COMPOSERS: Soft Machine
WORKS: NDR Jazz Workshop, Hamburg, 1973
PERFORMER: Roy Babbington (bass), Karl Jenkins (oboe), John Marshall (drums), Mike Ratledge (keyboards), Art Themen (sax)
CATALOGUE NO: 305/306
This North German Radio concert was an early outing by the Jenkins-Ratledge-Babbington-Marshall configuration of the band, with the recently-departed bassist Hugh Hopper sitting in on his masterpiece, ‘1983’. Preserved as an audio recording but not videoed, it is included on the DVD, along with another sound-only track, for completeness.
Despite poor balance, it remains a mesmerising piece. On all other tracks on both CD and DVD the sound is excellent, as is the image: no allowance need be made for the vintage of the recordings, which capture the band’s intensity (and volume) better than its studio recordings did. Another bonus is the only appearance of the band augmented by Art Themen, soon to become a Stan Tracey sideman.
An essential purchase for fans of its jazz-rock period, this may even convert those who regretted the loss of the creative tension of the band’s earlier editions. Barry Witherden