minded.
We can hear enough to say that Rogers was already a damn fine bassist, Osborne an extremely inventive post-bop player, and Stevens a veritable propulsion engine of a drummer. Of course, if your idea of a good time is a spotless, cool, Nordic ECM studio recording or Incus/Emanem-style thorny no-concessions improv, this may not be for you, but if you're not afraid of Jazz (with a capital J) and want to have a real idea of exactly what those fabled London pub sessions were like, pull yourself a pint of warm ale and put this on nice and loud.
Now, I wonder if Ström has a tape of another pub gig Stevens did about that time with Eugene Chadbourne and Toshinori Kondo.