Entries tagged with “AMM III”.

There has been some question as to the AMM lineup at various points in their history.  It is a complicated issue considering that the group has been around for nearly fifty years now and has constantly changed its membership over the years.  Additionally there have been plenty of guests, members at large and collaborative performances to further complicate the issue. Over the course of my reviews of the various bootlegs floating around I have made various assumptions w/r/t to the line up on a particular recording, some of which have conflicted with the information circulating with the sources.  In general the information that comes with the sources is highly suspect – they simply use information that is highly generalized or from sources that are not particularly accurate (the AMM page on Wikipedia is fairly useless for instance).  My process is to always start with principle sources, amend it with secondary sources and then to finally rely on the evidence of my ears. Based on this process I have complied the following timeline of AMM’s membership, all of which is verified via the sources cited.

AMM Timeline


Early 1965
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare(1)


Mid 1965
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Lawrence Sheaff (1, 5)

1966 to mid-1967
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Lawrence Sheaff, Cornelius Cardew (1, 2)

Cardew officially joins in January(2; p. 254)

Mid-1967 to April 1968
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew (1, 2, 8)

Lawrence Sheaff leaves group a few months after recording AMMMusic (8, 5, 1; p185) probably April 20th 1967

April 1968 to 1969
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew, Christian Wolff, Christopher Hobbs (1, 2, 5)

Christopher Hobbs joins April 1968 (2; p. 304)
Christian Wollf’s Sabbatical Year(1; p.185, 2; p.304)
John Tilbury filling in for Cardew at times
(1; p.185)

1969 to May 1971
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew, Christopher Hobbs (1, 2, 5)

Hobbs leaves the group in May 1971(2, p.650)

May 1971 to March 1972
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew (1, 2; p.650)

March 26th 1972 – final AMM show(2; p. 651)

AMM: double duos

March 1972 to January 1973

The occasional double AMM:  Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare and Cornelius Cardew, Keith Rowe(1, 2; p. 651)


mid-1972 to 1975
Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare (1, 2, 3)


Summer 1976
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, Lou Gare, Cornelius Cardew(1; p.186, 2l p.816)

Unrecorded, no performances, practices only, which apparently didn’t work out.


1977 to 1979
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost (1, 2, 3)

(1979/80:  Supersession: Evan Parker/Keith Rowe/Barry Guy/Edwin Prévost)


late 1980 to 1986
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury  (1, 3)

1986 to 1994
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury, Rohan de Saram (1, 3)

1989(?) to 1992
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury, Rohan de Saram, Lou Gare(4)

1994 to mid-2004
Keith Rowe, Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury

May 1st 2004:  Final AMM show


2005 to present
Edwin Prévost, John Tilbury


The sixties are of course the most contentious, being a long time ago and featuring the largest amount of changes. Cardew joining, Sheaff leaving in 1967, Hobbs and Wolff joining and then the fracture in the 70s. Tilbury’s Cardew bio goes a long way to providing specific dates for some events though others remain somewhat vague (no specific date for Sheaff leaving the group for instance just “April 1967, though his last concert with the group is mentioned, as being at the Commonwealth Institute which the Factsheet(5) lists only one in April on the 20th.

1968 to 1970
The information that I begin with for AMM from 1968 to their breakup in 1972 is primarily sourced from Prévost’s article AMM 1965/1994 — a brief and mostly chronological historical summary published in No Sound is Innocent(4) :

In 1968 American composer Christian Wolff joined the ensemble for the duration of his sabbatical year in Britain. Also during this time Christopher Hobbs, a percussionist and composition student of Cardew’s, at the Royal Academy of Music, regularly performed with AMM. John Tilbury occasionally participated when Cardew was not present.

