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All About Jazz (1)
Quirky, quietly trippy and deliciously uncategorisable, Earth To Ether is an oddity (we like odd) even by Theo Travis' standards. The British flautist/saxophonist's varied activities include leading a hardworking on-the-road straightahead band, co-leadership of ambient/electronica outfit Cipher and free improv trio Marshall Travis Wood, and ongoing composing, performing and producing collaborations with Daevid Allen's Gong and singer/songwriter Anja Garbarek (daughter of Jan). Each of these diverse projects is stamped with Travis' trademark lyricism and love of lush, dreamy soundscapes.
There are elements of all these experiences hereâ€"plus guest contributions from prog/Canterbury vocalist/guitarist Richard Sinclair (Caravan, Hatfield & The North, Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, Tony Coe); lyrics from Jonathan Coe, author of the acclaimed cult novel The Rotters Club, ('The Munich Train,' 'This Frozen Time'); astral jazz ('The Mystic & The Emperor'); in-the-Jobim-groove bossa nova ('Marti'); shades of Eddie Harris' hot tenor soul-jazz ('Full Moon Rising Part 2')... and a straight up cover of King Crimson's '21st Century Schizoid Man.'
The wonder is, it all fits so seamlessly together.
The three vocal tracks, it has to be said, have precious little to do with jazz, and should the jazz police discover them on this album, Travis will have some questions to answer. But they are enchanting pieces of music however you label them (progressive folk? the sound of psilocybin?). Sinclair's voice is one of a kind, and full of character, and he is an ideal vehicle for Coe's deceptively simple lyrics (young woman on a train, observed; the loss of a partner, wintertime), which gain resonance with every repeated listening.
As well as the ability to put out grits 'n' chitlins tenor solos, Travis and Eddie Harris share another, electronic lineage. Back in the '60s, Harris pioneered the use of the electric sax; forty years later, Travis has developed his own live-and-in-real-time multitracking systemâ€"'ambitronics'â€"which allows him to build up complex canvasses of sound via a series of foot pedals. The system here enriches in particular Travis' flute work on 'The Munich Train' and 'Stewed Flute,' the latter an otherwise unaccompanied flute solo. Travis, admirably, is in complete control of the electronics, while a lesser artist might be overwhelmed by a blizzard of loops and overdubs.
Out of the left field for sure, Earth To Ether will sidle up to you and, if you let it, magic you away. Chris May
All About Jazz (2)
Earth to Ether, when placed in direct comparison to View from the Edge, demonstrates just how far Travis has come in the intervening years, yet also illustrates a conception that has existed all along and continues to be honed.
Concentrating on flute this time - Travis plays sax on only three of the nine piecesâ€"the atmosphere is more ethereal, more elegant, and his allegiance to the Canterbury sound is more dominant, possibly because groups like Caravan and Hatfield and the North made strong use of the instrument, but also because of a certain airy and pleasant sonority of the material. The appearance, on three tracks, of ex- Hatfield and the North and Caravan bassist/singer Richard Sinclair, this time on vocals and guitar, cements the link.
And yet, for all Travis' influences, his general leaning towards a more acoustic sound gives his material distinction. He has an uncanny way of making his compositions match their titles. 'The Mystic and the Emperor,' with it's dark tone that opens up into an uptempo solo section with shades of Brazilian music somehow embedded, feels wholly appropriate. 'The Munich Train,' a duet between Travis' flute and Sinclair's voice and guitar manages, remarkably, to truly evoke the image of a train trip, from the gradual pullout from the station to the more propulsive middle section that reflects the train picking up speed. Travis ends the piece with a richly visual instrumental section where he uses his ambitronics method of looping flute phrases in real time to create a rich wash that conjures images of distant places.
There are few players who would be brave enough to attempt an acoustic rendition of King Crimson's classic '21st Century Schizoid Man,' but Travis excises the instrumental section in the middle of the piece, and turns it into a truly schizophrenic take, slowing down the rapid-fire ensemble passage from the centre of the original piece to half-time and positing it as a hip hop-inflected theme, going into double-time for the solo section and then returning to the half-time theme. As always, Travis' tenor tone is robust and clean. On 'Marti,' he demonstrates his debt to Stan Getz on a bossa-inflected piece that features guest guitarist Mark Wood on classical and electric guitars.
