Stan had left Ronnie Scott's pretty much by 1970 and only rarely returned to the jazz club over the next years. Also by now a new generation of musicians had arrived. Their interests and musical directions were not altogether going to fit into the usual jazz club venues that had established themselves, like Ronnie Scott's, in the 1960's. These young improvising players were the ones now scuffling for work and Stan who'd become free from Scott's club and hence also the regular work, had become one of these scufflers too.
Amongst this new generation of new players had come the South African musicians, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath for example was using many of the free British players alongside the SA greats like Mongezi Fesa, Dudu Pukwana, Louis Moholo and Harry Miller. (See also Frank Perry's web site for the SA connections).
Hazel Miller and Jackie Tracey (Stan's wife) ran the Grass Roots Jazz Club which provided gigs and one off seesions for many of these musicians, plus employment teaching at the Lambeth Summer School which they also ran in the early 70's. Hazel Miller (widow of Harry Miller) also runs Ogun Records where much of this period is being reissued.
Stan became interested in this new expression in music. At the time one young talent was Keith Tippett. Keith had left Bristol in 1967 an had begun his own sextet along with the ambitious project Centipede, a 50 piece jazz orchestra, in the late 60's. Stan had become aware of Keith and other young improvisers when working around the London gigs. One meeting had led to another until one fortuitous occasion as Stan's son, Clark recalls -
"We had temporarily landed ourselves the loan of a second piano. I doubt whether this duo would have emerged if that unusual but happy circumstance hadn't occurred. Soon there was a live performance and a recording taken from London's Wigmore Hall in 1974, subsequently released on Emanem Records as "TNT" and later reissued both on Steam Records and Blue Note International. That album has remained one of my 'Desert Island Discs' ever since. Hearing these two is simply like being taken to a new musical realm you were unaware of and every performance thereafter was the same quality. They only performed, mostly at festivals, a dozen or so times over that ten years here and overseas. This pairing has always been a personal favorite of mine in any musical context. Since that first day in the early Seventies when I stood outside 'the piano room' with my mother, keenly taking in the explosive sound of Stan and Keith on two grand pianos, we were both aware that here was something unique and special".
In 2008 a previously unreleased recording of Stan and Keith's performance at the ICA in London in 1977 was unearthed from Stan's archive of reel tapes. This has subsequently been released on CD - 'Supernova'. Resteamed Records. RSJ105.
Chris Parker. Vortex Jazz "..this album captures 50-odd minutes of peerless improvising from two masters of the craft".
below : Short sound check before gig at Pizza Express in London, sponsored by Steinway, in March 2009 (with tongue-in-cheek ending).
During 1972 and 75 the bands were a veritable who's who of free jazz in the UK (although one noticeable addition from the previous decade is the presence of Tubby Hayes in SPLINTERS just one year before his death).
This list is just some of the bands and combinations -
1972 : SPLINTERS with Kenny Wheeler, Trevor Watts, Tubby Hayes, Stan Tracey, Jeff Clyne, John Stevens, Phil Seamen.
1972 : SPONTANEOUS MUSIC ENSEMBLE - Paul Rutherford, Lol Coxhill, Peter Westbrook, Trevor Watts, Herman Hauge, Lou Gare, Larry Stabbins, Imon Denis-Chevsky, Utako Ikeda, Chris Turner, Stan Tracey, Christopher Small, Derek Bailey, David Toop, Mike Barton, Jeff Clyne, John Stephens, Jak Kilby, Paul Burwell,.
1972 : JOHN SURMAN QUARTET - John Surman, Stan Tracey, Harry Miller, Louis Moholo.
1972 : STAN TRACEY-MIKE OSBORNE - Mike Osborne, Stan Tracey.
1973 : TENTACLES - Henry Lowther, Harry Beckett, Malcolm Griffiths, Paul Nieman, Trevor Watts, Art Themen, John Surman, Stan Tracey, Harry Miller, Louis Moholo.
1974 : STAN TRACEY OCTET - Harry Beckett, Malcolm Griffiths, Trevor Watts, Alan Skidmore, Don Weller, Stan Tracey, p; Danny Thompson, John Stevens.
1974 : T’n’T - Stan Tracey, Keith Tippett.