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Bebop Spoken There

Sonny Rollins: "It's too frustrating to listen to music when I can't participate fully as I once did in my life ." - (Jazzwise Dec 2020/Jan 2021)

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Monday November 23

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RON AINSBOROUGH & JORDAN ALFONSO.

Postage

12,116 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 1256 of them this year alone and, so far, 98 this month (Nov. 22).

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Soft Machine @ Sage Gateshead - Nov. 6

John Etheridge (guitar); Theo Travis (tenor/soprano/flutes/keys & things); Roy Babbington (bass guitar); John Marshall (drums).
(Review by Lance/photos courtesy of Russell).
This wasn't Sage Gateshead. When we sashayed through those swing doors we were transported, Doctor Who-like, into a bygone era (albeit not price-wise). In Sage One they were back in the Golden Sixties. Were they golden? I don't remember.

For those that did remember they had P.J. Proby, The Fortunes, The Searchers and several other of those 'whatever became of' acts who's sounds first hit the airwaves from somewhere offshore. Those pirates of the high seas who broadcast from outside of the three-mile limit didn't have a Blackbeard although they did have a Blackburn (Tony) helping to plunder the pockets of the record buying public.


However, Team Bebop was above all of this, we were in the relative intimacy of Stage Two. We'd moved up a decade for the jazz-rock supergroup - Soft Machine.
Despite having Soft in the name, it wasn't. After the first few opening bars I was prepared to up and off but, it gradually took form, and I too had stepped back in time remembering hearing bands like Mike Westbrook, Graham Collier, Nucleus, Colosseum, etc.  all of whom must surely have laid their imprint on this band - or was it vice versa?

Etheridge, I'd heard many times. With Grappelli at Sunderland Empire; a lunchtime solo gig at a café in the Royal Albert Hall; gigs at the Corner House and yet, I never did get to hear him with Soft Machine or, if I did, I must have forgotten.

So tonight was, in a sense, catch-up time and it wasn't long before, after my initial shock, I was in the fan club (metaphorically speaking). Etheridge remains a master of his craft. Genres mean nothing, he just lays it down. Clapton, Hendrix, McLaughlin, Metheny, you name it. A wag in the audience, after one of the most blistering guitar solos ever, shouted "That was on a par with McLaughlin", before qualifying it with. "I didn't say better I said on a par with!"
Perhaps Steve T had given him a menacing glance.

Babbington and Marshall I'd heard before, possibly with John Surman in the 1980s but Travis was a new experience and a very pleasant one too on soprano, tenor and flute. I was less enamoured of his electronic tinkering although, in truth, it didn't hurt that much.

As a band, the sound comes across as tight, conveying the impression of being a bigger group. Tender moments were at a minimum and when they were they quickly grew into something bolder, even menacing and explosive. Music of the spheres that wasn't spherical often turning into, to quote Etheridge's own description, 'a good old rave-up' which it truly was.
A great night with a great band that didn't need to split their trousers*
Lance.
*Reference to P.J. Proby's claim to fame!

3 comments :

Phil D said...

Not the original band of course, but featuring 2nd generation players from the mid 70s, playing original and some Mike Ratledge tunes including 'Out-Bloody-Rageous'.

Wasn't sure what to expect, but thought that they balanced the explosive stuff pretty well with flute led tunes.

Just great to hear some fusion jazz rock again - very enjoyable.




Steve T said...

Since Etheridge also leads the Zappatistas, it't worth noting that it's oft said the whole Canterbury Progressive Rock scene (of whom the Softs were one of two leading bands) came from, not just Zappa, but specifically the Uncle Meat album, though I don't know how this applies to Caravan (the other).

Steve T said...

Looking through the Rocking the Classics book, I came across something I either didn't know or had forgotten. The guitarist immediately before and after Etheridge's seventies stint was Allan Holdsworth, one of a tiny number of guitarists ( Django, Hendrix, Paco Delucia, Al DiMeola) some actually do think as good or better than McLaughlin

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