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(68:19 / Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Seven For Lee 12:50 2. Millennium Jumble 12:22 3. Baker's Treat 8:28 4. The Unbelievable Truth 11:45 5. A Cannery Catastrophe 8:29 6. Cunnimingus Redux 8:31 7. The Basho Variations 5:52 LINEUP: Elton Dean - alto sax, saxello Michel Delville - guitar; vocals Laurent Delchambre - drums Damien Polard - bass Fred Delplancq - tenor sax Jean-Paul Estievenart - trumpet
Prolusion. I believe any true jazz-rock lover values himself on his acquaintance with the work of English saxophonist and composer Elton DEAN, whose role in the development of the genre still has to be fully evaluated. One of the key figures behind Soft Machine, Soft Machine Legacy and Soft Works, the maestro played also with several more bands and performers, of which his first ensemble, The Bluesology (two LPs in the mid-'60s, "Long John's Blues" and "Looking for Long John"), is certainly the most important as regards his formation as a professional musician. Besides all albums by each of the aforesaid collectives, I've also heard some of Dean's solo creations, "Elton Dean" (1971),"They All be on the Old Radio" (1976), "Cheque is In the Park" (1977), "El Skid" (1978), "Two Rainbows Dally" (1981) and "Bar Torque" (2001, with Mark Hewins). The disc under review, "The Unbelievable Truth", is one of his last collaborations with Belgian ensemble THE WRONG OBJECT who, as I've heard, perform a blend of jazz, avant-garde and heavy rock music. The material was recorded live in October 2005, a few months before Elton's passing.
Analysis. As regards any information in my personal possession, only three of the recording's seven tracks, Seven For Lee, Baker's Treat and The Basho Variations, have previously been available. Surprisingly, the last two of these are the only pieces here that are quite conventional in style, both reflecting Dean's more conservative approach. I'm almost sure that Baker's Treat is not accidentally consonant with (Sherlock Holmes') Baker's Street, but the piece's storyline is far from being as intricate as the ones we usually meet in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories. This is a reflective ballad with some swingy moves and even a couple of smooth-jazz-like hooks. Nevertheless, the music is very beautiful, more reminiscent of Miles Davis-when-in-a-lyrical-mood or Modern Jazz Quartet at their most delicate than late Yellow Jackets, as an instance. The Basho Variations is sub-characteristic swingy Jazz Rock, with still quite a lot of unison / in fourth or fifth leads, but has its fine moments too, the playing being passionate enough to keep the piece from falling into the style's, say, most standard manifestation. The remainder exceeds 52 minutes in length, consisting exclusively of excellent creations and masterworks. Seven For Lee and Cunnimingus Redux are both a bit less intricate than any of the yet-to-be-named compositions, somewhat more dominated by brass instruments, but are overall in the same 'weight category', each also representing Jazz-Fusion, that very unique style which brings together various rock and jazz features into one genuinely progressive whole. With almost all of the solos being pushed into different directions, yet 'looking' overall just perfectly cohesive, Millennium Jumble, the title number and A Cannery Catastrophe (the only 'song', with the vocals appearing only within the first movement) are all rare gems of the genre, featuring no pointless improvisations (you know, those that leave the impression of being done just for the sake of themselves), each coming across as a carnival of some wonderful entities, all of which seem to sport their progressive grace, something that Soft Machine could have done if they would've blended "III" and "Softs", having occasionally deployed Arabic tunes, and also some elements of Zeuhl / RIO. Here the unison solos (existing only in the pieces' introductory and concluding themes, all of which are very brief) are as extremely rare as features of any standard style (bits of Latin are present on both Seven For Lee and the title track, but disappear sooner than they're detected:-). Each is perceived as an endless sea of pleasure, music that first will make you sit and listen and then just spellbind you with its scale and majesty. Elton lavishly shares the spotlight with other musicians, all of whom, save for the trumpet player, are in all senses emphatic soloists, the drummer included. Besides, each of the winning tracks contains at least one section where there is no brass at all, drawing guitar Jazz Rock of the first water, less sonically saturated, but no less intense musically. At times Elton gets free-and-wild, delivering some complex burbling riffs, but the other musicians' solos are always vectored, let alone the fact that the basic arrangements are completely structured. That being said, even during the most turbulent events the overall picture remains comprehensible - okay, potentially comprehensible, keeping in mind those who're absolutely alien to free-jazz forms.
Conclusion. "The Unbelievable Truth" is another recording documenting (the already many times established fact) that Elton Dean was a true grand master in everything that concerns composition, arrangement and performance, i.e. just in everything that concerns Music with a capital letter. There is enough so to speak conventionally progressive music here to keep even art-rock fans interested, especially those who comprehend King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues In Aspic", as an instance. Don't capitulate after the first listen to the material; give it another try. You know the more attention you devote to true Prog the more you like it, by discovering more and more depths. So just lend an attentive ear to this disc, and you will be initiated and at the same time rewarded. For me, it took years before I dug Jazz-Fusion and, by the way, that happened after I've gotten into RIO. So, you need at least a few listens to this mosaics to have it develop into a comprehensible pattern, but isn't it just what you're looking for as a progressive music lover?
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: December 18, 2007
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