Legendary jazz prog bassman turns out a set of lo-fi jazz fusions in the company of...
Peter Marsh 2003-01-16
Hugh Hopper's best known as a member of the 'classic' lineup of Soft Machine, whose early 70s albumsdisplayed a sometimes whimsical, very English mix of jazz, psychedelia and rock. Hopper's approach to the bass guitar lay somewhere between John Entwistle and Charlie Mingus, capable of sweetly melodic lines or vicious bursts of thick fuzz; it's still one of the most recognisable sounds in English music.
Since the heady days of prog,Hopper's been involved with a bewildering range of projects, from Soft Machine spin offsfeaturing various Canterbury scene alumni to his own seminal tapeloop driven 1984, to more recent hookups with Kramer, American singer Lisa Klossner and art rockers Caveman Shoestore.
Hopper's said that his primary concern has always been with texture and sure enough,Jazzloops drips with atmosphere. It appears to be an assemblage gathered from rehearsal tapes and studio jams, reconstructed and added to by Hopper's bass, guitar and samples (I presume it's a Jimmy Garrison sample underpinning "Garrisoi"). The saxes of Elton Dean, Gong man Didier Malherbe and the underrated Simon Picard (often heard with Trevor Watts) pick their way in lyrical, post- Coltrane style through grainy loops of bass and drum grooves (old mucker John Marshall appears to be the propulsion unit behind the one legged swing of "L4", which comes on like a fragment of an old Henry Cowsession).
Though occasionally the bassist treats us to a taste of his fuzz pedal, for the most part it's the (mainly soprano) saxes that do the talking; Pierre-Oliver Govin whips out a particularly incandescent display on the closing "nigepo" and Didier Malherbe (I think) is responsible for the muezzin calls of the ethno-ambient "sfrankl".
In a blindfold test, most of us might think this was some hot new post rock/postfusion outfit out of Chicago or Norway, paying homage to mid 70s Miles in lo-fi fashion. The truth is that Hopper's been a past master of this kind of thing for over 30 yearsand is still hard at it. More please...