AMM was founded in London in 1965 by Gare, Provost and Rowe. In 1966 they were joined by Lawrence Sheaff and Cornelius Cardew. Since then Christopher Hobbs, Christian Wolff, Rohan de Saram and Ian Mitchell have also participated in making AMM music.
by Eddie Provost.
Prior to the formulation of the name AMM and the development of the particular features that subsequently marked out AMM's musical aesthetic, there were various ensembles in which the first stirrings towards AMMmusic could be discerned.
In 1965 tenor saxophonist Lou Gare and guitarist Keith Rowe were members of the Mike Westbrook Band. Lou Gare was also a member of a hard bop quintet, which featured drummer Eddie Provost. Various ad hoc ensembles in London at that time experimented with the then new free jazz. Those which featured Gare, Rowe and Provost also included Mike Westbrook, John Surman, Henry Lowther, Malcolm Hawley and Lawrence Sheaff. Out of these ad hoc formulations evolved the trio of Gare, Rowe and Provost, an ensemble which developed and performed free music, occasionally in public. Shortly after, Gare and Rowe left the Westbrook band to concentrate on this new musical venture. Lawrence Sheaff, the bassist with Westbrook, later followed, to join what was to become AMM. These investigations occurred concurrent with but to a (surprisingly) large extent unaware of the emerging work of the group of musicians we now associate with the earliest manifestations of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble - especially John Stevens, Trevor Watts, Paul Rutherford, Derek Bailey and Evan Parker. But although both approaches to the new freedoms in music developed independently there was some meeting. SME generously invited AMM to perform from time to time at the Little Theatre Club, Monmouth Street, in London's West End.
In 1966, as part of a bid to broaden the pool of musicians to perform his graphic work Treatise, Cornelius Cardew was introduced to AMM. He later joined the ensemble and began to take part in their regular sessions at the Royal College of Art. The ensemble had a settled line-up of Cardew, Rowe, Gare, Sheaff and Provost. Several months after the release of the first album, AMMMusic, Lawrence Sheaff left the ensemble and ceased making music.
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, Provost, Rowe. Subsequently, until about 1975, Lou Gare and Eddie Provost joined with Evan Parker and Paul Lytton to co-promote and perform (mostly in respective duo forms and with guests) at a long-standing weekly venue in East Action, London. This ultimately led to Gare's and Provost's inclusion in the London Musicians' Co-operative. Cardew and Rowe meanwhile ceased to be involved with improvisation.
Sometime in 1976 first moves in rapprochement occurred in which private sessions with Cardew, Rowe, Gare and Provost occurred. These proved not fruitful for Gare, who left and moved to Exeter in Devon. Subsequently Cardew ceased to have time or inclination to continue with the project. This left Rowe and Provost, who worked as a duo for a year or so, until around 1980, when they invited John Tilbury to join AMM.
This trio remained the mainstay of the ensemble to 2004. Cellist Rohan de Saram performed with the AMM as did (to a lesser extent) the clarinettist Ian Mitchell. Lou Gare also returned for a while during 1989/90. On rare occasions Evan Parker performed with various AMM formulations. He and Christian Wolff are the two musicians outside of the immediate circle of AMM with whom an indefinable rapport is felt - and a confidence that the AMM aesthetic would be pursued and respected.
AMM are currently (2005) functioning as a duo of John Tilbury and Eddie Provost.