INAK 9076 Live at the New Morning
Produced by Daniel Farhi
Released on 2006
no chart information
Find it at GEMM
INAK 9076 cover
[high resolution scan]

I lived with this for two weeks, took it on long trips, played it when I was cleaning, thinking, sleeping. Jazz is often difficult by design, Soft Machine especially so. But it was during the end of a nap, when I woke to hear the closing strains of “Strange Comforts,” that I wondered why I’d worried so. Far from being frightened by this disc, I didn’t want it to leave. I held onto the final applause until it was the sound of one hand clapping. I was transfixed, enrapt. (Okay, I was also a little sleepy.) It’s Autumn now, and jazz is always on the wind in Autumn, maybe moreso in Winter, so I’ll keep this double-disc set handy for the next six months. By February, I expect that “Ash,” “Strange Comforts” and the points between will be familiar friends. And I didn’t expect that at all two weeks ago. Honestly, I was nonplussed with the mid-70s version of the band, but this is a different animal altogether, combining some of the best parts of the early (Hopper, Dean), middle (Marshall) and late (Etheridge) line-ups. I loved Etheridge’s work with the Softies in the ‘70s and he is still amazing, unpredictable and unafraid. Elton Dean is articulate and edgy, a mad mathematician who issues conundrums and riddles from his musical lips. The pairing of Etheridge and Dean is what drives this group (named Soft Machine Legacy), with Hugh Hopper (“you au pair” in French, apparently) secretly guiding the discourse like a moderator whose mildness belies profundity. Behind the tempest is John Marshall, all bellcaps and buzzes and calculated snaps, prodding the music, sketching around it, defining it and liberating it. It is an absolute pleasure to hear these four players ply their craft, and I discover new wonders and nuances in the music every time I listen to it. (And “listen” to Live at the New Morning is exactly what you do.) A lot of bands in their graybeard adventures garner undue praise from fanatical quarters. But I don’t harbor any such soft spot. What’s here is a trailblazing outfit, vital and engaged and offering mostly new (to me anyway) compositions (“Has Riff,” “Kings & Queens” and “Sideburn” date from earlier efforts). Live at New Morning is jazz the way I always thought it should be: played in some exotic locale (Paris, in this case), intimate, intellectual and spontaneous. It’s not just fusion or avant-garde or be-bop, it’s composition rebirthed in creation, the very heart of jazz.

INAK 9076 back sleeve
INAK 9076 back sleeve


    Disc One
  1. ASH    (John Etheridge)
  2. SEVEN FOR LEE    (Elton Dean)
  3. 1212    (Hugh Hopper)
  4. BAKER'S TREAT    (Elton Dean)

    Disc Two
  5. HAS RIFF    (Mike Ratledge/John Etheridge/Hugh Hopper/John Marshall/Elton Dean)
  6. KINGS & QUEENS    (Hugh Hopper)
  7. SIDEBURN    (John Marshall)
  8. TWO DOWN    (John Etheridge/John Marshall)
  9. KITE RUNNER    (John Etheridge)
  10. STRANGE COMFORTS    (John Etheridge)


ELTON DEAN -- saxello, alto sax, Fender Rhodes
Bernhard Roessle -- executive producer
Bruno Rochet -- sound engineer
Sophie Lroux -- photos

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