He's been on the scene for twenty years, but it's only been in the past few that Theo Travis has risen to prominence beyond the expanding group of musicians who call him up when they need a saxophonist/flautist with jazz chops but a rock sensibilityand an appreciation of the organic marriage of technology with acoustic instruments to expand their sonic reach. Travis has collaborated with King Crimson co-founder Robert Fripp on two improvised soundscape recordings including Live at Coventry Garden (Panegyric, 2010); replaced departed Soft Machine alum Elton Dean in Soft Machine Legacy, most recently on Live Adventures (MoonJune, 2010); recorded with David Sylvian's Nine Horses on Snow Borne Sorrow (SamadhiSound, 2005); and played with Gong, Porcupine Tree, The Tangent and Karmakanic. But it's easy to forget that, beneath it all Travis is a jazzer at heart, who's released ten albums as a leader.
All I Know: An Anthology collects 21 tracks, mostly from Travis' 33 Records releases, dating back to 1993 and 2am, through albums like View from the Edge (1994), Earth to Ether (2004) and Double Talk (2007), through to Ascending, Live at the Pizza (2009). The emphasis is on original material, written alone or in collaboration, but the set's two covers, one on each of its two discs, reveal plenty. The Van Heusen/Burke standard, "Here's That Rainy Day," gets a contemporary facelift, drummer Björn Lücker's gentle groove and pianist David Gordon's spare accompaniment supporting elegant solo work from Travis (on tenor) and trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg. Gong-head Daevid Allen's in-the-weeds glissando guitar creates a soft transition between the more jazz-oriented material on this "Night," disc and the more rock/groove-centric "Day" CD, where a short but sweet rework of "21st Century Schizoid Man" strips out the incendiary middle section of King Crimson's iconic tune, turning it into a fiery, minor key blues.
The original material runs its share of the gamut as well, as "The Ghosts of Witley Court" spotlights his AmbitronicsTravis' response to Frippertronicswith real-time looping and signal processing allowing him to create a warm cushion, leading into a soft-treading but still funky middle section where, driven by electric bassist Rob Stratham, Travis' overdubbed tenor saxophone moves in tandem with bass clarinetist Tony Coe. From the sublime to the riotous, the same group (minus Coe) kicks "Psychogroove" hard with a more fervent pulse, Stratham locking in with drummer Ichiro Tatsuhara as Travis creates his own mini-big band to deliver a knotty theme that directly links Travis to the Canterbury scene.
There's plenty more, from the all-improvised , folkloric and pastoral "Sand Dance," off Marshall/Travis/Wood's Bodywork (1998)the flautist's first recorded encounter with future Soft Machine Legacy mate, drummer John Marshallto the Ambitronics-supported hysteria of guitarist John Etheridge's edgy solo on SML's Steam (MoonJune, 2007). For those who only know Travis for his progressive leaningsor for those in the know, who've followed his jazzier proclivities from the beginningAll I Know paints the broadest picture possible of one of the hardest working musicians currently on the British scene.
CD1: Shore Thing; Lulworth Night; 2am; The Ghosts of Whitley Court; Waterlily Boogie; The Purple Sky; Northern Lights; Sand Dance; Marti; Here's That Rainy Day. CD2: Psychogroove; The Crow Road; All I Know; 21st Century Schizoid Man; Things Change; Lovely; Full Moon Rising (Part 2); Barking Dogs and Caravans; The Relegation of Pluto; Anything to Anywhere; And So It Seemed.
Theo Travis: tenor saxophone (CD1#1-6, CD1#9-10, CD2#1-4, CD2#7-9, CD2#11), flute (CD1#4, CD2#5, CD2#7), soprano saxophone (CD1#7-8, CD2#6, CD2#10); David Gordon: piano (CD1#1-6, CD1#9-10, CD2#1-3, CD2#8), Hammond organ (CD1#7), organ (CD2#8); Rob Statham: bass guitar (CD1#1-5, CD2#1-2); Ichiro Tatsuhara: drums (CD1#1, CD1#3-4, CD2#1); Marc Parnell: drums (CD1#2, CD1#5, CD1#7m CD1#9, CD2#2, CD2#4-5, CD2#7-8); Gary Hammond: percussion (CD1#1, CD1#5); Mark Wood: guitar (CD1#3, CD1#6), baritone guitar (CD1#8), acoustic guitar (CD1#9), electric guitar (CD1#9, CD2#8); Tony Coe: bass clarinet (CD1#4); Jeff Clyne: double-bass (CD1#6); John Marshall: drums (CD1#6, CD1#8, CD2#10); Palle Mikkleborg: trumpet (CD1#7, CD1#10); Andy Hammill: double-bass (CD1#7, CD1#10, CD2#4-5, CD2#7-8); Björn Lücker: drums (CD1#10, CD2#3); John Etheridge: electric guitar (CD2#2, CD2#10); Stefan Weeke: double-bass (CD2#3); Simon Colam: piano (CD2#4-5, CD2#7); Steve Lawson: bass guitar (CD2#6); Mike Outram: electric guitar (CD2#9, CD2#11); Pete Whittaker: Hammond organ (CD2#9, CD2#11); Roy Dodds: drums (CD2#9, CD2#11); Hugh Hopper: bass guitar (CD2#10); Daevid Allen: glissando guitar (CD1#10).