From the early 1970s until the fracture of AMM in 1972 the ensemble remained the quartet: Cardew, Gare, Prévost and Rowe.” (4, p.185)

1969 is a question: was Christian Wolff’s “sabbatical year” – was it a school year, so Autumn 1968 to Summer 1969? Or was it literally 1968?  Additionally by saying that Hobbs played “during this time” does Prévost mean exclusively during Wolff’s time? Considering that Hobbs is part of the group for The Crypt sessions (12th June, 1968) but not Wolff I’d say this is the case.  This is further backed up by the fact that Hobbs was part of the group ion December 1969 when they played in Denmark as released as part of the Laminal box set. Thus I think that that sentence is too compress, it seems that Hobbs was a part of AMM from 1968/1969 presumably starting around the time that Wolff did. Alas there are no AMM recordings floating around with Christian Wolff , leaving this as one of the most egregious missing eras in the historical record. In the various bootlegs floating around It seems to be generally assumed that Hobbs is still part of group in 1970 and there has been some question as to why I don’t always follow this assumption. Again it is the above quote that by “early 1970 the ensemble remained the quartet”.  Clearly Hobbs left at this point but what exactly qualifies as the “early 70s”? Of the two bootlegs that I have in question from this period (Jan. and Feb. 1970) it sounds like there are two percussionists in the January recording and only one on the February recording. Thus I make the cutoff here.

In the 70s the originally group came to an end but several interesting events occurred. First off due to prior commitments the group had a tour and a festival in the Netherlands. With irreconcilable differences between the Rowe/Cardew and Gare/Prévost camps they played as the double duos. Gare/Prévost presumably playing as they would in AMM II but the Cardew/Rowe duo is completely unheard at this point. The record indicates that they were more in the traditionally abstract AMM realm (as opposed to Gare/Prévost’s more ‘free jazz’ sound) and would often play over tapes of the Peking Opera and other such revolutionary sound musics). AMM II would be the other major event of the mid 70s, this was the continuing duo of Gare and Prévost, who constantly got billed as AMM so they rolled with it. At the end of the 70s when the duo of Rowe and Prévost formed they used AMM III a the moniker indicated that the Gare/Prévost duo was AMM II, which I’ve used throughout.

The most strange and interesting things though occurred in 1976 when Rowe made an attempt to get the quartet back together again. There was a concert on April 1st of that year that Rowe refers to as a “hidden” AMM concert that included himself, Cardew and Prévost plus flautist John Wesley-Barker and double-bassist Marcio Mattos(2; p. 816). This event has been heretofore unknown only revealed in Tilbury’s massive Cardew biography.  The other event, more well known, was a series of practices in June of 1976 of the quarter of Gare, Cardew, Prévost and Rowe(2; p.816).  These apparently didn’t work out and Tilbury cites Gare as feeling that Cardew didn’t have the level of commitment necessary and abandoned the attempt.

This is basically the question of Rohan de Saram. He was definitely considered part of the group, but he clearly was the one with the most demanding schedule (being a member of the Arditti String Quartet at this time) and thus there are cases of the trio AMM as well as a quartet with Lou Gare.  There also are various lineups with the clarinettist Ian Mitchell (quartet and quintet with de Saram) but I tend to think of those as more guest spots as I would the occasional shows with Evan Parker.

1989 to 1992
The early 90s quintet AMM was something I only stumbled upon during the course of this review process. I have a bootleg from 1987 from this quintet and in the course of my research I found this line in the updated CD liner notes accompanying the CD release of The Crypt:

“And the band goes on: for to date we have still not recorded the current quintet line-up of de Saram, Gare, Prévost, Rowe and Tilbury.” – Edwin Prévost, Februrary 1992(5)

This version never would be recorded and it seemed that Gare left again soon after. De Saram would soon follow though there would be the occasional gig through at least 1994.

After Rowe left AMM in 2005, Tilbury and Prévost made the controversial decision to continue on as AMM as a duo. I refer to this as AMM IV as per Rowe’s definition that AMM should be at least trio with himself and Prévost at the core.  It is interesting to note that AMM IV now often plays with other musicians but they are always listed as “AMM+” indicating that these are all guest spots. These guests have included Sachiko M, Christian Wolff and John Butcher among others (see the comments for more info).


1) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
2) John Tilbury, Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished, Copula, 2008
3) Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
4) Edwin Prévost, The Crypt Liner notes, 1992 (Matchless)
5) AMM FactsheetThe Crypt Liner Notes (not online), Matchless Recordings 1992
6) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
7) Meta Machine Music, Rob Young, The Wire Issue #132 (February 1995)
8) Edwin Prévost, AMMMusic Liner Notes (originally published in RER Quarterly vol.2 no.2, Nov. 1988)

Supeersession album coverThe history of AMM in the period between the duo of Keith Rowe and Eddie Prévost and trio of Keith Rowe, John Tilbury, Eddie Prévost is an interesting and little understood period. One that I think I’m not going to be able to shed much light upon beyond supposition. AMM fragmented into the duos of Rowe/Cardew and Prévost/Gare over ideological differences in the early 70s.  Rowe and Cardew went on to their revolutionary songs while Gare and Prévost became a free jazz duo under the AMM name. That much is fairly clear. Also it is pretty well know that there was an attempt to revive the Rowe/Cardew/Prévost/Gare quartet in the late 70s. Gare of course made his oft quoted statement about not being able to return to AMMMusic after the freedom of the duo. Cardew was then tragically killed (murdered?) bringing to a close that era of AMM.

What happened next was the duo of Keith Rowe and Eddie Prévost of which we discussed in the previous post. However it seems that pretty much all during that period there was various attempts to put together a larger group. Rowe has always stated that for him AMM was meant to be a larger group:

“If it’s two elements, it’s not AMM. There have been versions of AMM with only two people, but I don’t consider that as AMM. […] About that time we did do duo gigs, yes. But we always thought there should be three elements. In AMM philosophy three is four: the three players plus the group itself makes four. It’s like the Chinese story of the man drinking a glass of wine in moonlight whose shadow becomes the third member of the company. AMM’s a quartet with an invisible member. ” -Keith Rowe(1)

In the late 70s/early 80s there seemed to be be an almost “auditioning” process of various people for AMM, there is a known recording out there that I have yet to be able to find of  Keith Rowe/Evan Parker/Eddie Prévost in 1979 and then there is this quartet of Evan Parker/Keith Rowe/Barry Guy/Eddie Prévost in 1980. It seems they especially flirted with Evan Parker as he was involved in a number of shows from the aforementioned 1979 one up to at least late 1984.  This group, the quartet of Rowe, Parker, Prévost and Guy would release an album recorded in London in September 1984 under the name of Supersession.

Keith Rowe/Eddie Prévost/Barry Guy/Evan Parker
1980, BBC Studio, London

Begins very tentative, insect music territory. Scrabbly guitar sounds, short bass arpeggios, mild bleats and skronks from the sax and fits and starts of drumming. This picks up pretty fast and within a couple of minutes the sound is fairly continuous even if each individual contribution is not.  He seems to use this fast, staccato strumming to create a kind of blur of popping sounds. A real different sound for this type of free improv and interesting how he kind of sticks with it throughout.  He varies this with shorter, spacious, quieter segments but with the same high thin tone.  In this piece after things build up to pretty dense playing from the bass and drums as Rowe does the fast scrabbling sound he then begins this more spacious playing and suddenly everyone backs off. Good long section without Parkers horn and when he brings it in it is with these short constipated releases of air. Prévost picks up the drumming heading into a quite free jazz vibe as if he was in a duo with late 60s Coltrane. Rowe pauses for a bit at this point and Parker heads toward pretty much continuous playing in familiar Parker territory.  Guy’s bass work is quite straight ahead most of the time at at this dense interval he is pretty much just in the pocket. Keith comes back in with serious vamping adding in a real dense rather fuzzed guitar wash. At this point 8 minutes or so into this piece this could be any free 70s improv ensemble.

