The first SME released Challenge in 1966. The subsequent history of the group, and some of its many formations are illuminated in Martin Davidson's appreciation at the EFIP.
The Spontaneous Music Ensemble was John Stevens' name for particular groups ranging from duo to at least 20 people; although the more long-lived tended to be small and were intimately connected with Trevor Watts, Evan Parker, Paul Rutherford, Derek Bailey, Maggie Nicols (to name just a few) and, later, Roger Smith and Nigel Coombes.
I joined a constellation with Roger Smith and Neil Metcalfe in 1992, which then reduced to the trio that recorded A New Distance. We only played in London - in the basement of a Chinese restraurant, in pubs, at the BBC, at the Conway Hall, in a library, at the Red Rose, at the Jazz Cafe. Our last concert was on 12 August 1994, with John only playing pocket trumpet - a month before he died.
A New Distance
"Two of the last performances by the SME which then comprised John Stevens, Roger Smith and John Butcher.
A new direction for the music that was sadly terminated later that year (1994) by Stevens' untimely death. Added to this reissue are two short pieces from the previous year, when Neil Metcalfe was also in the group, and some perceptive comments by Stevens." Martin Davidson.
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Steve Beresford's liner notes