Born Sutton Coldfield 1946. Started first group, playing bass guitar, while still at school and was soon out on the road playing the R&B clubs, dance halls and US Bases of England and Europe. In 1966 he bought his first double bass and joined The Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra.
In 1976 Stephens was asked to take his bass guitar along for a blow with John Stevens and altoist Trevor Watts. The result was John Stevens Away (mk II) and was the beginning of a long friendship and musical partnership between Stevens and Stephens. Nick was soon joined, in Away, by double bassist Ron Herman (Spontaneous Music Ensemble) and John and his two bass rhythm section were soon playing to critical acclaim. The group made three albums and two singles for Phonogram – the first single Annie was a very groovy Alternate Charts topper featuring John Martyn. They appeared twice on BBC televisions Old Grey Whistle Test and recorded several sessions for Radio 3’s Jazz In Britain (available from Konnex Records) and one for John Peel’s show.They made two national tours of big rock venues – one with The Jazz Crusaders – but never lost sight of the collective, group improvisation ethic that John had first nurtured in SME and The Little Theatre Club.
Nick continued to work with John until his death in 1994 playing in The Dance Orchestra, Folkus, Freebop, Fast Colour and umpteen gigs and workshops.
In 1988 he received his first of two Arts Council Bursaries for composition and formed the Nick Stephens Septet which featured a young Courtney Pine.
In 1983 Nick and John had flown to Norway to form the group Accent with Frode Gjerstad. The group didn’t last more than a couple of broadcasts and recordings and a few gigs, but Stephens and Gjerstad kept in touch and when, in 1994, an all day festival was held in London, to celebrate the music of John Stevens, Nick and Frode played the penultimate set together with Norwegian drummer Terje Isungset. They were followed onstage by Paul Rutherford. The four got together after the concert and determined to form a quartet ‘Calling Signals’ After gigs in Scandinavia Stephens acquired an Arts Council grant to tour the UK.
The second incarnation of Calling Signals featured, Gjerstad, Stephens, South African drummer Louis Moholo and Danish guitarist Hasse Poulson. They played several festivals and concerts in Norway and England and in 1996 recorded ‘Calling Signals‘ at Richie Stevens’ studio in Notting Hill Gate.
In 1996 Stephens and Gjerstad played a live broadcast from London’s Vortex club for the BBC. Inspired by this duo Nick flew to Norway to record North Atlantic Drift.
The Angel Of The Odd
“I met composer/clarinetist Bob Morgan who told me of his plan to form an orchestra made up of classical musicians and improvisers to play live for silent movies. He had devised a way of part scoring the action for the orchestra while individual soloists interpret, through improvisation, the lives, loves and sticky ends of their on-screen personas”.
The first commission was for the Hampstead Everyman. The film was GW Pabst’s Pandora’s Box. “Bob Morgan played Lulu/Pandora, Pete McPhail, Geschwitz and I played the ill-fated Dr. Schoen. Seats were removed from the front of the theatre to accommodate a string group to the left and right while the brass and woodwind were assembled on the stage. The choir were spread around and the audience were surrounded by sound”.
“The next film was Marnu’s great classic Noferatu, for which we assembled a 24-piece orchestra and a 27-piece choir. On different occasions featuring either Maggie Nichols or Phil Minton as Prof. Van Hell-Sing interpreter of the text. I played the toothsome one himself, Count Orlock/Dracula. Jon Corbet played Knock and Mark Thomas and Alan Thomlinson as Hutter”.
The aim of the orchestra is to travel with a core of improvisers and utilise local musicians and singers. If you would like to book The Angel Of The Odd Orchestra or learn more about us please email Robert Morgan or Nick Stephens
Somewhere Inbetween -John Stevens Away Vertigo 6360 135
Annie – Away with John Martyn Vertigo 6059 140
Can’t Explain – Away with Terry Quaye Vertigo 6059 154
Mazin Ennit – Away Vertigo 6360 141
Old Grey Whistle Test Take 2 – Away BBC Records BEDP001
Ah! – John Stevens Dance Orchestra Vinyl Records VS111
David Panton Trio/ Panton, Stevens, Stephens PM185
Accent – In Off/ Gjerstad, Garred, Stevens, Stephens Circulasione Total 014
Accent – Accent/ Gjerstad, Garred, Stevens, Stephens Circulasione Total 010
Dave Panton’s One Music Trio/ Panton, Stevens, Stephens NondoFMC3
Dave Panton Trio – For Some Cats/ Panton, Stevens, Stephens Nondo FMC5
Integration – Away Red Records RED 009
Mutual Benefit – Away Konnex KCD5061
A Luta Continua – John Stevens Dance Orchestra Konnex KCD 5056
Conversation Piece – John Stevens Konnex KCD5025
The Bible Says – Conglomerate Impetus IMPCD18921
Riot At The Hamborough Tavern – Volume 33 Wenlock Wen008
Live Tracks – Freebop Impetus Records IMP18610
North Atlantic Drift – Duo with Frode Gjerstad Falcata Galia FALC0024/0112
Antwerp 1988 -John Stevens Fast Colour – Loose Torque LT001
This That And The Other with Lol Coxhill and Frode Gjerstad Loose Torque LT003
Calling Signals with Frode Gjerstad, Louis Moholo and Hasse Poulson Loose Torque LT004
Integration -John Stevens Away Loose Torque LT005
Late For Lunch with John Stevens and Steve Topping Loose Torque LT006
Nick Stephens Septet At The Plough Stockwell Loose Torque LT007
North Atlantic Drift with Frode Gjerstad Loose Torque LT002
Trio F O Breaking Silence LT010
Today’s Play Jon Corbett Nick Stephens Tony Marsh LT011
Gjerstad Stephens Hession Live at the Termite Club LT009
Calling Signals Dreams in Dreams FMRCD177-i0805
Freedom of the City 2006 EMANEM 4139
Calling Signals Live in the UK FMRCD181-i0805
Instinctual Eye Born in Brooklyn Barking Hoop BKH010