NDR Jazz Workshop: Hamburg, Germany 1973

NDR Jazz Workshop: Hamburg, Germany 1973

by Soft Machine
     
 

Cuneiform tends to prefer Soft Machine's earliest and "classic" lineups, so the label's release of NDR Jazz Workshop: Hamburg, Germany 1973 might seem mysterious. The core group on this two-disc live CD/DVD package -- Mike Ratledge (keyboards), Karl Jenkins (reeds/keyboards), Roy Babbington (bass), John Marshall (drums) -- is often considered an also-ran inSee more details below

Overview

Cuneiform tends to prefer Soft Machine's earliest and "classic" lineups, so the label's release of NDR Jazz Workshop: Hamburg, Germany 1973 might seem mysterious. The core group on this two-disc live CD/DVD package -- Mike Ratledge (keyboards), Karl Jenkins (reeds/keyboards), Roy Babbington (bass), John Marshall (drums) -- is often considered an also-ran in Softs history, appearing on the final CBS/Columbia outing Seven. Here, the band mainly plays music from the half-live/half-studio double-LP set Six. Bassist Hugh Hopper had just departed, replaced by Babbington, and sole original member Ratledge was beginning to split the writing duties roughly 50/50 with Jenkins. To some listeners, the idiosyncratic pleasures of early Soft Machine were fading away, replaced by a riff-based jazz-rock executed professionally but a bit too cleanly, lacking fire and sometimes just a tad too repetitive. Well, let's not be too harsh -- the emerging Jenkins could be a canny composer/arranger, with time signature quirks, a nice sense of melody and space, and instrumental voicings that made the Softs' transition into their latter-day jazz-rock era appear nearly seamless. And if you need evidence that Soft Machine circa 1973 could indeed be a hot property, here it is. Yes, Cuneiform had strong reasons for releasing this. As noted in Aymeric Leroy's liners, the German public broadcasting program's audio and video quality is "superb," and that's not an overstatement (kudos to Udi Koomran for audio restoration and mastering). One might quibble about moments when a soprano sax is too low in the mix, but for the most part NDR Jazz Workshop is well balanced and crystal clear in both vision and sound. The cameras glide in smooth tracking shots around the band, and also linger where they should when each musician is in the spotlight, although sometimes (characteristic of the era) pulling in tight on a face and sticking around too long there (hello, razor stubble). The CD and DVD, which generally replicate one another, are both divided into two parts, the second portion truly coming alive with the arrivals of guests Gary Boyle on guitar and Art Themen on tenor and soprano saxophones -- Boyle's fleet-fingered, jagged runs and Themen's robust playing seem to fire up the others on jazz-rockers like the odd-metered "Stanley Stamp's Gibbon Album" and groove-based "Gesolreut." The latter is probably as funked up as the often cerebral Softs ever got, its central jam bracketed by a sax/keyboard riff that ends with an emphatic unison punch. Here played by the sextet, it's stretched to nearly 12 minutes, almost double the length of the quartet version on Six, with a sound that's more expansive, the band faster and more fluid beneath Boyle's animated bursts and Themen's buildup from clipped notes into extended phraseology and finally overblown upper-register squeals. Also nearly double the length of its studio incarnation (on the as-yet-unreleased Seven), "Down the Road" grooves more languidly, played here by the sextet but in audio form on the CD only. Short improvisational "Link" tracks nicely bridge the scored material, "Link 1" -- like the "Chloe and the Pirates" intro -- featuring Ratledge's patented spacy keyboard loops echoing off into the ether. The most avant-garde moments arrive with the DVD audio-only "bonus" tracks. Hugh Hopper pays a visit on a 15-and-a-half-minute version of his ominous fuzzed-up stop-start tape loop piece "1983"; recording difficulties transformed this full-band experiment into essentially a Hopper-Marshall duet, but it still has its moments. "Encore Improvisation/Stumble Reprise" is 11 minutes of exploratory jamming, moving from free to funk to space before shifting abruptly to a brief slam-bang unison finale.

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Product Details

Release Date:
05/25/2010
Label:
Cuneiform
UPC:
0045775030524
catalogNumber:
750305
Rank:
20412

Tracks

Disc 1

  1. Fanfare  -  Soft Machine
  2. All White  -  Soft Machine
  3. Link 1/Link 2  -  Soft Machine
  4. 37 1/2  -  Soft Machine
  5. Link 3  -  Soft Machine
  6. Riff  -  Soft Machine
  7. Down the Road  -  Soft Machine
  8. Link 3a  -  Soft Machine
  9. Stanley Stamo's Gibbon Album  -  Soft Machine
  10. Chloe and the Pirates  -  Soft Machine
  11. Gesolreut  -  Soft Machine
  12. E.P.V.  -  Soft Machine
  13. Link 4  -  Soft Machine
  14. Stumble  -  Soft Machine
  15. One Across  -  Soft Machine
  16. Riff Ii  -  Soft Machine

Disc 2

  1. Fanfare  -  Soft Machine
  2. All White  -  Soft Machine
  3. Link 1  -  Soft Machine
  4. The Soft Weed Factor  -  Soft Machine
  5. Link 2  -  Soft Machine
  6. 37 1/2  -  Soft Machine
  7. Link 3  -  Soft Machine
  8. Riff  -  Soft Machine
  9. Stanley Stamo's Gibbon Album  -  Soft Machine
  10. Chloe and the Pirates  -  Soft Machine
  11. Gesolreut  -  Soft Machine
  12. E.P.V.  -  Soft Machine
  13. Link 4  -  Soft Machine
  14. Stumble  -  Soft Machine
  15. One Across  -  Soft Machine
  16. Riff II  -  Soft Machine
  17. 1983  -  Soft Machine
  18. Encore Improvisation/Stumble (Reprise)  -  Soft Machine

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Soft Machine   Primary Artist
Gary Boyle   Guitar
Roy Babbington   Bass
Karl Jenkins   Piano,Oboe,Electric Piano,Recorder,Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
John Marshall   Drums
Mike Ratledge   Organ,Electric Piano
Art Themen   Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Hugh Hooper   Bass

Technical Credits

Michael Naura   Producer
Steve Feigenbaum   Direction
Udi Koomran   Mastering
Aymeric Leroy   Liner Notes
Werner Münchmeyer   Engineer
Richard Vogelsang   Engineer
Norddeutscher Rundfunk   Engineer
Klaux Brix   Camera Operator
John Gathman   Engineer
Hans-Stefan Heyne   Management
Hans Pagel   Engineer
Doug Moon   Authoring
Kurt Sadyn   Camera Operator
Werner Schlichting   Camera Operator

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