Bodywork by Marshall  Travis Wood

Bodywork by Marshall  Travis Wood -  released digitally on Bandcamp with bonus Steven Wilson remix. 16 Feb 2024

Marshall Travis Wood was a short-lived band that, in my mind at least, burned brightly and then disappeared as soon as it had appeared. It was born by accident really, and only lasted about 12 months from February 1997 to March 1998 – a rehearsal, an album and flurry of excitement, great reviews and anticipation of great things to come, a UK tour, a couple of one off gigs, a few social curries and then gone! I think we were just all too busy with other bands and projects to do more with this trio. 

Its accidental birth happened because John, Mark and I got together for an informal quartet ‘blow’ at the Bulls Head in Barnes with a bass player, just to play jazz and try some new music out. The bass player (who shall remain nameless)  never turned up, and since we were already there and set up, we tried some improvisations which I recorded on my Sony Walkman Cassette machine. On listening back a couple of days later I was blown away by how good the music I heard was.  For what we recorded, there had been no direction, ‘ideas’ or guidance as to what we would play, we just listened to each other and played to the best of our ability, wanting to make the best music we could imagine. No parameters. I loved what I heard and what might have been a more ‘normal’ quartet session, had turned into something that I thought sounded rather unique. I immediately suggested we record at the Premises studio in London to see what music we could come up with. The session went really well and when schedules allowed we later planned another session. This album ‘Bodywork’ is the result. We got some amazing reviews from , for example, Gramophone magazine and the BBC Music magazine.

It was a very cooperative group with everyone agreeing which pieces to use for the selection for the album and everyone making suggestions for titles etc. I had improvised freely with musicians before, but often ‘free’ improvisations would go one of two ways. With more rock oriented musicians, you would get a one chord jam, with everyone staying in the same key. And with more jazz oriented musicians it would tend towards what I call ‘traditional free jazz’ – ie avant garde atonal music. This was something different. Yes we could make a shrieking noise (eg ‘Brainstroming’), and yes we could play jazz (eg ‘Speed’) . We could play atonally. But what I found mind expanding was the tonal textural improvisations that sound composed, and have harmonic movement, tension and release but were completely un premeditated. Mark and I do not have perfect pitch, so we cannot tell what key the other is playing in just by hearing. We just play and respond and complement or improvise the best we can. I listened to tracks like  ‘Eyes like the sun’ and ‘Sand Dance’ and I just think ‘Where on earth did that come from?. We were turned down for a gig by one free jazz club for playing music that sounded ‘too composed so not suitable for a free jazz club.’ That made me laugh. Every note we played was freely improvised.

So here it is and there It was. The February 1998 tour of the UK hardcore free imprv clubs like the Grapes Inn in Sheffield where Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley started their free jazz experiments in the late 1960s the Termite Club in Leeds, the Red Rose Club, and the Vortex in London where there have been many improv sessions were fantastic,. Somewhere there are tapes as we recorded most shows. But they have longs since disappeared.

For this digital release of Bodywork (for the first time ever), I have included a bonus track, never before released. It is a 13 minute 4 seconds reconstruction that Steven Wilson made from tracks from the whole album. I first met Steven around the time of the Marshall Travis Wood Band. We were both sidemen with JBK – Steve Jansen , Richard Barbieri and Mick Karn, formerly of the band Japan. There were rehearsals  then a London show at the Astoria 2, a Dutch TV session and a month in Japan.  Steven was interested in what I was doing and liked the trio recording so offered to make the reconstruction/remix I have called ‘Coldfall’. Steven was happy for it to be released now with the Bandcamp digital release of this album and this is the first time it has been made public. I think adds something to the release.

So there it is. A short lived band, a one off album and a musical snapshot in time I hope you enjoy the music.

Theo Travis

16 February 2024