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Transgression Review

By : Martin Burns - DPRP - Dutch Prog Rock Page

Tenor saxophonist and flautist Theo Travis is well known in prog circles for his work with Steven Wilson, early Porcupine Tree, Gong, Soft Machine Legacy, The Tangent, Bill Nelson, Keith Tippett and with Robert Fripp in Travis and Fripp. Transgression is his first progressive jazz based album since 2007's Double Talk, which has provided his band's name.

He is working again with Mike Outram on guitar (Steven Wilson, Herbie Mann, Carleen Anderson, Jacqui Dankworth) and Pete Whittaker on Hammond organ (John Etheridge), who both appeared on that 2007 album. They are joined by Nic France on drums (Steven Wilson's Grace For Drowning album, David Gilmour's Live At The Royal Festival Hall DVD and Kate Bush, Robert Wyatt and Allan Holdsworth).

As one would expect from musicians with such pedigrees, the music on Transgression is expertly played, full of subtleties and fire. The music is more than well served by Steven Wilson's mixing and mastering of the CD. As the keen-eyed reader will have noticed, there is no bass player on this album. So the low end is provided by Whittaker's Hammond playing and by the low notes out of Travis' tenor sax.

The album opens in a fierce fashion with the Mahavishnu Orchestra blast of Fire Mountain with Travis' tenor blowing up a storm, seemingly forcing the other band members to keep up. The music is jazz, but it is jazz that heavily channels English progressive rock and jazz of the seventies, eschewing the funk and fusion elements of American progressive jazz-fusion. It is a terrific opening.

Bookended by quiet Floyd-like guitar and organ passages, the title track just about edges it as the standout track on this collection. It moves from the atmospheric opening to darker, harder tones as it shifts through the gears. There is an incandescent solo from Outram that then makes Travis up his game for his free-blowing tenor solo. However, this still remains an ensemble piece, with Whittaker's organ and France's drumming moving from the sensitive to the storming in support without being overwhelmed. This is fabulous music by anyone's standards.

What follows these two engaging openers is just as good. There's the relaxed Peter Green meets Carlos Santana latin-jazz blues shuffle of Smokin' At Klooks and the moody atmospherics of Everything I Feared, co-written with Dave Sturt of Gong and Jade Warrior, which has brilliantly delicate flute work on it. The gentle Canterbury influence can be found in the cover of Robert Wyatt and Philip Catherine's gorgeous Maryan. The flute-led melody, underpinned by subtle drum and organ, is quite haunting.

The other lengthy track, though not up to the 25 minutes of the original version, is a cover of The Tangent's A Place In The Queue. Here, the band work as a unit producing a soulful and plaintive sound. I must mention here Whittaker's outstanding Hammond work. If you are looking for a reference point here I would steer you towards Thijs van Leer's sound on Focus' song Focus III. Like any good cover version, it sent me back to listen to The Tangent's original.

If I have a caveat it is in the form of the lounge jazz of Song For Samuel, which I thought was a little bland at first, in a seventies sitcom-theme sort of way, given the quality of the other compositions on this album. But on repeated listens, it is saved by changes in dynamics and by a delicate, quiet guitar solo.

Overall, however, this is a blindingly good album of melodic and exploratory progressive jazz. But at the same time, it remains modest in that wistful English Canterbury way, so that it ensnares you in its heartfelt charms. Let's hope that there is not an eight-year wait for a follow up.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

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Theo Travis Podcasts

Theo Travis Podcasts

Theo Travis has presented Two 2 hour shows on Progzilla Radio which are available for Podcast.

Edition 97 - featuring a selection of tracks that Theo Travis guests on, by Steven Wilson, The Tangent, David Sylvian, Gong, Porcupine Tree and others.

Click here for Edition 97

Edition 147 - Theo’s guide through some great rock and prog sax tracks – including Pink Floyd, Van Der Graaf Generator, Traffic, Hatfield and the North, Steve Hackett and others.

Click here for Edition 147

Theo Travis continues his 'Transgression' tour into 2016 with his Double Talk Band with added dates - see Tour Dates page for details.

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Double Talk Review

Jazz UK

Superb multi reeds and flute player Travis with his new band including guitarist Mike Outram, organist Pete Whittaker and drummer Roy Dodds - plus telling orchestral guitar electronics from Robert Fripp on a couple of tracks dedicated to Paller Mikkelborg. Travis' sound range is amazing, from Lucky Thompson - breathy to Ronnie Laws funk, and he doesn't hide his unashamed enthusiasm for prog-rock's heart-on-sleeve melodies swell pedaleffects and church organ sounds. But just when you think it's getting too Gothic, along comes a groove track with some screaming Larry Young-like organ, Outram sounding like a demented 80's house anthem and with the often underused Dodds really kicking. The band is on the road in this month and next.ere ...

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David Gilmour

David Gilmour

Theo had the honour and great pleasure of playing saxophone, flute, clarinet and keyboards with guitar legend David Gilmour during his European tour dates in September 2015.

Theo featured on such tracks as 'Money', 'Us and Them', 'Shine on you crazy Diamond' and tracks from the new Rattle that Lock album including 'Faces of Stone' and 'the Girl in the Yellow Dress'.

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Soft Machine

Soft Machine

It has been decided that Soft Machine Legacy shall drop the 'Legacy' tag from 2016. Legally it is entitled to do this as the Soft Machine name resides with those who were last in the band - ie John Etheridge, John Marshall and Karl Jenkins. Karl has indicated he has no objection to this and both John Etheridge and John Marshall are of course still in the band.

There will be a UK tour in March 2016 re-launching the band.

See Tour Dates page for details.

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