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Theos Travis' Blog

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2020 – Goodbye to all that

Well that was certainly a year unlike any other and I hope we do not see the likes of that again. Actually 2020 started off pretty well for me. Autumn 2019 saw the most fabulous Soft Machine UK tour with some of our best ever gigs, and then I had a restorative break on the glorious Island of Mull in the Scottish Highlands with the family. In late January 2020 I travelled to beautiful North Yorkshire to visit Andy Tillison (and Sally and Roobarb) for a very enjoyable few days recording all the woodwind parts for the next Tangent album – a particularly strong album which was released in August 2020 and called 'Auto-Reconnaissance'.

I was also looking forward to preparing to record the new Soft Machine studio album as a follow up to Hidden Details which was such a big success.

Then it all started to change and Coronavirus appeared.Initially I think no one had any idea of to what extent the virus would impact the whole world.I did have some nice gigs in Feb/ early March 2020 including the solo appearance at the great Festival of Electronic music in Birmingham UK, and some low key but very rewarding and musically top drawer jazz gigs like the one with Henry Lowther, Tim Wells and David Ingamells in Isleworth.But when we went into lockdown it soon became apparent that in person recordings and all gigs were going to be cancelled and I had a lot of gigs scheduled in my diary including Soft Machine tours of South America, Europe and the UK, plus a bunch of dates with Ben Crosland's great jazz quintet playing the Ray Davies Songbook.

Luckily for me I have private students learning sax and flute and a home studio and all that work continued, with the aid of Zoom, Facetime and Google meet. Additionally I spent a considerable amount of time learning the duduk, a beautiful woodwind instrument that I had bought off Didier Malherbe in Paris, but not spent that much time studying. I took some lessons with the great young duduk master from near Yerevan, Armenia called Arsen Petrosyan, and I got better at it. Quite a lot better I think.I tentatively started making some recordings in my studio and there will be more news about that in 2021.


In March the beautiful 2LP vinyl of Soft Machine – 'Live at the Baked Potato' was released on Tonefloat records. It was subsequently also released on CD in July. I produced the album and so was very involved in the planning, the mixing, song order, mastering, artwork and general organisation. It has had a great response from audience and critics which is fab. The album really does represent what we have been doing live for the last couple of years, so great to have a recorded document of it.  


I did one online solo gig and Q&A session from home for the Soundcellar Jazz Club in Poole, on the south coast of England. It is a fantastic jazz club with a very open minded booking policy and they always programme adventurous interesting music. I did a lot of preparation for the gig as it involved a lot of looping technology, iPads, sound processing pedals and it was an opportunity to try something new. I also played my duduk live (well sort of live) in front of an audience for the very first time. People attended the concert from Peru, San Francisco and Germany as well as Poole, London, Scotland and other places. It all went well and I thank Soundcellar for putting on the gig.

Sadly my father became increasingly ill this year and in October he passed away. The funeral and memorial the family had were very sad occasions. My dad was an amazing man who I loved very much and who also had a big impact on and was an inspiration to a lot of people, myself included. All of that together with the practicalities of sorting out his affairs overshadowed much of this year too.

With so many Soft Machine gigs being cancelled I have had time to write some material for the new album, whenever that actually happens. In November and December we did have two streamed gigs – one from Cambridge Jazz Festival and one from Ronnie Scott's Club in London (which had a real, but reduced and socially distanced live audience too) and it was so great to actually play live as a band again. And playing at Ronnie Scott's is always very special too.

I feel fortunate that I have not suffered with the pandemic as badly as many have. The whole world seems to be in a bit of a mad place at the moment with the craziness of the recent US election and Brexit in the UK on top of Coronavirus and I really hope things get better as we move into a new year. I think now more than ever we need music to calm the soul, inspire and give us strength and shine a light on the humanity in us all.

Thank you for listening, enjoying the music and for your support.

Very best wishes to you all.

Theo

(27 December 2020)

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Soft Machine live at Ronnie Scott's

On Sunday 6 December Soft Machine returned to live performance with a storming 90 minute set at Ronnie Scott's Club, London, which was streamed throughout the world!

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Christmas 2020 Sale

I have decided to end this year with a bit of a stock clearance, so for a limited period to have a theotravis.com CD sale! So do check out the News page and SHOP page for the much discounted CDs.