They back down from this energy (even the ebb and flow of this is akin to the free jazz roller coaster style) with some rather nice gritty bowing from Guy. Parker plays very short, tonal phrases along with this for a bit of a bass and sax duo. A bit of metallic guitar from Rowe as if stroking muted strings above the pickup. This again inspires an increase in energy and his strumming becomes faster and faster to which Parker responds in kind. It breaks down pretty fast and becomes a bit more open but then Prévost begins wailing on the skins in an all out drum freakout. This of course inspires those melodic runs from Parker, bass fills from Guy and Rowe adds in a a heavily fuzzed almost hard rock guitar. Rowe is almost always at a lower volume then the others and while his playing is fairly straight it is sometimes at odds with the other three. In many ways this is kind of a collision of rock and free improv with elements of both used as materials for this improv.

Again things are quickly brought to a much lower level of energy with Prévost still working the skins, but gently and Rowe down to his slower scrabble instead of the frantic one and Parker laying out.  But just as quickly the energy is built right back up, with dense bass work and what sounds like soprano sax from Parker, played a frantic speed.  To which Rowe responds with a rocking guitar line. It is this constant high to low to high energy transitions that is the most EFI like in this, with the sounds often coming from the rock work. This time when the level is brought down, Guy returns to bowing his bass and Rowe goes on a total analog delay freakout. Layers of thin guitar work ping-pong across the stereo field as he works his delay and Parker plays short little squeals on the (probably) soprano sax. Staccato drumming on the floor tom from Prévost as Rowe moves into odd little cascades of sounds almost like bottles being rolled upon each other. Things open up pretty well even as Guy lays in a guttural drone via his bow. Rowe and Parker stick with fragmented squeals and Prévost lays out. Mirroring the beginning of the piece things get a bit insect music like in the last minutes and slowly coalesce into a denser structure but rather surprisingly concluding before really achieving liftoff.

The playing of Rowe and Prévost on this track is very much in the vein of the playing on RadioActivity and the AMM III album. The use of rock textures from Rowe and free jazz drumming from Prévost run all through this.  While Parker and Guy at times slip sounds in that wouldn’t be out of place in an AMM date from the late 60s for the most part they don’t stray from what they would be doing in their trio with Lytton. Its interesting that the trio of Rowe, Prévost and Guy could be almost a rock power trio (like Cream say), while the trio of Prévost, Parker and Guy sound could just be Prévost filling in for Lytton the Evan Parker trio.  They oscillate between these two poles which perhaps aren’t all that far apart.

“The group that AMM most closely resembles, though they sound utterly unalike and their musics seem to take shape on different principles, is the trio of Evan Parker, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton, whose playing relationship is almost as long as AMM’s and who share the same devotion to collective improvisation. When AMM was a tenor/drums duo in the 70s, Gare and Prévost frequently co-promoted concerts with the duo of Parker and Lytton, and there’s an extraordinary quartet recording from 1984, called Supersession (Matchless MRCD17), with a quartet of Guy, Parker, Prévost and Rowe.” -Stuart Broomer(3)

The above quote from Broomer I think gives us the clue as to just what this recording is. AMM and the Evan Parker trio played at various shows together, and knowing how those went probably had to do some combined playing together. It was from an unknown date in 1980 at the BBC at a
time when AMM III was playing shows by itself and with various people.  And supposedly at this point Tilbury had already been asked to join the group, though the first official trio AMM set was not until 1982. If AMM III and the Evan Parker Trio were doing intermingled shows at this time perhaps when the opportunity to do a BBC date came up it was suggested that they all play. Perhaps it was the Evan Parker trio that was asked to do the the BBC session and Lytton was unavailable that day so Parker asked Rowe and Prévost to play with them. Impossible to say without of course asking one of the principles. So I think this best way to think of this would be as a one off with the AMM duo, Parker and Guy. In 1984 when they played the show that was  released as Supersession they had already been performing as the trio AMM for several years and had released the studio album Generative Themes. So when releasing the album you could see the need to create a new identity for the group.

It is worth noting that on the actual Supersession disc the rock elements are nowhere near as dominant. Overall it feels more AMM like, especially what you hear on Generative Themes. This of course makes sense as the trio AMM had been playing enough for them to have settled more into playing AMMMusic. At the time of this recording, Rowe and Prévost had primarily been playing in rock and free improv styles for quite a few years. It is not surprising that those influences would filter into AMM III and just be reinforced when added straight up free improv players like Parker and Guy. So really this recording is another fleeting moment in time another short lived era in the history of AMM.


