Saturday, October 07, 2006

Soft Machine - Grides (Cuneiform, 2006)

The Cuneiform label has done Soft Machine proud over the past few years, putting out several previously unreleased concerts by the different lineups that constituted this pioneering English jazz-rock fusion band. This particular concert was recorded on October 25, 1970 in Amsterdam, and finds the band with an early lineup of Elton Dean on alto saxophone, saxello, electric piano; Mike Ratledge on electric organ and piano; Hugh Hopper on electric bass and Robert Wyatt on percussion. At this phase in the band's career, they had dropped the vocal component of their music, to concentrate on psychedelic electric jazz.

The music has a heavily droning feel, with swaths of organ and electric piano bathing Dean's saxophones in a gauzy haze. An example of this can be found on the lengthy track strangely titled "Esther's Nose Job" where the band builds on a zoned out keyboard led groove, slowly upping the ante into a furious finish that has the crowd calling them back for an encore. There's also a short DVD recorded around the same time included in the package and since video footage of early versions of Soft Machine are quite rare, it's a treat to be able to have a good quality film of the band performing. Fans of jazz fusion or progressive rock should find this package valuable.

Send comments to: Tim