Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

352

Soft Machine: Drop

Nic Jones By

Sign in to view read count
The departure of Robert Wyatt from the drum stool in Soft Machine and the arrival of Phil Howard could have been a potentially fraught moment in the band's evolution back in the early '70s. Until now the only documentation of Howard's time with the band was on one side of Fifth (Sony/BMG, 1972), which was no more than a tantalizing glimpse of the direction towards which the band was evolving. This live material from the band's German tour in late 1971 is a much better indicator of where it was going, and to put it simply it was heading even further out than it had been before.

That's not to say that the degree of continuity between the band with Wyatt and the band with Howard is pronounced because it isn't, and whilst the two drummers shared an elastic conception of time it's clear that both were committed to a creative, ever-evolving playing conception. That wouldn't have counted for much if it hadn't been for the fact that they were in the company of like-minded souls, and here the music rolls and boils in a way that guarantees that audiences didn't receive the same fare two nights running. Keyboardist Mike Ratledge's "All White" is alive with group tension, with Elton Dean's long, darkly elegant saxello lines acting almost as an anchor in the midst of Howard's hyperactivity.

Set against that, Ratledge's title track serves almost as calm amidst the storm, although again Howard's percussive maelstrom comes on like the work of a perpetually restless soul. Against that, Hugh Hopper's bass often tends to take a back seat, but the point remains that without his work the music would lack internal structure. That point is reinforced by the seamless segue from "M.C." into "Out-Bloody-Rageous," which in compositional terms is taken relatively straight, albeit with more fire than was sometimes the case, as with previous live documents of the band with Wyatt. The twin-keyboard passage here, with Dean at the electric piano, is all subtlety, however, with Howard the one either allowed the most room, or the most committed to rhythmic drive.

Hopper's fuzz bass comes into its own on the opening of "As If," where four instrumental voices vie equally for attention before things become relatively tranquil, with Ratledge and Dean's deft keyboard and reed washes provoking Howard into some of his softest work before he ups the momentum even whilst his colleagues commit to lighter, less emphatic music. The dark ambience of the piece might almost have been written with such resulting tension in mind.

Track Listing: Neo Caliban Grides; All White; Slightly All the Time; Drop; M.C.; Out-Bloody-Rageous; As If; Dark Swing; Intropigling; Pigling Bland.

Personnel: Mike Ratledge: Lowrey organ, Fender Rhodes electric piano; Elton Dean: saxello, alto saxophone, Fender Rhodes electric piano; Hugh Hopper: bass; Phil Howard: drums.

Title: Drop | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Moonjune Records

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Upcoming Shows

Related Articles

Read Nexus Album Reviews
Nexus
By Jakob Baekgaard
May 23, 2019
Read The Second Coming Album Reviews
The Second Coming
By Daniel Barbiero
May 23, 2019
Read Luminária Album Reviews
Luminária
By John Sharpe
May 23, 2019
Read Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band Album Reviews
Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band
By Jerome Wilson
May 23, 2019
Read When Will The Blues Leave Album Reviews
When Will The Blues Leave
By Karl Ackermann
May 22, 2019
Read Infinite Itinerant Album Reviews
Infinite Itinerant
By Geno Thackara
May 22, 2019
Read Pulcino Album Reviews
Pulcino
By Nicholas F. Mondello
May 22, 2019