1) Keith Rowe interview by Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic
Supersession liner notes by Eddie Prévost,1988 (Matchless Recordings)
3)  Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
4) Meta Machine Music, Rob Young, The Wire #132 (February 1995)
5) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995

“Tonight though is the first time that Eddie Prévost and  Keith Rowe have performed in public as a duo and they have chosen to improvise a piece that can be interpreted as an account, sometimes ironic, always affectionate, of their musical journey during the past dozen years. It begins very much in the style of AMM, with incidentally Keith Rowe playing two guitars, one of them a prepared guitar with a motor that enables it to produce the drone that you’ll hear in the background during the early part of the performance..  But the improvisation concludes by moving closer to the sort of music that both performers are playing nowadays. Eddie Prévost and Keith Rowe and Radioactivity. ” – Charles Fox from his introduction to the performance on his “Jazz In Britain” BBC radio programme.

Since we last left AMM there has been a number of transitions, transformations and reassessments. In a nutshell during a tour in Holland the group split into two duos made up of Keith Rowe and Cornelius Cardew and Eddie Prévost and Lou Gare. Cardew and Rowe went on to the Peoples Liberation Music and Prévost and Gare did a number of shows and a couple of albums as AMM. This would be AMM II.  Steve Lake nicely sums this all up in his liner notes to For It had been an ordinary enough day in Pueblo Colorado:

“AMM’s first lifespan had come to an end in 1972, when the quartet of Prévost, Rowe, Lou Gare and Cornelius Cardew split in half. Prevost and saxophonist Gare went on to play a gently melodic free improvisation under the AMM banner through the early seventies (this being, effectively, AMM Two: refer to the album “To Hear And Back Again“) while Cardew and Rowe laboured – I think that’s the appropriate word – in a “political rock” group called People’s Liberation Music.” -Steve Lake(2)

AMM II, of which I have no bootlegs of (but see To Hear and Back Again and Live at the Roundhouse), was much more free jazz then AMMMusic though it occasionally drifts into that territory.Prévost continued further down this route with his own groups the Eddie Prévost Band and the Eddie Prévost trio formed in the mid 70s. During this time Rowe moved from the political sing-a-longs of the PLM to the rock fusion of Amalgam. The ideology that had fractured the group seemed to abate and in the late 70s moves were made to reunite the previous incarnation of Prévost, Gare, Rowe and Cardew. As Martin Davidson put it in his liner notes for To Hear and Back Again:

“In 1976, Cardew and Rowe rejoined AMM for some rehearsals that were not very successful. This time it was Cardew and Gare that left, leaving Prévost and Rowe to form the second AMM duo”. -Martin Davidson(1)

After this attempt (which if any recordings were made someone should leak them!) to reform the core group what was left was founding members Rowe and Prévost. Keith Rowe: “I’d looked into the chasm and seen what the alternative was; it gave me an even stronger belief in the AMM process.” (4) Their first public performance as a duo was in late April 1979 on Charles Fox’s Jazz In Britain show  at the BBC.  Shortly thereafter they would be asked to record a studio album in Germany which would become It had been an ordinary enough day in Pueblo Colorado and not too long after that John Tilbury was asked to join the group.

Radio Activity, performed at the BBC on April 23rd, 1979
The piece begins with rumbling guitar and scraped metal in an approximation of early AMM. This is probably the prepared guitar with its motor as it grumbles and grinds its way around the guitar mostly likely hindered by Rowes hand. Prévost’s scraping reaches a frantic intensity and then abruptly stops long enough for him to switch to bowing cymbals or metal. The motorized guitar now running on its own laying in a low drone Rowe plays sustained single notes, bent via the whammy bar interspersed with the occasional plucked note. A good brooding quality develops here but it is shortly shattered by Prévost on the kit in an almost jazz rock style.  Rowe’s guitar begins to turn increasingly rock like as well though avoiding much of the obvious structures and clichés. He alternates between two notes for a long period in an almost minimalism applied to rock riffs style which he finally breaks out with what is pretty much a guitar freak-out.  From this he holds a single tone for as long as possible with clichés rubbing drumheads and throwing in the occasional fill.

From this point on the AMM retrospective seems to have been mostly complete.  The droning guitar has mostly faded to the background providing an almost bass line.  Rowes guitar is utilized in a squiggly fashion throwing out notes and riffs as Eddie manically works the skins and occasionally blows a police whistle.  This perhaps could be a bit of the energy and anarchy of the Scratch Orchestra, the police whistle certainly being a touchstone.  Though the density is different it certainly captures some of the energy of those performances. As Prévost continues with the fills Rowe turns from this to some effected playing that has an almost vocal quality – an attempt at capturing Gare’s tone perhaps? This builds into frantic scrabbling at the strings as Prévost works the kit, staying with the drums, toms and snares mostly with little cymbal work. After reaching a fever pitch this backs off and becomes quiet, with Rowe dropping in short sustained squeals and Prévost soft little fills, cymbal grabs and a bit of hi-hat work.

This soft bit with the most space so far doesn’t last too long as Rowe again begins frantic riffing, first at very low volume and then slowly building up.  Prévost abandons his quieter cymbal work to return to the skins working the tom and kick drums mainly. Distorted guitar from Rowe now, a fractured melody sort of anthemic (PLM perhaps?) but it doesn’t last and devolves into crushed little motifs.  Prévost briefly drops out as Rowe delivers an effected little solo, almost a bit Hendrix like with tones ringing in the space of delay. The drums come back full force as Rowe begins to move to higher energy little jabs of sound. A brief melodic bit almost sounding like the “Batman theme” before turning to super staccato playing as Prévost keeps time with the cymbals throwing in the occasional fill. Rowe’s playing becomes really rhythmic with this technique and Prévost mirrors that rhythm giving this an almost disco feel. At this point I’d say we went from the Free jazz of Prévost’s groups to the fusion of Amalgam where it concludes. The ending is quite nice with Rowe breaking down this rhythm into short and more clipped bits and Prévost faltering and then stopping leaving just the choked tones from the guitar for a few more iterations till it too abruptly ceases.

This piece is described by Charles Fox as “…a piece that can be interpreted as an account, sometimes ironic, always affectionate, of their musical journey during the past dozen years.”.   These dozen years span the formation of AMM and its constant reassessments, performance of  composed works and intense sonic experiments. The anarchic explorations of the Scratch Orchestra. The duo AMM of Gare and Prévost, the political songs of Rowe and Cardew, the free jazz of the Eddie Prévost Band/Trio and the rock fusion of Amalgam. As also noted by Fox this required Rowe to have two guitars one played by a motor to help capture the more continuous droning of early AMM. As would be a hallmark of this brief incarnation of AMM Rowe moves from this style into the more rock freak-out guitar solos of Amalgam. In a way there is a pretty direct line from AMM II to III with the free blowing Gare replaced by the guitar equivalent.  Except when they are trying to be, it doesn’t have much of an AMM feel which possibly explains why this incarnation didn’t last.

It is worth noting that Radio Activity, described here as an improvisation, which seems to have an internal direction of trying to capture their history of performance also is the first track on It had been an ordinary enough day in Pueblo Colorado. Rowe’s motor driven second guitar, Prévost’s scrapped metal and the titular radio capture begin this piece giving it the same feel and structure of the above radio bootleg. In the same way it moves from this pseudo early AMM sound toward more free jazzy areas.  So it seems that this became a piece of sorts for this duo, improvised for sure but with a loose structure.


1) AMM II To Hear and Back Again liner notes by Martin Davidson 1993 (Matchless Recordings)
2) AMM II Live at the Roundhouse liner notes by Eddie  Prevost and Eric Lanzilotta 2003 (Anomolous Records)
3) AMM III It had been an ordinary enough day in Pueblo Colorado liner notes by Steve Lake 1979 (ECM/JAPO)
4) Meta Machine Music, Rob Young, The Wire Issue #132 (February 1995)
5) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
6)  The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home