home » cd catalogue » John Stevens Trio - Live at The Plough » Robert Iannapollo, Cadence Magazine

John Stevens Trio - Live at The Plough

Robert Iannapollo, Cadence Magazine

The trio featured on Live At The Plough (a pub on Stockwell Road in south London) was an impromptu band Stevens put together during a period when he was playing with a wide array of musicians, never settling into one select band. For this date he rounded up veteran alto sax player Mike Osborne and (then still relatively unknown) bassist Paul Rogers.
It sounds like the three just walked up to the bandstand, picked up (or sat down at) their respective instruments and took off on a freebop extravaganza.
Although tunes are called (among them Jackie McLean's 'Blue Rondo', 'Summertime' and 'Cherokee', they are soon left behind and Osborne takes off on a series of lengthy improvisations.
Although Stevens is the nominal leader of the band, the hallmark of this record is Osborne's prowess (especially on the 23-minute closer, 'MO Recapitulations', an improvisation which takes into account a number of classic hard bop themes).
Although playing alto, he recalls Rollins in his lengthy stream of consciousness improvisations and liberal use of quotes. Osborne is not particularly associated with the avant-garde (in the recordings I've heard by him he's always used thematic material) but he can wail with the best of them. Frequently his improvisations will build to a series of jubilant squeals and cries.
Underneath him Stevens provides an Elvin Jones-like polyrhythmic accompaniment and Rogers does his best to keep up.
This trio was "on" on this night. The recording quality of this disc is less than optimum. It was obviously recorded by someone in the audience on a cassette player. Unfortunately the mix serves shortest shrift to Rogers and when the music reaches a climax with Stevens flailing away and Osborne reaching for the stratosphere, Rogers is buried (sonically speaking). But that aside this is a powerful performance, well-worth hearing by those who aren't afraid of a little audio detritus.
One other note: several of the tracks are mistitled. 'Carousel', listed as being composed by Osborne, is actually Ornette Coleman's 'New Gospel'. And 'Plough Story' (once again credited to Osborne) is another tune whose title I unfortunately cannot dredge up from my audio database.