Soft Machine Legacy: Burden of Proof (2013)
Burden of Proof signifies the Legacy's first studio outing since Steam (Moonjune, 2007). The album features group-penned works other than the cover of original Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper's beloved "Kings & Queens," wondrously designed via reedman Theo Travis' airy and ethereal flute lines atop Babbington's simple, yet yearning ostinato riff amid the wistfully stated melody. Hence, the musicians capture the essence of the original ensemble, but contemporize its aura with breezy atmospherics, flourishing dynamics, and perceptive use of space.
Travis doubles on the Fender Rhodes and launches the opening track "Burden of Proof" into an unflappable mid-tempo swing vamp. However, the musicians' variegate the set with dissimilar works. Therefore, asymmetrical parts jazz-fusion, capacious dreamscapes, and abstract impressionistic sojourns into the free strata propagate a good deal of interest.
Venerated guitarist John Etheridge lays it all out during his expressive solo on the bawdy blues-driven "Pie Chart," where subliminal references to the jazz standard, "Harlem Nocturne" come to mind. As the eminent frontline adds quite a bit of depth and doesn't rush to get from point A to B. But the often soaring dialogues spawn excitement and intrigue, to complement the meticulously designed unison choruses and theme reconstructions.
Marshall kicks off "The Brief" with a pounding polyrhythmic solo, elevated with massive press rolls during his recoiling duel with Travis, performing on sax; whereas, this piece segues into the pumping hard-rock motif on the aptly titled "Pump Room." Here, the quartet aligns a good-timey demeanor with devious undertones, amped by the guitarist's distortion-laced and phased-out licks, crowned with supersonic single note flurries.
Thankfully, Soft Machine Legacy isn't all about retreading the original band's repertoire. Think of a nouveau stylization that pays homage with a code of honor and respect, while surging into the new millennium as a distinct musical entity. In sum, the quartet spins a new yarn on a time-honored proving ground.
Track Listing: Burden of Proof; Voyage Beyond Seven; Kitto; Pie Chart; JSP; Kings and Queens; Fallout; Going Somewhere Canorous?; Black and Crimson; The Brief; Pump Room; Green Cubes; They Landed on a Hill.
Personnel: John Etheridge: guitars; Theo Travis: tenor saxophone, flute, Fender Rhodes piano; Roy Babbington: bass guitar; John Marshall: drums, percussion.
Record Label: Moonjune Records