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Tracklist: 1. Bar Torque 24:46 2. Sylvan 13:25 3. Merilyn's Cave 14:20 All compositions written by Elton Dean & Mark Hewins. Produced by M. Hewins. Line-up: Elton Dean - alto saxophone & saxello Mark Hewins - acoustic & Midi-synth guitars, samplers Recorded liveat London Jazz Cafe, November 1992. Remixed & remastered by M. Hewins at "Musart" studio, London, November 2000.
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Prologue. This album is a 'live brainchild' of the two core members of Soft Heap - the side project of the legendary Canterbury band Soft Machine, which existed from 1978 to 1982. Mark Hewins is one of the MIDI pioneers: among the first guitarists who begun using the new sonic possibilities offered by MIDI back in the beginning of the 1990s.
The Album. Stylistically, all of the three compositions of the album represent a unique, I'd even say a very unusual, manifestation of the Jazz-Fusion genre (of Prog). Most of the parts (i.e. chords, passages, and solos), played by Mark Hewins on his MIDI synth-guitar, have the structures that on the whole are typical for spacey symphonic music. While it's obvious to me that all of the sax solos on the album have been improvised by Elton Dean on the spur of the moment - just according to the harmony of themes set by Mark, I guess the latter were composed beforehand. Here are a few other interesting things that characterize the "Bar Torque" CD. Improvisations of sax work in various tempos (slow to very fast), while all of the chords and passages and most of the solos of synth-guitar are slow. Sometimes, the contrast between tempos of playing both of the instruments is more than evident. Each time when it happens, the music of duo sounds especially impressive (and progressive as well), though it happens not as often as I would like it to. Also, while there are lots of different moods (including rather dark) and colours (including Eastern) in the music on the album, the spacey and kind of mysterious ambient musical landscapes are predominant here. In that way, an unusual manifestation of Jazz Fusion, that I mention above, is the fusion of spacey Art-Rock, unique and in many ways progressive Ambient, and Jazz, which is represented here by the improvisations of sax (though lots of them are mellow and very melodious). Of course, it must be said that both Elton Dean and Mark Hewins are incredibly masterful musicians and very profound arrangers. While Mark Hewins plays an acoustic guitar not too often on the album (only on Sylvan, actually), he uses all of the possible (and even, maybe, impossible) possibilities of Midi throughout the album, but especially effective - on the longest piece Bar Torque. From his synth-guitar, Mark elicits the symphonic and spacey passages and chords of keyboards, ghostly sounds of the low-tone synthesizer, solos of vibraphone, piano, trombone, clarinet, baritone sax, sitar, bass guitar, and also bells, chimes, varied voices, noises, and other effects. The seemingly endless interplay between the thousand-sounds synth-guitar and saxophones cover most of the spaces of the CD. Only the last few minutes of the first two compositions are filled either by Mark's synth-guitar spacey-symphonic passages (on Bar Torque) or Elton's sax melodious improvisations (on Sylvan). A duet of real and synthetic saxophones sound wonderful during a few last minutes of Merilyn's Cave (track 3).
Summary. Elton Dean & Mark Hewins' "Bar Torque" is one of the most unusual music works I have ever heard. While the contents of the album have almost nothing to do with Progressive Rock, this music is still in many ways progressive. Despite the fact that "Bar Torque" represent a blend (fusion!) of such different genres as Spacey prog music, Ambient, and Jazz (though, maybe exactly because of that), this album may cover quite a wide field of interests. While not everyone, many of those into Spacey Prog (early to mid Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, etc), Ambient music, real Jazz, jazzy Fusion, as well as traditional Prog-lovers, will most likely appreciate "Bar Torque" very much.
VM. December 20, 2001
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