...a straightahead acoustic blowing session on four original tunes...
Peter Marsh 2002-11-20
Apart from lending his forename to a certain Reg Dwight, Elton Dean is probably still best known for his contribution to Soft Machine, where his fuzzy, amplified alto grafted a jazz sensibility onto that band's organ driven psychedelic fusions. Like many of his peers (Lol Coxhill, Nick Evans, Gary Windo, Keith Tippett) Dean flitted between prog rock fusion, post bop jazz and free improv with ease, and he still does. On this long unavailable 1977 date, he teams up with tenorist Alan Skidmore (with the able support of bassist Chris Laurence and Soft Machine drummer John Marshall) for a straightahead acoustic blowing session on four original tunes, and mighty fine it is too.
Skidmore has long acknowledged his debt to John Coltrane, but he tempers the sheets of sound approach with passages of gutbucket bluesiness, recalling his tenure with John Mayall. On the opening "Dr Les Mosses" he sounds more like Sonny Rollins, delivering a concise, melodic solo over the breakneck tumbling swing of the rhythm section, paving the way for Dean's extended skyscraping alto excursion. Laurence contributes a furiously funked duet with Marshall to encouraging shouts from Skidmore.
The tenorist peppers the ballad swing of "First in the Attic" with urgent, doubletimed low register flurries, sparking off Laurence and Marshall into explosive commentary; Skidmore settles on a phrase, modulates it, moves to another or breaks out into keening high register lines, but keeps his ear firmly on the changes. Dean's influences are harder to pinpoint; his smeared phrasing, sometimes vocalised tone and quicksilver runs recall Eric Dolphy, Ornette or even Jackie Mclean, but only fleetingly; Dean is his own man. "Thats for Cha" features Dean on his saxello and Skidmore on soprano but despite its attractively Monkish melody fails to ignite, though the rumbustious blues of "K and A Blues" closes proceedings with things back on track.
The somewhat dry, close miked recording sucks the air out of things a little, but this joyous, unpretentious music is much bigger than that; these four fine musicians sound like they're enjoying themselves, and its infectious. Recommended.