British modern/free jazz saxophonist Elton Dean signals in the New Year with a pleasant surprise on this new release titled, Moorsong. The artist is revered for his work with the legendary band,“Soft Machine”, numerous recordings with prominent participants of the British improvising scene, solo ventures and an early stint with blues vocalist Long John Baldry along with a young and then unknown pianist Reginald Dwight (Elton John). – In case you’re wondering, Dwight renamed himself after (Elton) Dean and Long (John) Baldry. Nonetheless, Dean opts for a shift in strategy on this affable and thoroughly grooving affair.
With “John’s Fragment”, Dean performing on alto sax, blows razor sharp choruses atop Hammond organist Alex Maguire’s underlying ostinato, endearing chord progressions and the rhythm section’s solid backbeats, as this piece also boasts a memorably melodic hook. Here, Dean flirts with Medeski, Martin & Wood type organ based motifs, as this track could conceivably enjoy some widespread radio airplay. The musicians continue their pursuit of funk/rock rhythms and loose vibes on “Willy The Knee”, which is accelerated by all-world bassist Fred Baker’s pumping lines in conjunction with the alto saxophonist’s rapid fire and at times, scathing attack.
Guitarist Mark Hewins establishes his presence on “Reel Welders” as the band alters the flow with equal parts mainstream and free-jazz type extended soloing, satiny themes and Baker’s tasty fuzz-bass solo which is seemingly a nod to Dean’s famous Soft Machine band mate and frequent collaborator, bassist Hugh Hopper. However, “Soldering On” features Mark Sanders’ swirling percussion and Lian Genockey’s alternating rock pulse which serves as the foundation for an ethereal soundscape, brimming with faint injections of EFX and Dean’s lucid soloing.
Basically, Moorsong presents the listener with an upbeat, multihued glimpse of Dean’s rather expansive jazz vernacular, as the music and overall scope of this project might be viewed upon as being a bit more accessible for those unwilling to delve into the saxophonist’s extensive modern jazz discography. Throughout, Elton Dean seamlessly integrates the finer elements of improvisational dialogue and hard driving rhythms with jazzy interplay, all engraved with the mark of a master craftsman who reaps huge rewards from the fiery interplay of a revved up ensemble. Recommended!
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Personnel: Elton Dean; saxes: Fred T. Baker; bass: Liam Genockey; drums: Mark Hewins; guitar (tracks 6-8): Alex Maguire; Hammond organ (tracks 1-5): Mark Sanders; percussion (tracks 6-7).