Friday, April 29, 2022

There Will Never Be Another Hugh

Continuing the International Jazz Day leadup, we'll spotlight a birthday brahmin of the bottom end.

He's gone more than a decade, but my playlist never goes too long without something he was a part of.

He was a part of a heckuva lot of music over a 40-year career, so it's never hard to hear him.

He began his bass life as the anchor of the Soft Machine, with his round-toned, rock solid ostinati running like a spinal column down through their one-foot-Jazz, one-foot-Rock output.

Finding a home playing with all manner of British Jazz and Fusion cats, he left the Softs and embarked on a solo career, with tons of collaborations mixed in.

Towards the end of his life -- he passed in 2009 -- Hugh Hopper (born this day in 1945) helped start a project featuring past members of all the various Soft Machine lineups playing together.

In kind of a cool but morbid twist, each time one guy would die, another old Softie alumni would take his place.... kind of like a war with the next soldier up.

When sax legend Elton Dean -- an original Soft Machine Legacy man -- left us in 2006, they actually went outside the past guys and got Theo Travis, who pretty much blows up the show I am sharing today.

That's the distinguishing feature of this tape, really... all four dudes play their asses clean off. It almost sounds like a tribute to Elton Dean, or that they are thinking of their recently-departed friend and trying to burn the place down in his honor.
Even Hugh takes a few wicked fuzz bass solos -- almost akin to the distorted-organ style of Soft Machine founder Mike Ratledge -- during the course of this 95 minutes of mayhem.

Soft Machine Legacy
Berlin, Germany

01 Ash
02 Seven for Lee
03 Footloose
04 Strange Comforts
05 untitled improvisation
06 Grape Hound
07 1212
08 As If
09 Kings & Queens
10 drum solo/Two Down
11 Kite Runner

Total time: 1:35:49
disc break goes after Track 05

Hugh Hopper - bass
John Etheridge - guitar
Theo Travis - alto & soprano saxophones, flute & electronics
John Marshall - drums

indeterminate (likely digital) off-air FM capture of a (likely digital) German FM rebroadcast
remastered, repaired and retracked -- with FM announcer removed -- by EN, April 2022
506 MB FLAC/April 2022 archive link

This really is that rare reunion-esque kinda project that, for me in terms of the new tunes and the overall eyepopping musicianship on display, is almost the equal of the original Golden Era music that's being alluded to/expanded upon here.

Anyway he would have been 77 today, so I thought it was good Hoppertunity to hear from Hugh.--J.

4.29.1945 - 6.7.2009

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