Friday, October 22, 2010

Soft Machine Legacy Shines On with "Live Adventures"

The music world mourned the passing of Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper fairly recently. Among other things, of course, they were cornerstone members of Soft Machine and the later Soft Machine Legacy.

The good news is that the Legacy have steeled themselves with determination in the face of these losses and have generated a new lineup. Drummer John Marshall and guitarist John Etheridge remain. They are joined, logically enough, by the "other" Softs bass player, Roy Babbington, and a younger British saxophonist, Theo Travis.

The new Live Adventures CD (MoonJune 36) gives happy testimony to the continued vibrancy of the group. Of course when half the band is lost, one might expect the collective chemistry to alter significantly. Surprisingly that is less the case than might be expected. Theo Travis does not sound like Elton Dean, surely, but he fills the gap with his own twists and turns. Babbington is an old Softie and knows what to do.

With a program of band originals past and present, one part of the Soft's true legacy remains out front: they do interesting songs and they set their conceptual sites somewhere beyond fusion and into their own zone. This is always what the Softs do so well. And the Legacy band continues to evolve and grow, as a living, breathing entity and not a reunion band bent on recreating the past. They sound like themselves in the framework of NOW and they play outside of the conformed mainstream of electric jazz. For this reason alone the new Legacy album is a very good listen. But then again John Etheridge plays some fine guitar too and John Marshall is always a subtly appropriate player no matter what groove or kicking phrases he is a part of.

There's no decline here. They are fully into their best musical cups and drink heartily from them. Cheers then. Recommended!

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