For the most part the album features Travis' current touring group of pianist Simon Colam, bassist Andy Hamill and drummer/percussionist Marc Parnell, players who have developed a clearly simpatico approach. On the charged and polyrhythmic 'Things Change' the rhythm section manages to hold the convoluted pattern together, gradually building in intensity until the end, where Parnell gets the opportunity to strut. 'Full Moon Rising Part 2' is essentially a blues, and gives everyone a chance to blow, with Travis switching from flute to tenor for his solo, and to give added weight when the group returns to the lightly funky theme at the conclusion of the piece.
With View from the Edge and Earth to Ether demonstrating an eclecticism that is tied together by a generally acoustic approach that still manages to blend in some contemporary ambiences, Theo Travis has established himself as a leader with a specific vision that brings together a multitude of influences into a unified and distinct concept. And as Travis becomes increasingly busy with both his own projects and work with others including Gong, Anja Garbarek and Cipher, it is only a matter of time before he gains exposure in North America, and the broader audience he deserves.
The columnist Paul Jennings once wrote of how he had seen a for-sale card in the window of a music shop in Charing Cross Rd. It said "Flute for sale". Easily concealed.Â£20"
In the ensuing funny piece he imagined a totalitarian state where flutes are outlawed and as such become a symbol of resistance.
Theo Travis has kept his flute partially concealed until relatively recently, making more a name for himself as a tenor ssaxophonist recording an album a year between 1993 and 2003. He's in good company. Many of jazz music'sbest flautists are/were tenorists:Yusef Lateef, James Moody, Charles Lloyd, Lew Tabackin, Eric Dolphy and even John Coltrane. (I wonder how being a saxophonist informs the flute playing , if at all?) This latest work ofrom Travis, made with his regular mainstream touring group, is a real grower. Of the nine numbers, eight are original compositions and they have a gently captivating, radio friendly quality.
Travis plays flute on all but two of them. He's a lithe, but full-muscled flute player. unlike some flautists there's none of that breathy panting with Travis, or anxious struggling to be heard on the top line. His sound is unmistakeably, effortlessly and purely there. When he does pick up the tenor, it is in two different modes, giving a glimpse of the man's flexibility. With "21st Century Schizoid Man" (that's right pop pickers, the King Crimson hit), he's all tough hustle bustle, leading the rhythm section a dance; on "Marti", by comparison, Travis comes on like a latterday Getz, tenderly caressing the Brazilian tinged melody. Three of the tunes have lyrics fitted (two of them by novelist Jonathan Coe) and aresung by Richard Sinclair, whose pleasant voice reminded me a little of Robert Wyatt.
Altogether, here's an album that seals Travis's growing reputation as one of our most fascinating windmiths.
" After the wide open spaces of Heart of the Sun, Earth to Ether is more of a chamber piece, focussing heavily on song and flute rather than the dramatic arrangements and stellar soloing of Travis' last outing. Although he's always featured flute, Earth to Ether is the first of Travis'albums to bring th einstrument to the fore in a group context. But Travis doesn't just go for splashes of colour, the flute's usual role. Instead he draws on Tubby Hayes'fleet-footed muscularity and Harold NcNair's funk anbd takes the flute, notably the alto, into darker spaces, such as the bluesy, multitracked "Stewed flute" or the lyrical yet mysterious "This Frozen Time". The other major development is the inclusion of Richard Sinclair's fragile, haunting voice. Combined with Jonathan Coe's lyrics, the results are strongly melodic, but never tip into the whimsy that can mar such an "English" sound. Throw in Travs' now longstanding and robust band, able to whip through a furious"21st Century Schizoid Man" or the groove of "Full Moon Rising pt2" and the overall sound is rich, lyrical and refreshing, and a further reflection on the wide range of exciting voicesthat make up contemporary British jazz"
Theo Travis Band. Bonington Theatre, Arnold, Nottingham - Thursday 4 November 2004.
From past visits we always look forward to something new from this hi-octane quartet and in terms of innovative sounds this gig was no exception. One was the alto flute that Theo Travis has added to his cache of tenor sax and flute. Second was his application of an electronic device that enabled him to "live loop" his instruments, which built up random phrases into layers and textures. This worked best on his alto flute - a phrase would detach itself and seem to float around the auditorium while he improvised with his tenor sax over the top. Very effective!
His third new offering was pianist Simon Colam, a meticulous musician and brand new on the London scene. His shimmering cascades and cleanly executed lines promise much when he frees himself from the rather strict routines demanded by Theo's outfit.
Some things in the band have not changed. The most apparent was the phenomenal drumming of Marc Parnell. He showed a great flair for showmanship his in solos and was an almost telepathic communicator with the rest of the band, especially when Theo was in full flight. Every twist and turn received an instant response. This brings us to Theo's tenor sax, sounding richer, even more appealing and bristling with ideas.
Bass player, Alex Keane, brought in at short notice was precise, nimble-fingered with a beautiful, warm tone. Theo played material from his numerous albums, especially his latest effort Earth To Ether. The opener The Mystic And The Emperor, introduced flowing, silvery lines from Theo's flute, elaborated upon in turn by Simon's piano, deep bass and Marc's chattering snare. A turbulent excursion into jazz-funk produced 21st Century Schizoid Man, whipped up again by some fabulous drumming. Featured was a fine collection of lyrical ballads, with Theo particularly excelling on his alto flute with an original, The Book. Another ballad, Marti, initially featured Simon's piano in a placid mood, followed by luscious tenor sax from Theo. The mood changed on Fort Dunlop - a number Theo introduced at his last outing to the Bonington - his glorious tenor riding over a march tempo and superb bass. Shore Thing was a great ballad which showcased Simon Colam's delicate and precise piano style. Barking Dogs And Caravans was another we have heard before, featuring fleet-fingered bass from Alex Keane and Marc Parnell again stealing the limelight with his magnificent drumming."
"The reluctance of jazz musicians to acknowledge any music made after, say, 1958 seems like a wilful withdrawal from reality. However, tie any jazz musician who came of age between 1970 and 1975 to a chair, and it won't take him long to confess an early fondness for Yes and Genesis. So, Earth to Ether, the forthcoming album from reedman Theo Travis, is refreshing in the way it actively embraces the prog rock legacy.
Travis adds charm to 21st Century Schizoid Man, King Crimson's masterpiece and the world's most histrionic rock song; henavigates tricky time changes on tenor sax at terrific speed, yet with a sense of relaxation that defuses the bombast of the original. There are also dreamy vocal pieces, reminiscent of the great Robert Wyatt, and Travis' fondness for flute gives off the authentic whiff of the early 1970's.
In fact, Travis has worked with John Etheridge (Soft Machine), Bill Bruford (Yes/ King Crimson), and Dick Heckstall -Smith (Colosseum), while he has also filled in for Didier Malherbe in psychedelic prankster band Gong. His floating soundscapes, rhythmic cadences and blistering workouts of today seem like a natural extension of his interest in prog-rock - albeit looser, less drilled and genuinely exploratory."
The Hairless Heart Herald
Who is your favourite saxophonist? Mel Collins, David Jackson, Jimmy Hastings? All the aforementioned are great players and much acclaimed in the prog world but those of us who have listened to The Tangent, and more recent Gong and Porcupine Tree will have discovered another name to add to the list of names - Theo Travis.
Theo, who has a degree (with honours) in music, is also a composer and flautist, and is one of the biggest names on the British jazz scene today. His active involvement in such an eclectic range of music is reflective in his latest album, Earth To Ether.
Earth To Ether features Theo's regular touring band of Simon Colam (piano), Andy Hamill (bass) and Marc Parnell (drums). Marc, who has worked with Martin Barre and Jethro Tull, is the son of the great Jack Parnell who us older persons will remember as being ever present on our TV screens in the 60's and 70's with his orchestra.
Neither progressive nor jazz fans will be disappointed with this album as the way you hear the music will be influenced by your own particular affinity to either genre. The complexity of the opening track, 'The Mystic And The Emperor', is a delicate weave of prog and jazz, Theo's flute reminiscent of Ian Anderson's solo albums combining with the ripple of piano and meandering background bass with Latin style percussion. In a word, superb.
The dialogue "Stand back, I'm going in" pre-empts the start of a track every prog fan will recognise; '21st Century Schizoid Man'. Theo's take on this standard bearer of prog is truly unique commencing with a 'Starsky and Hutch' style almost unrelated jazziness, erupting with a sax flourish into good old King Crimson. Cool jazz or cool prog, cool is the operative word.
The voice of Canterbury and prog legend, Richard Sinclair, guests on three of the nine tracks adding, dare I say, that 'Hatfield' touch of brilliance. Author of the novels 'The Rotter's Club/ and sequel' 'The Closed Circle' (highly recommended reading by the way), Jonathan Coe, pens the lyrics to the tracks 'The Munich Train' and 'This Frozen Time', both of which feature Richard on vocals and guitar, co-written with Theo. The feel of these tracks is, by default, very Canterbury and as you might expect from an author, the lyrics tell a story around some delightfully atmospheric flute work. Love the lyrical reference to 'winter wine' in 'This Frozen Time'.
I hate comparing flautist styles with that of Ian Anderson because it it is so obvious yet 'Stewed Flute' is one of those pieces which actually fits the comparison though the track also contains elements of Clive Bell's style of Japanese flute.
'Things Change' returns to the progressive emphasis with flute lead and bass, complex piano and percussion providing the base line in this great instrumental. 'Full Moon Rising Part 2' (Part 1 can be found on Theo's 'Secret Island' CD) closes the album. This ultimately jazzy piece features Theo's mastery of the tenor sax, and is a groovy, funky, fun way to finish.
Those of us with an ear for both jazz and prog are guaranteed to love this album and prog fans who are not yet jazz converts will have their eyes (or ears?) opened when they hear Earth To Ether.
The Scotsman (****)
"Flautist/saxophonist Theo Travis is a strong composer, and his accomplished writing provides varied and attractive material for his quartet. Former Caravan and Hatfield and the North vocalist Richard Sinclair is a special gueston three songs, and Travis' love of prog-rock is also reflected in a cover version of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man", long a staple of his live set."
Sid Smith Diary (Krimson News)
" Travis has the rare knack of making more from less, completely avoiding the breathy overblowing that is the last resort of flautists who are both running out of ideas and breath at the same time. His recent UK tour showed Theo Travis in fine form fronting an excellent group of needle-sharp players. The popular stereotypical image of a sax player is that of a beret-wearing, shade-wearing outsider giving voice to his tortured soul through his horn. In concert, this potent archetype is politely disarmed as Travis makes his point without recourse to populist histrionics or reed-biting avant-garde posturing.
Certainly the broad-range of people Travis has worked with demonstrates he has a foot in both the jazz mainstream and progressive rock related field. Having just finished laying down some tracks for David Sylvian, Travis can be found in the company of ex-Soft Machine stalwarts John Marshall and John Etheridge, as well as Tim Bowness, Gong, and Anja Garbarek.
In concert, Theo Travis remains as concise and measured as he does on his new album Earth To Ether . What makes Travis so listenable is that his playing serves the composition rather than the other way round. The dividend paid out for this approach is a highly melodic, well-rounded music, full of dazzling expression and a deft fluidity.
The ascending chord sequence on Earth To Ether, The Mystic and the Emperor, suggests that Travis regards onwards and upwards as the place to be. The allegorical title finds fitting expression in the exchange between spiritual matters and their temporal counterparts; Simon Colamâ€™s ethereal piano shimmers like a heat haze whilst double bass player Andy Hamill produces an earthy solo delving deep, offering a contrasting yet complimentary expression.
The energies created with this track are continued in an imaginative arrangement of King Crimsonâ€™s 21st Century Schizoid Man. Theo has said that the inspiration for attempting this came from ProjeKct Twoâ€™s loungecore version. Here, Travis draws down some prime tenor sax, emphasising the hard-bop heritage that was drawn upon by at least one of the composers of the piece.
The appearance of Richard Sinclair on three of nine tracks is particularly welcome given his lengthy bout of musical silence. Yet his lugubrious vocals (along with Travisâ€™ choice of cover material) will consolidate his prog-friendly profile and in doing so, alienate himself from the serious jazzers who might consider fraternising with prog a heinous artistic crime.
However when the results are as convincing as the urbane ballad The Book or This Frozen Time (the latter lyrics supplied by Brit-Lit author, Jonathan Coe) Travis can afford to shrug off any naysayers. With its punchy dynamics (it was mixed and mastered by Porcupine Treeâ€™s Steve Wilson), Earth To Ether is a triumph; a diverse album united by significant compositions and top-drawer playing from all concerned. "
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" Occupying a territory between the Minimalist excursions of Steve Reich and the loop innovations of Fripp and Eno, 'Slow Life' is one of the most consistently challenging and ethereal albums in the career of Theo Travis. Exclusively using the rich possibilities of the alto flute, Travis launches into a series of cogent and controlled tonal improvs that firmly places him in the vanguard of the ever-growing looping community." Burning Shed website " The 'travis system of ambitronics' is awesome. this is an excellent minimalist, ambient, space music disc! " Jim Brenholts -
Ambient Navigator (USA).
