Esoteric Antenna (label)
25 March 2013 (released)
28 April 2013
For a band to call themselves Soft Machine Legacy they need to be able to bring some strong magic to the table. In John Etheridge, John Marshall and Roy Babbington you have alumni from the mid-70’s period, Babbington taking over from the late Hugh Hopper and Etheridge taking the baton from Alan Holdsworth while Theo Travis took over in Legacy from Elton Dean and has a history that includes 10 years as bandleader and 3 albums with Robert Fripp – is anyone more entitled to the name then these guys are – in fact, as Travis said, they could have legitimately called themselves Soft Machine but chose to take one step away from that classic moniker.
It almost goes without saying that the album is brilliant. This is modern British Jazz without reservation and without any attempt to ingratiate itself with the American or Japanese jazzers. Etheridge’s electric guitar is complex and fluid, avoiding the clichés that bedevil lesser artists while Travis playing is simply superb whether he is playing Tenpr Sax, Flute or the Fender Rhodes. Roy Babbington has long been held up as one of Britain’s most consistent and original bassists and John Marshall’s reputation as an understated but driving percussionist is well proven here.
The title track starts with sparse Fender Rhodes and develops the theme by brining in the guitar and horn lines and sets a tone for the album to come. Travis playing all through the album is cool and leaves room around for the other musicians to weave their work in and away.
The sleazy raunch of ‘Pie Chart’ sets against the coolness of ‘Going Somewhere Canorous?’ and the rendition of Hugh Hopper’s ‘Kings and Queens’ takes the number to new places of delicacy and gentility with wonderful flute playing from Travis.
There doesn’t seem to be a number here that couldn’t be played live but neither could you imagine these numbers being created or performed by any other set of musicians.
The best yet from Soft Machine Legacy and showing that British Jazz is still alive and vibrant.