• 1. UNEXPECTED TURN 1 (03:30)
  • 2. UNEXPECTED TURN 2 (04:00)
  • 3. UNEXPECTED TURN 3 (03:23)
  • 5. UPBEAT (03:47)
  • 6. SHORT CRESCENDO 1 (02:08)
  • 7. SHORT CRESCENDO 2 (01:53)
  • 8. SHORT CRESCENDO 3 (01:57)
  • 9. COTTON PICKIN' STUFF (05:08)
  • 10. STACCATO START (04:50)
  • 11. TUNE UP 1 (01:21)
  • 12. TUNE UP 2 (00:38)
  • 13. TUNE UP 3 (01:43)
  • 14. NICE AND SCRATCHY (03:03)
  • 16. UNPREPARED (05:18)
  • 17. GUITAR IN TOP (11:20)
  • 18. ADDENDUM (01:31)
  • 19. AFRO-SPANISH (04:33)

Unexpected Turns


Acoustic Guitar – Roger Smith

Stunning solo acoustic guitar improvisations (recorded digitally) by one of the unsung masters, who made his previous highly acclaimed solo record much too long ago in 1980. 69 minutes.

Excerpts from sleeve notes:
Originating from Ilkeston, Derbyshire, Roger Smith was one of the so-called second generation of British improvisers who came together in London in the 1970s, many of them under the auspices of the late John Stevens and his sessions at the Little Theatre Club. During the 1970s and `80s he worked with a number of artists associated with the early incarnation of the London Musicians Collective (LMC) when it was based in a strange warehouse of a building at Gloucester Avenue, Camden Town. One grouping - The Four Pullovers - comprised Smith, Steve Beresford, Nigel Coombes and Terry Day. The only issued recording was of a trio combo - The Three Pullovers - with Smith, Beresford and Coombes, recorded at the Unity Theatre in 1975 by Martin Davidson now available on Three and Four Pullovers (Emanem). In recent years Roger has performed intermittently with Robin Musgrove's ensemble (Together Again, Face-Value Records) and in a duo with flautist Neil Metcalfe (S&M,Incus).

Roger Smith is perhaps best known for his work from 1976 to 1994 with John Stevens' Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME); a trio which for most of this period also included the great violinist Nigel Coombes and occasional others. In retrospect the longevity of this particular trio seems something of an enigma, given the nature of the personalities involved, Stevens' commitment to other areas of music, and the relative lack of interest accorded the group during its existence, apart from a small hard-core of devotees. Perhaps adverse circumstances and infrequent opportunities to perform contributed to the sense of freshness, nerve-edge delicacy and compressed energy which always seemed to characterise the music. Over a period of 16 years or so a small number of fugitive recordings including the core trio emerged; all regrettably now deleted. Fortunately, the past couple of years have seen the issue of Hot and Cold Heroes (Emanem): a retrospective collection of performances from 1980 and 1991; and A New Distance (Emanem): live recordings from 1994, by which time saxophonist John Butcher had replaced Coombes.

Roger's first and, until now, only solo recording was issued by the short-lived LMC label in 1980 as part of an initiative aimed at establishing a collectively-run outlet for less well-known improvisers. The label foundered after only two releases, but Spanish Guitar (reissued on Emanem) remains one of the most subtly fascinating documents of solo improvised music. The most obvious influence on Roger's playing is that of Derek Bailey with whom he once studied; they have also performed together in one of the many short-lived incarnations of the SME. Roger brings his own personal approach to the entirely different Spanish guitar: a mercurial combination of flowing lyricism and disruptive awkwardness, unafraid of exploiting the conventional beauty of the instrument's timbre as well as startling the ear with more abrasive sounds. Name dropping a select few of the host of diverse other figures who have indirectly influenced Roger's music - classical composers, jazz improvisers, blues and soul artists - would be overly simplistic, although it might help dispel the myth held in some quarters that free improvisation is a back-water of self-righteous purity and insularity.

The current selection is taken from a series of recordings made in the kitchen of Roger's flat in Wood Green: hence the occasional extraneous sounds of passing cars, overflying aircraft, sparrows and, on a couple of tracks, the distant wheeze of the central heating on a frosty morning. The fact that sixteen years have elapsed between Spanish Guitar and this release says something both about Roger's retiring nature and the structures and selection mechanisms which so often seem to work against the wider appreciation of some of the most genuinely creative musicians. It is entirely appropriate that this wonderful music should be made available by Emanem, the vehicle by which Martin Davidson has, since 1974, so assiduously documented vital music which might otherwise never have seen the light of day.


Album label: 
Release date: 
01.11 / 1996
Recording date: 
01.07 / 1996
Recording location: 
London home 1996 (1-14) and 1993/4 (15-20)
Artwork design : Marion Franses / Martin Davidson
Mastering engineer : Martin Davidson
Producer : Martin Davidson / Ian Vickers
Recording engineer : Roger Smith / Ian Vickers

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