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...

891

Soft Machine Legacy: New Morning--The Paris Concert

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Soft Machine Legacy
New Morning: The Paris Concert
Inakustuk
2006

Some would argue that Soft Machine didn't technically take its last wheezing gasps until the early 1980s, with the release of the largely inconsistent Land of Cockayne (EMI, 1981). Most, however, would agree that the seminal British jazz/rock group's last proper release was Alive and Well—Recorded in Paris, the first album where not a single member remained from the group that originally began as a Dadaist psychedelic band in 1966, emerging from the ashes of the Wilde Flowers.

Virtually every Soft Machine album released during its existence was an evolution from the ones that came before—with the possible exception of the period from Bundles (Harvest, 1975) through Alive and Well (Harvest, 1978), where they became a largely guitar-centric fusion band, first with the soon-to-be-legendary Allan Holdsworth and then the perennially underrated John Etheridge. But there was a certain spirit, a feeling that anything was possible that permeated the band throughout the majority of its existence.

There are those who are fans of the early song-based days of The Soft Machine (Probe, 1968) and Volume Two (Probe, 1969), and those who preferred the aforementioned guitar-driven period from 1975 to 1978 when the group was largely spearheaded by keyboardist/saxophonist Karl Jenkins (who also wrote the lion's share of the material) and drummer John Marshall. But the general consensus is that keyboardist Mike Ratledge, bassist Hugh Hopper, saxophonist/occasional pianist Elton Dean and drummer/singer Robert Wyatt, who recorded—with and without the assistance of occasional guests—the now-classic Third (Columbia, 1970) and the even more challenging Fourth (Columbia, 1971), were the "classic lineup.

Marshall joined the band for the second half of Fifth (Columbia, 1972), and so had the opportunity—albeit briefly, to play with both Hopper and Dean. But by the time Etheridge joined the band in 1975 to replace Holdsworth—who had departed with virtually no notice to join drummer Tony Williams' New Lifetime band—only Ratledge remained, and in a significantly diminished role.

Ratledge would ultimately disappear from the music scene entirely, while Wyatt—paralyzed from the waist down due to an unfortunate accident, would continue on to fashion a highly-lauded career as a singer/songwriter on albums including Rock Bottom (Virgin, 1974) and Cuckooland (Hannibal, 2003). Hopper and Dean, while building their own divergent discographies—Hopper being generally more concerned with form and Dean with total freedom—worked together often in the ensuing years, in projects that didn't so much exploit the Soft Machine name as it did the improvisational spirit of the group, ranging from Soft Head and Soft Heap in the '70s to the more recent Soft Bounds. Each group had its own complexion, but each capitalized on the artistic tension between Hopper and Dean's natural dispositions. Hopper was certainly more than capable of playing free and Dean had no difficulties working with form, but it was when the two got together that the real magic occurred.

So when Moonjune Records' Leonardo Pavkovic approached Hopper, Dean, Marshall and Holdworth to create a new group based around the jazz/rock spirit of Soft Machine in 2002, the result was Soft Works. But while the resulting album, Abracadabra (Moonjune, 2003) had its moments, Holdsworth's perfectionist tendencies—and the fact that he mixed the album on his own—sucked much of the life out of what should have and could have been a truly remarkable band—as was born out by their live performances. There's a live album in the can at this point, but whether or not it will ever be released is still uncertain.

With Holdsworth living in the US and the rest of the band in Europe, matters were further complicated. So, in a repeat of 1975, Etheridge was recruited to replace Holdsworth, and the band's name was changed to Soft Machine Legacy. The group's first release—last year's Live in Zaandam (Moonjune, 2005)—was a strong outing that demonstrated more fire than Soft Works, despite it being a recording from one of the group's earliest shows.

The imminent release of the band's first studio album, The Soft Machine Legacy (Moonjune, 2006) is a bittersweet accomplishment. Here's a band that finally appears to have the momentum to be an ongoing concern—two records with the identical line-up was unheard of in the original Soft Machine. But tragically, Dean passed away in February, 2006, only two months after a series of dates that have culminated in the DVD release, New Morning—The Paris Concert. But both the CD—to be released in the US in August—and the DVD are, at least, fitting tributes to Dean—an artist who, like the rest of Soft Machine's many alumni, has maintained more of a cult following than any kind of large-scale success.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
DVD/Film Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Soft Machine Legacy: Burden of Proof

Soft Machine Legacy:...

MoonJune Records
2013

buy
Burden Of Proof

Burden Of Proof

MoonJune Records
2013

buy
Live Adventures

Live Adventures

MoonJune Records
2011

buy
Live Adventures

Live Adventures

MoonJune Records
2010

buy
 

Steam

Comma (Japan)
2007

buy
 

Live At The New...

Comma (Japan)
2006

buy

Related Articles

Read Green Book Directed By Peter Farrelly DVD/Film Reviews
Green Book Directed By Peter Farrelly
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: December 3, 2018
Read Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge Uncut DVD/Film Reviews
Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge Uncut
by Doug Collette
Published: November 17, 2018
Read Rolling Stone: Stories From The Edge - 50 Years of Defining Culture DVD/Film Reviews
Rolling Stone: Stories From The Edge - 50 Years of Defining...
by Doug Collette
Published: October 7, 2018
Read The US Festival 1982: The US Generation DVD/Film Reviews
The US Festival 1982: The US Generation
by Doug Collette
Published: September 2, 2018
Read Lajos Dudas: Ein Künstlerportrait DVD/Film Reviews
Lajos Dudas: Ein Künstlerportrait
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 26, 2018
Read Open Land: Meeting John Abercrombie DVD/Film Reviews
Open Land: Meeting John Abercrombie
by John Kelman
Published: August 16, 2018
Read "Open Land: Meeting John Abercrombie" DVD/Film Reviews Open Land: Meeting John Abercrombie
by John Kelman
Published: August 16, 2018
Read "Green Book Directed By Peter Farrelly" DVD/Film Reviews Green Book Directed By Peter Farrelly
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: December 3, 2018
Read "Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge Uncut" DVD/Film Reviews Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge Uncut
by Doug Collette
Published: November 17, 2018
Read "BANG! The Bert Berns Story" DVD/Film Reviews BANG! The Bert Berns Story
by Doug Collette
Published: July 14, 2018
Read "The Doors: Live At The Isle of Wight Festival 1970" DVD/Film Reviews The Doors: Live At The Isle of Wight Festival 1970
by Doug Collette
Published: February 24, 2018
Read "Saxophone Colossus Featuring Sonny Rollins: A Film By Robert Mugge" DVD/Film Reviews Saxophone Colossus Featuring Sonny Rollins: A Film By...
by Doug Collette
Published: January 5, 2018