• 1. NEWCASTLE 78A (09:18)
  • 2. NEWCASTLE 78B (22:52)
  • 3. COMPLETE SURFACES (31:45)

New Surfacing

Guitar – Roger Smith
Cornet Or Mini-Trumpet, Voice – John Stevens
Violin – Nigel Coombes

Two recordings from the beginning and the end of the longest-lived version of the SME - the trio of JOHN STEVENS (percussion, cornet or mini-trumpet, voice), NIGEL COOMBES (violin) & ROGER SMITH (guitar). The 1978 Newcastle concert was considered by the musicians and others to be the best performance by the trio, while the 1992 studio is also very fine. The original issues were taken from cassettes. This reissue, taken from the original tapes, has considerably improved sound and about 8 more minutes of music. 64 minutes.

Excerpts from sleeve notes:
This release containing recordings from 1978 and 1992 could be subtitled the beginning and the end of the SME string trio. The Newcastle concert was one of the first performances after the 1977 quartet reduced to a trio; and Nigel Coombes left the studio and the SME immediately after the 1992 piece.

The SME had changed radically during 1976 ending up with John Stevens playing with unamplified string players Nigel Coombes, Roger Smith and Colin Wood – the last named being on board just for the first year or so.

Most of the recordings of the trio were not released until after Stevens’ untimely death. The later 1990s, saw the release of two compilations on Emanem CDs, HOT AND COLD HEROES and LOW PROFILE . When compiling these, I was strongly advised to consider a 1978 Newcastle concert from a brief tour opposite the duo of Steve Beresford and Tristan Honsinger. Both Coombes and Smith consider this concert to have been one of the best performances by the trio.

The drawback was that the only copy of this recording then available was a distorted cassette. There was no sign of the original tape. An additional problem was that the performance was in an over-resonant room. At the time, I decided that the recording was too bad to issue, even though the music was very fine. I subsequently gave up trying to find a better source, but managed to clean up the sound considerably, and eventually issued it on TRIO & TRIANGLE) in 2008. Most of that CD though was a reissue of a 1981 concert mainly featuring a larger group.

Meanwhile, some years ago, unbeknownst to everyone I had managed to contact, several tapes languishing in a Newcastle studio were rescued by Mick Sharp just before they were to be thrown into a skip. One of these was the original tape of the SME Newcastle concert. When Sharp moved house, he asked Rhodri Davies to give the tapes to Karen Brookman. She informed Steve Beresford, and he passed the information on to me because I had recently released a poor quality version of the SME music. Many thanks to all the people in this chain, even though the tape arrived just too late!

The sound from the reel-to-reel tape, while still imperfect, is much better than that possible from the cassette. The main advantage is the almost total lack of distortion and unwanted noise. Hence this much more listenable second edition.
One trio recording that was issued fairly promptly was the final studio date, although for some reason the released version was taken from a cassette copy and shortened. This was used as a filler on a Konnex CD of Stevens' 4, 4, 4, session (recently reissued on Emanem). A while ago, Roger Smith gave me this material on a DAT, and it turned out to be considerably clearer and somewhat longer then the previously released version. So it can now be heard in higher fidelity, with a sound that is much drier and hence more intimate than the Newcastle concert.

Album label: 
Release date: 
01.01 / 2013
Recording date: 
17.11 / 1978
Recording location: 
1-2: Newcastle 1978. 3 London 1992.
Artwork design : Martin Davidson
Mastering engineer : Martin Davidson
Producer : Martin Davidson
Recording engineer : Jolyon Laycock (1-2), Richie Stevens (3)

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