Soft Works: Abracadabra (2003)
Elton Dean remains his sinuous self for the most part, wrapping his alto and saxello around the rhythmic matrix like a python. On Hugh Hopper's "First Trane" the bassist and drummer John Marshall set up a slow, stalking riff over which Dean slithers deliciously. Holdsworth emerges later, interjecting pads from the Synthaxe like pieces of a puzzle which Dean must solve. On "K Licks" the guitarist, turned acidic this time, and Dean twist and parry through dense unison lines, and the band gets downright funky on "Willie's Knee" with Dean switching to the electric piano. Holdsworth gets to shred big-time on the closer, "Madame Vintage," and Marshall easily keeps pace with him with a ip-roaring sidelong improvisation.
Soft Works is, by and large, a different animal from Soft Machine and its other predecessors. That aside, it's an exceptionally well thought out project featuring four veterans who know each other's moods and expectations intuitively. It should be especially appealing to Holdsworth's current fans, given the prevalence of the Synthaxe as a coloring tool. Recommended.
Track Listing: Seven Formerly; First Trane; Elsewhere; K Licks; Baker?s Treat; Willie?s Knee; Abracadabra; Madame Vintage.
Personnel: Allan Holdsworth, electric guitar and Synthaxe; Elton Dean, saxophones, Fender Rhodes; Hugh Hopper, electric bass; John Marshall, drums.
Record Label: Tone Center
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock