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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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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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Theo Travis’ Double Talk: Transgression Review

By ROGER FARBEY (All About Jazz)

The chiming notes of a very Mahavishnu Orchestra sounding guitar open the tension-rich "Fire Mountain" hotly pursued by Theo Travis' intense tenor sax soloing and coruscating axe work from Mike Outram. 

A change of pace is heard in the title track, beginning slowly but gradually building-up in pace and volume, Outram's fuzzy guitar twinned with Travis' sax comprise the melodic driving force, all underpinned by organ from Pete Whittaker and crackling drums from seasoned percussionist Nic France. The pressure continues to build courtesy of a keen ensemble riff reaching a climax until it dies back into the opening reflective sax-led balledic theme.

"Smokin' at Klooks" is a steamy blues-fest, Outram's guitar channelling Peter Green's memorable solo on "Black Magic Woman" and Travis producing a light, bluesy solo on flute. The catchy "Song For Samuel" benefits from Travis' articulate tenor sax, conjuring-up the breezy feel of "Off The Wagon" as performed by one of his sax heroes, Tubby Hayes and more lithe guitar ensues from Mike Outram.

A sultry head introduces the slower "Everything I Feared" underlaid by an organ bass pedal line over which surfaces Outram's stinging guitar and a dazzling echoey flute solo from Theo Travis. 

The only track not written (or co-written) by Travis is the wistful and deceptively complex "Maryan" by Robert Wyatt and Philip Catherine, which again spotlights delicate flute with organ accompaniment offering an example of exquisitely beautiful sensibility. 

The stately-paced "A Place In the Queue" is replete with magnificent glissando guitar and soulful tenor saxophone over plaintive organ chords, but then gathers a head of steam just over halfway through with biting guitar and an ensemble passage leading back to the opening melody. The closing track is the short and pensive "The Call" clearly demonstrating that Travis' blues-inflected tenor can sound as good as it gets played slowly and with feeling. 

Theo Travis really needs no introduction given his history of collaboration with music giants such as Robert Fripp, Gong and Soft Machine Legacy, not to mention the dozen recordings he's produced under his own name over the past twenty years. He has also contributed to various works by progmeister-extraordinaire Steve Wilson, who expertly mixed and mastered this album. Transgression will undoubtedly win many prog fans over to jazz and given the high quality of the compositions and superb performances all 'round, this album can justifiably be termed a cooker

Track Listing: Fire Mountain; Transgression; Smokin' at Klooks; Song For Samuel; Everything I Feared; Maryan; A Place In The Queue; The Call 

Personnel: Theo Travis: tenor sax, flutes, Fender Rhodes; Mike Outram: guitar; Pete Whittaker: organ; Nic France: drums, percussion 

Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Esoteric Antenna

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Secret Island - Reviews

"The whole outfit sounds poised relaxed and beautifuly modulated "- 

Dave Gelly. Musician Magazine.


"One of the outstanding releases of 1996. A very fine album.. "-
Helen Mayhew. Jazz FM


"Well up to scratch.... A cracking album.. "-
Brian Morton. Radio3 Impressions


"..features John Etheridge and shows just what a good composer Travis is "-
Lynton Chiswick. Time Out


"This is a sophisticated and mature piece of writing from a musician known as much for his composition as for his playing....an original and personal jazz conception "-
Ian Ritchie. Absolute Jazz(Internet magazine)


" The strong melodic themes and thoughtful solos which distinguished his earlier recordings are much in evidence on the new one, and there's a bonus in the prescence of guitarist John Etheridge, whose ringing sound and bright ideaas add a new dimension to Travis' music "-
Pete Martin. Jazz UK 

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View From The Edge - Review

"...a strong album and should go further to establishing him as a national name." -
The Birmingham Post

" Travis continues to avoid the stock harmonic solutions...well worth checking out and a lot more to come." -
Derek Briggs. Jazz On CD

"It is impressive for the determination with which Travis avoids the standard patterns and cliches of jazz" -
The Observer Review

"a triumph of popular appeal and art." -
Derek Briggs. Jazz On CD

"Once again Travis' striking composition make the music both distinctive and accesssible" -
Pete Martin. Studio Time


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