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Soft Works (UK) - 2003 - "Abrakadabra"
(60 min, MoonJune)


1. Seven Formerly 10:22 (Dean, Marshall)
2. First Trane 11:53 (Hopper)
3. Elsewhere 7:58 (=)
4. K-Licks 6:51 (Miller)
5. Baker's Treat 5:40 (Dean)
6. Willie's Knee 5:17 (=)
7. Abracadabra 7:34 (Hopper, Marshall)
8. Madam Vintage 4:56 (Holdsworth, Marshall)


Elton Dean - alto sax & saxello (+ piano - on 6) 
Allan Holdsworth - electric & Synthaxe guitars
Hugh Hopper - electric bass
John Marshall - drums

Produced by Soft Works.

Preamble. As you can see above, Soft Works is a supergroup consisting exclusively of ex-members of Soft Machine. Indeed, a remarkable line-up! It's really thrilling to know what these famous veterans have prepared for us this time.

The Album. There is almost nothing common between the music of Soft Works and that of the legendary Soft Machine, which is topical with regard to any period of activity of the latter band and any album by them. Overall, the music on most of the compositions on "Abracadabra" represents quite a quiet improvisational Jazz-Fusion, which, musically, reminds me of something average between the jazziest solo works of Elton Dean and Allan Holdsworth. The structures of all five of the first tracks on the album are quite uniform, and the musical palette of each of these compositions is described in the following. Starting slowly and softly (indeed, soft works!), the music then gradually transforms into a more or less intensive mid-tempo jam with the alternation of solos of saxophone and those of electric guitar being 'at the head' of arrangements. Along with the parts of electric bass and those of drums, the solos of Allan's hand-made Synthaxe guitar, which has a very specific and immediately recognizable sound, mostly support the leading solos of saxophones. Which is certainly due to the fact that with this unique guitar, Allan is able to reproduce the sounds that are not unlike the passages of synthesizer. Quite the contrary, saxophones are almost always 'silent' when guitars 'perform' the duties of the main soloing instruments. The stylistic picture of the album slightly changes beginning with the sixth track: Willie's Knee. This is the only track on the album where Elton plays a piano (Rhodes), the passages of which support the parts of both of the aforementioned guitars playing a prominent soloing role here. The solos of saxophone appear only at the end of the composition. Stylistically, Willie's Knee is about a guitar-based improvisational Jazz-Fusion with elements of Classic Jazz-Fusion (i.e. the confluence of jazz and any of the other kinds of progressive music) and the bits of Symphonic Art-Rock. A more or less real Classic Jazz-Fusion is presented on the album's title track. Unlike all of the other pieces on the album, Abracadabra (7) features really sensible, tense and, sometimes, truly dramatic arrangements, and also a real Jazz-Rock jam, which is filled with amazing contrasts and is both highly intensive and impressive. The last track on the album: Madam Vintage (8) was performed without Elton Dean and, of course, represents nothing else than a guitar-based Jazz-Fusion typical for such jazzy solo albums of Allan as "Atavachron", for instance. (Personally, I am much more into such Holdsworth albums as "Metal Fatigue", "IOU", etc.)

Summary. Despite the fact that it's mostly of a purely improvisational nature, "Abracadabra" is undoubtedly a progressive album. All the arrangements are here in the state of a constant development and don't contain any repetitions at all. And nevertheless, the album comes highly recommended only to those whose passions for music are exclusively on the jazzy side of Jazz-Fusion.

VM: April 9, 2003

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