"Despite the complexity of the arrangements, the nine pieces, each recorded live in the studio, are characterised by a sense of space, freedom and clarity. The overlaid flute loops resist entanglement and the listening experience is almost entirely restful."
Nicholas Royle. The Wire
"Slow Life is a set of solo alto flute pieces recorded using what Theo calls his "system of ambitronics", which is described as a series of foot pedals enabling him to build up layered loops of flute and spontaneously overdubbing other flute lines. There are no efx that morph or distort the natural sound of the instrument, but the resulting layered loops do produce an ethereal atmosphere within which the flute can explore, and makes for a surprisingly full sound given the solo nature of the album. The music is generally slow paced, with deep consideration given to each note and phrase. One of my favorite tracks is "Sleep", which features a somber but beautiful melody that reminds me of a Chinese film I can't quite place. Some of the music brings to mind Robert Fripp's soundscape guitar works, though Theo's flute is more pleasant and atmospheric as opposed to the robotic Fripp sound. Overall, Theo's flute excursions did a good job of holding my attention throughout the set. If you're in the mood for an ambient melodic solo flute journey, there's some hypnotic music to be heard here.
Aural Innovations (USA)
"Sinuous alto flute strands are stratified across contemplative soundspaces by Theo Travis. With dreamlike slowness, layers of flutatious curlicues unfold across Salad noir... Similarly placid waves flutter through Chasing the slow train, sometimes evoking a bit of American West, othertimes a fairyland madrigal sound. Stereo (2:20) balances sparse tweedling episodes with moments of silence. In Mellotromatic (10:29), hovering counterpoints of high and low cohabitate expansively sprawling tone-vistas. Another more-than-ten-minute piece closes the disc; the warm currents of who stopped you furl and unfurl with reedy breaths. These nine solo flute compositions are beautiful and thoughtful. "
If the title sounds familiar, that is because this is a reissue of the saxophonist's powerful 1994 album featuring his quintet of the day (with the excellent Rob Statham in particularly ear-catching form on electric bass), and special guests Tony Coe, Jeff Clyne and John Marshall. This was the Birmingham-born saxophonist's second album, and featured mostly his own music, other than a brisk version of Cole Porter's 'Love For Sale'. Then as now, he largely avoided stock harmonic solutions in his playing, and the disc revealed a pleasingly eclectic approach to his diverse influences, which would develop in even more wide-ranging fashion in the ensuing years, taking in bop, free improv, prog rock and electronica.
The remastered version of the original album comet in a 2-CD package with a second disc made up of one live cut ('The Ghosts of Witley Court' from the Jazz Cafe in 1994) three genuinely alternative takes of tracks from the album, and two more - 'Psychogroove' and 'The Purple Sky' - in contemporary 'reconstruction/remix' versions by Cipher and Hugh Hopper respectively. The original music still sounds fresh, and the alternate perspectives offered on the second disc are equally compelling.
Kenny Mathieson. Jazz Wise. August 2003
Theo Travis's new album Heart of the Sun (33 Records) shows a young saxophonist at the peak of his career. In fairness this isn't an album to please Little Englanders - prominent guests include Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg (an alumnus of Miles Davis and George Russell) and Daevid Allen the Australian guitarist with spacey prog-rockers Gong who specialises ina peculiar form of distorted , glissando slide guitar. And much of this scarcely fits into the "jazz"remit: across eight exploratory tracks, Travis' own brand of propulsive modal jazz is mixed with Brian Eno-ish ambient soundscapes, late -era Miles Davis grooves and freaky, highly textured psychadelic wig-outs. Travis' bluesy soulful tenor and his spooky soprano weave in and out of Mikkelborg's parched trumpet lines and almost melt into Mark Wood's shimmering distorted guitar riffs, backed by an efficient and suitably sympathetic rhythm section.... Not sure how they'll replicate this electrified odyssey live, but they'll have fun in trying.
