NDR JAZZ WORKSHOP

CD
  1. Fanfare
  2. All White
  3. Link 1/Link 2
  4. 37 1/2
  5. Link 3
  6. Riff
  7. Down the Road
  8. Link 3a
  9. Stanley Stamp's Gibbon Album
10. Chloe and the Pirates
11. Gesolreut
12. E.P.V.
13. Link 4
14. Stumble
15. One Across
16. Riff II

DVD
  1. Fanfare
  2. All White
  3. Link 1
  4. The Soft Weed Factor
  5. Link 2
  6. 37 1/2
  7. Link 3
  8. Riff
  9. Stanley Stamp's Gibbon Album
10. Chloe and the Pirates
11. Gesolreut
12. E.P.V.
13. Link 4
14. Stumble
15. One Across
16. Riff II
audio bonus material:
17. 1983
18. Encore improvisation / Stumble reprise


Recorded: May, 17th 1973 at Congresscentrum, Hamburg, Germany
Released: 2010

Mike Ratledge: keyboards
Roy Babbington: bass
John Marshall: drums
Karl Jenkins: keyboards, winds
with:
Gary Boyle: guitars (7-16)
Art Themen: soprano & tenor saxes (7-16)
and:
Hugh Hopper: bass, tapeloops (DVD-17)


Cuneiform's promo disc with alternate cover (2010)





Released for the very first time here is the Soft Machine's television broadcast, recorded for Germany's famous "NDR Jazz Workshop" on May 17, 1973. This performance was one of the earliest shows by the quartet of Roy Babbington (electric bass), Karl Jenkins (oboe, baritone sax, soprano sax, electric piano), John Marshall (drums) and Mike Ratledge (electric piano, organ). This was a very high profile appearance by the group and for this performance Soft Machine made it a special show. They performed a set of their repertoire in their quartet format and then for the second set they were augmented by two guests: guitarist Gary Boyle (who had just started Isotope) and saxist Art Themen. This addition brings an exciting & different sound to the repertoire and make this more than 'just another live release'. Additionally, Hugh Hopper had just left the group, but he makes an guest appearance (unfortunately audio only) performing 1983; the only known live version of this composition. This long sought-after performance has never been seen since its original broadcast over 35 years ago, not even in poor quality bootlegs. It is the single best quality video document that exists of the group, featuring clear and beautiful visuals and superb live stereo sound. The film footage is so clear and sharp that you can actually see the tape loops that Hugh had set up, hanging from the scafolding next to the band and you can read the address on the box next to Mike Ratledge's echoplex!

* text from Cuneiform website
Once again Cuneiform Records ‘trapped’ Soft Machine in a special setting. But before the concert took place there were other important matters to solve. Hugh Hopper had told the band that he would leave; he wasn’t satisfied with their music anymore and wasn’t pleased with new member Karl Jenkins, both personal and musical. Finding a new bass player wasn’t hard. Roy Babbington had guested on sessions for Fourth and Fifth, so he knew their musical approach and had a sort of passport by having played in Nucleus as had John and Karl did before. They asked him and that was it. Roy took his six-string bass guitar with him and that was a special treat. Hugh had developed a deep, heavy sound, but the six string Fender VI was kind of a mix of guitar and bass; it had a higher sound than the usual bass guitars, but a lower than average guitars. Playing the Fender in Soft Machine meant that the band’s overall sound became lighter. And the authentic use of fuzz pedalling by Hugh wasn’t continued either. The concert at the Congresszentrum was not a standard Soft Machine concert by all means as Aymeric Leroy writes in his liner notes. The two hour concert was in four parts: part one was a concert with the four Soft Machine members, part two was the same band augmented with guitarist Gary Boyle and saxophonist Art Themen. Gary Boyle had just started his new jazz-rock band Isotope. It would be Hugh’s next band, but he didn’t know that at the time they were in Hamburg. Art Themen had played with luminaries as Jack Bruce, Alexis Corner, Graham Collier and Ian Car (yes, from Nucleus). The third set was a set with Soft Machine as accompanying band for a certain Linda Hoyle (?). But that was kind of a failure because her microphone didn’t work properly. The last set was a performance of Hugh Hopper, John Marshall and tape recorders, performing Hugh’s new composition 1983. For us, as extra bonus, the concert – minus the Hoyle thing - was added on DVD. A great opportunity to see the band in this period of their existence The cd, part one, is also part one of the concert, but without the Soft Weed Factor (it is on the DVD). The track didn’t fit on the cd-length format, but was skipped because the backing sound on tape was played in a wrong speed. The second part of the cd is the sextet part. The DVD follows the concert as well, adds Soft Weed Factor and has as a special treat for us a – not the authentic – version of 1983, but audio only. Not all the sounds of the performing tapes were captured for prosperity, we just have to do it with this, since this is all there is. The filmed concert is a bit weird, since it is filmed from two sides only, no front view a all! Nevertheless it was a great performance and – it must been said - it was the most successful happening of the evening; more people were smashed by what Hugh did than what had happened before on stage. About the other parts of the concert: the first part is played very well and has fine moments, but even with another bass player the compositions sounds cinematic and ‘composed’. The fire gets back in the second part. Both Boyle and Themen add sparks, jazz and freer moments. This was the Soft Machine we all liked before. They discovered the lack of true spirit themselves too, because they changed their musical style completely after Seven, which was the ultimate Soft Machine movie soundtrack. There is one new track on the cd: Down the Road, it would land on Seven, but not as fine as this performance. Seeing the band perform now is just great. That makes NDR Jazz Workshop another marvellous set which shows us a more unknown phase in Soft Machine’s career.

Paul Lemmens © 2014