There are three benefits of buying your CDs in this sale -

1) the cost - ie the CDs are seriously cheap!

2) you can have them autographed including personal dedications at your request

3) your payment goes direct to the artist who will benefit directly, and much more than any other method of purchase

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23 November 23 to 23 December 2020 SALE!!!

For a strictly limited period only, many of my CDs will be sold at the much discounted rate of only £4.99 plus p+p . See SHOP for details.

Just go to the Ordering page to place your order. You can request signed copies too [via info@theotravis.com] and ask for a specific dedication on any item. Please tell your friends too!

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A touch of Eastern flavour

And now, as they say, for something completely different. This is a track I recorded at home today on the duduk. The piece has a Middle Eastern flavour and is something that I have been working on for a while with a wonderful vocal contribution by Gaddy Zerbib. It is my first public outing on the duduk- which is a beautiful double reed woodwind instrument from Armenia. I bought this one in Paris from fellow ex-Gong woodwind man Didier Malherbe and have been enjoying trying to learn its magical and mysterious sounds. I hope you enjoy it.

With thanks to Gaddy Zerbib (Israel), Didier Malherbe (Paris) and recently Arsen Petrosyan (Armenia) for some very helpful playing tips.

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Soft Machine release "Live at The Baked Potato"

In 2018 SOFT MACHINE released their first studio album in 37 years called Hidden Details. In support of this widely acclaimed and heralded album, John Etheridge (electric guitar), Roy Babbington (bass guitar), John Marshall (drums) and I (saxophones, flute, Fender Rhodes piano) toured the world during 2018 and 2019. A live album from this extensive tour, recorded at The Baked Potato, Los Angeles, USA on 1 February 2019, will be out as a deluxe 180 grams coloured vinyl only release on Tonefloat from 20 March 2020. The double album contains twelve tracks across three side with a specially etched side four. Order directly here, and for those that are not into the vinyl fetish, stay tuned, and who knows it might come out one day in HD Digital and CD format.

Soft Machine - "Live at The Baked Potato" (2LP) is released on Tonefloat records March 2020

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News Update October 2019

Apologies for the lack of updates this year, but things have been busy here and I am afraid I simply have not got round to it until now.

2019 kicked off with 3 more weeks of Soft Machine in the USA on our 50th Anniversary World tourWe have been continuing to promote the Hidden Details album. We played 2 nights in Los Angeles at the legendary Baked Potato club, 2 nights in Seattle, plus San Francisco, Santa Cruz and then flying to the East Coast of the USA, to Florida sailing from Tampa on the 'Cruise to the Edge', with amazing bands like Yes, Focus, Steve Hackett Band and Brand X. The tour was fantastic and we actually recorded various shows, so there will hopefully be an official live release sometime. Watch this space for news on that.

Apart from Soft Machine there have been some other jazz gigs mainly in and around London and I have also been writing and recording music for a couple of music production companies that supply music for TV programmes, documentaries and films. This has been both solo and collaborating with some wonderful composer/producer friends. That has been very creative and a lot of fun too. I have guested on some cool albums too, mainly recording at my home studio, including for an album by a great young singer/songwriter/guitarist from Yorkshire called Henry Parker who I met at the Trades Club Hebden Bridge when he supported a Soft Machine gig there in 2018. His genre is loosely like early John Martyn or Nick Drake and I think his music is excellent. So it was a real pleasure to contribute to his debut album 'Silent Spring'.

I continue to learn the wonderful musical instrument that is the duduk, a beautiful Armenian wooden woodwind instrument that can make such a mournful and sad yet beautiful sound. If you know either Peter Gabriel's 'Passion' - the soundtrack to the film 'The Last Temptation of Christ', or the soundtrack to the film 'Gladiator' you will probably have heard the evocative sound of the duduk. I have also been playing some guitar again and learning more about the cool music software that is Ableton Live. I have found it a very creative tool for composing new music too.

We are now in the Autumn 2019 UK Soft Machine tour and have introduced some cool new additions to the set, particularly from the album Seven (one of my favourites) which so far have worked well. I have also been writing some new material for the band and there is talk of going into the recording studio sometime next year (2020) for a new studio album which would be great. Hopefully see you somewhere on the tour, and do come and say hello!

Thanks for listening!

Cheers,

Theo

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