John Lewis Time Out (Pick of the week)
"British saxophonist and composer Theo Travis's career on the local jazz scene may have identified him (for a small but attentive audience) as one of the UK's most creative and least clone-like of the younger straightahead jazzers - but there's a lot more to him than that. This disc highlights Travis' collaborations with members of the German band Triocolor and veteran art-rocker Daevid Allen's Gong, but the most powerful guest presence on this fourth Travis session for 33 Records is the illustrious Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, a man with a totally personal, stealthy yet sensuous sound. Pianist Dave Gordon makes some telling please for more appropriate recogntion too. At first you think you're in standard Travis territory while his rich tenor tone eases through the grooving ballad All I Know. Then the slowly unfolding soprano sax line on Northern Lights, over glowering electronic harmonies , suggests that the disc is pulled - sometimes uneasily - between straightahead jazz and north European impressionism, with the latter the more generally absorbing. Palle Mikkelborg's presence on this track and three others transforms the set - barely breathing on Northern Lights, purring and cat-wailing against Andy Hamill's slinky bass on Fast Life , garrulously sinister on Here's that Rainy. But Theo Travis's strengths as a saxophonist are always apparent, notably in the soft swing and eloquent vibrato on the mixed tempo That Old Smile, and in the sympathetic interplay with Mikkelborg's trumpet all over the disc."
John Fordham, The Guardian
"This is neither as fiery nor as straight ahead in its approach as some of Theo Travis' earlier albums, but it is his most impressive achievement on disc to date. Travis' music has been expanding in diverse directions for some time, and reveals a distinct step forward in maturity and conceptual range here. The saxophonist acknowledges in his sleeve note that the album is based around the compositions rather than the band, and he varies the personnel accordingly. The thoughtful, carefully constructed arrangements provide a lovely framework for his ideas, and he has recruited Palle Mikkelborg's cool beguiling trumpet as a second horn on three of the eight cuts. Mikkelborg switches to flugelhorn on a fourth, the album's only cover version, a slow and spacious reading of "Here's that Rainy Day" which also features Gong's Daevid Allen. The lucid, subtly delineated and often highly evocative soundscapes which Travis creates are spiced up with fine soloing, and he makes effective and restrained use of ambient loops on several tracks, including the haunting "Northern Lights" and "Bass Rock". The least conventional piece on the album is "Last Flight From Twinwood", named for the now disused RAF base from which Glenn Miller took off on his final flight. The choral effects he employs suggest a bigger ensemble than the sextet he actually uses, while the gently keening horns and Mark Wood's distorted guitar add an eerie edge to te piece."
Kenny Mathieson Jazz Wise 4 stars (out of 4!) Recommended
"The name of Theo Travis is one of that is more often appearing in this magazine, and not without cause. The number and the level of the albums to which he has participated already alone constitutes a good business card for the British sax player, surely one of the greater talents currently in circulation. But Theo Travis can boast also a solo career worthy of all respect, which the pages of No Warning! have been able to testify, talking, some time ago, of the optimal album by Cipher, the good solo album Secret Island and the formidable live album Passion Dance.
Heart Of The Sun is the first studio album since Secret Island, an album that has been justly applauded by both critics and audience; but, and I say it dispassionately, forget Secret Island, Theo with Heart Of The Sun has gone a lot beyond it. Probably the numerous collaborations and the positive experiences of Cipher and Gong have carried Theo to the full maturity, of which this wonderful album is the manifesto and for which, as said in the notes of the booklet, Theo has mainly concentrated on the compositions for the recording, choosing the line ups of musicians specifically to maximise every single piece. For this purpose he has been surrounded by various musicians. .In addition to the members of his Quartet David Gordon (piano and Hammond organ), Andy Hamill (double bass) and Marc Parnell (drums), here are present the guitarist Mark Wood, the legendary Daevid Allen at the glissando guitar, the bass player Stefan Weeke, the drummer Bjorn Lucker, Stewart Curtis on clarinet and the Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg.
Of this last presence Theo is particularly proud, as Palle Mikkelborg is a jazz player of world-wide reputation that has done collaborations with Miles Davis, Terje Rypdal (ECM artist), Dexter Gordon, George Russell, Gil Evans, Jan Garbarek and Charlie Haden. Here Mikkelborg is present in four of the eight tracks included in the album, an album that has been mixed and co-produced by Steven Wilson and Theo. Heart Of The Sun is a masterpiece in that it conjugates jazz with many other musical languages, giving proof of the ductility of Theo Travis: ambient, Canterbury School, jazz rock, progressive rock happily cohabits aside of the remarkable melodic sense of Theo, able to create unforgettable phrases of sax. If the talent of Mel Collins needed to designate a heir, this is without doubt Theo Travis, as in the wonderful Barking Dogs And Caravans it leaves to be transparent his passion for King Crimson, with a piece that mainly in its second part nods to the memory of some passages of their track Fallen Angel.
There are always present points of pure instrumental ability, for example the piano solo by David Gordon in All I Know, a piece that would deserve domination of the charts of jazz music all over the world, but the instrumental ability in this disc is not self indungent, but precise dowels of a mosaic without equal. Echoes of the Cipher project cross Northern Lights, marked by the introspective voices of sax and trumpet over chords of Hammond organ.
The alternance of pieces generates contrasts of humors and colorations that Theo must have studied for many time in order to structure this album so well. Listen to the beautiful introductive theme of Fast Life, led by both trumpet and sax, before leaving space for the several solos that are articulated on a rhythm fast and explosive, before the theme returns to close the piece. Already cited is Barking Dogs And Caravans, scattered with linked and truly sublime melodic cues, in which it is possible to appreciate also the optimal guitar intuitions of the former Nucleus member Mark Wood. It precedes a standard of Jimmy Van Heusen rearranged with an ambient approach -
Here's That Rainy Day which is enriched by the beautiful solo of Palle Mikkelborg and with the visionary contribution of glissando guitar by Daevid Allen, decreased on the chords of the crystalline piano of Gordon. And to emphasize that the sax of the leader is never invading or suffucating, but always very calibrated and true to the spirit of good taste, it can be noticed also in the nearly Canterburyish That Old Smile, whose central bridge will make happy the fans of the crimsoid Groon. The last two tracks are those in which Theo, more than in the others, tries to evoke two geographic places and the generated states of mind from their permanence.
Last Flight From Twinwood, inspired by the place from which during the second world war Glenn Miller left for his last flight, and Bass Rock, inspired by the eponymous volcanic island near the eastern coast of Scotland uninhabited but for colonies of birds. It turns out very difficult for me to find words to describe the feelings and the moods that derive from these pieces of incredible fascination - masterpieces within a masterpiece : the talent of Theo Travis has really completed a travel to the center of the sun, bringing back energy, heat and brightness, characteristics of an album destined to become an unavoidable classic."
No Warning - translation of review from the Italian webzine.
The word "Passion" within the CD's title(taken from the McCoy Tyner track on the album) could not be more descriptive of the playing of tenor man Theo Travis, and of his music throughout the album.
Theo takes no prisoners in the way he bears down on the music. All is redolent of strong emotion, whether it be his forceful high energy soloing in some of the roaring up-tempo pieces, or the calm, almost pastoral sound he reserves for such as the beautiful Shore Thing; a wonderful soundscape of, I imagine, a quiet and peaceful beach scene. For those who have heard Theo at Ronnie's will know that this quartet of David Gordon (piano), Andy Hamill (bass) and Marc Parnell (drums) is definitely not a tenor -with-rhythm-section group. This is a totally integrated foursome, who, as Theo succinctly states in the album insert, he "wanted to record live to capture the energy, passion, spontaneity and almost telepathic inter-play between the musicians." That says it all, especially the telepathic inter-play reference!
Of ten tracks, six are Travis compositions, ranging from fire of Black and Crimson , through the gentle strains of Shore Thing and Everything Matters: then via his appealing flute sound in Tread Softly, to the last track, a 13-minute sound picture pot-pourri of the various facets of America's capital, called Nightmare in New York. This incidentally, incorporates a lengthy but rivetingly logical and intelligent drum solo.
Space limits further detail, suffice to say, though this is music to be listened to as a unified whole, the staggeringly high jazz prowess of each member, whether in solo or in group activity, makes this 76 minutes of modern-jazz-of-the-day and essential purchase.
Brian Davis - JARS Magazine
"There are few things in jazz more exhilarating than a superb group hitting peak form, and this live recording of Theo Travis' quartet captures the band at that extraordinary level of inspiration and expression. They perform six excellent Travis compositions, three jazz standards and one standard song.
The opener, Travis' "Dog Days", sets a remarkable level of intensity and drama. Travis' tenor sax solo borders on the superhuman in its barely contained passion, its virtuosity and flow of ideas and whem his solo ends, the group is immediately hushed for the quiet bass solo. McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance" is given a fresh reading with some added bass notes to the theme and an excellent piano solo, and for Tubby Hayes' very pretty "Off the Wagon", Travis plays flute and Hamill contributes an exquisite bass solo. Coltrane's Impressions and Cole Porter's "Just One Of Those Things" are both given up-tempo bravura performances with the magnificent rhythm section in full cry. Travis's very varied compositions include the ballad "Tread Softly" and the delicate Latin "Everything Matters" which both bring out the subtle and spare lyricism of the quartet, while "Nightmare in New York" is a suite full of incident and surprises.
Ian Carr- BBC Music Magazine (April 2000)
Tenor saxophonist , composer and arranger, Theo Travis is one of the brightest new talents to emerge on the British Jazz scene for some time. He received a classical musical degree from Manchester University and was nominated Best Newcomer by the Financial Times in 1993 and rising star of the 1995 and 1996 British Jazz Awards. He has recorded three previous albums on the 33 Records label but this is his first CD on the Ronnie Scott Jazz House label. This "Live at Ronnie's" quartet recording captures effectively the club atmosphere. The programme mainly consists of compositions by Travis with the exception of Passion Dance by McCoy Tyner, Off the Wagon by the much missed Tubby Hayess, Impressions by John Coltrane and the Cole Porter standard Just one of those things.Travis is responsible for all the arrangements. The listener is initially made aware of the enormous energy of the group and the technical ability of the individual musicians, as they ride through often complicated passages both rhythmical and harmonic with ease. Travis also, on occasions, displays his classical background in Everything Matters and Tread Softly, but his roots remain firmly in jazz. The leader is ably supported by a fine rhythm section in which pianist David Gordon is outstanding. It should also be mentioned that Travis' flute playing is impressive, particularly in the Tubby Hayes piece. The Ronnie Scott Organisation continues to flourish in Frith Street, but the work it does in promoting young jazz talent, such as these musicians, is also to be commended. A fine CD.
David Lund - Crescendo Magazine Feb 2000
"Bodywork compresses 13 totally improvised pieces by a trio of leading British jazz musicians. Drummer John Marshall and guitarist Mark Wood have both long been active on the international jazz scene and saxophonist Theo Travis is one of the most gifted of the younger generation of musicians. Their instrumental virtuosity and intensely compositional approach to improvisation has resulted in a remarkably successful album. None of the music was premeditated and yet several of the performances are achieved with such artistry that they sound almost precomposed. "Eyes like the sun" begins with warm and romantic guitar which posits a key, drums and soprano saxophone play quietly, and the piece grows softly and organically. "Gonzo", on the other hand, begins with a manic guitar rhythm and the whole performance is angular and quirky and grotesque humour and ribald rhythm. It's a tour de force."
Ian Carr, BBC Music Magazine, June 1998
"A welcome departure for notable British jazzers John Marshall (drums) and Theo Travis (saxes, flute). 13 short pieces they describe as "wholly spontaneous improvisations" presumably so as not to alarm their straightahead fusion fans who might otherwise think their writing has taken a wayward turn. Avant rock guitarist Mark Wood(new to me) is the wild card, supplying the grinding metallic textures on "Speed" and "Brainstorming", while Travis forsakes his usual melodic poise for a torrid tenor tone reminiscent of Paul Dunmall and Simon Picard. "Eyes like the sun" is a reassuring free ballad, and "Ozymandias" an engaging juxtaposition of Marshall's snappy meters, Wood's Frisell-like smears and sustains, and Travis's elegantly paced melodic phrasing. Safely mainstream as free jazz albums go, Bodywork is nevertheless a thoughtful and cohesive group effort."
Chris Blackford, The Wire, April 1998
"John Marshall, Theo Travis and Mark Wood perform 13 improvisations her which are wholly spontaneous. I know this because it tells me on the CD insert. I would not have known it by listening to the music. The three are so in touch with each other, and so able to react to the others' playing, that sections of this sound not only composed but also tightly arranged and rehearsed. At other times, they do conform more to the expectations of improv (e.g. "Brainstorming"), such is the range of sounds on offer here. The trio seem genuinely democratic, with none of the three dominating or consistently calling the tune. Although Wood is from a rock background, he is always ready to provide atmospheric effects and colouration, rather than more obvious rockist influences. However, on a track such as Gonzo, his roots are more obvious as he lays down a rhythmic riff which sets the tone for the whole piece and caries the other two along. Travis performs on tenor sax, soprano sax and flute; he switches between instruments to provide sounds which are ideally suited to the contexts. Time and again, he spinsmelodies so beguiling that it is hard to believe they are spontaneously improvised. Marshall is as delicate and responsive as ever and never intrusive, always appropriate in his responses and interjections. Much of the music here demands to be called beautiful. Forget the improv pigeonhole; this is simply excellent."
John Eyles, Avant Magazine, Spring 1998