On this 2003 effort, ex-members of the fabled British band Soft Machine reunite as Soft Works for a set consisting of loosely visualized pieces. And while Soft Works' roots harken back to the late-'60s to early-'70s prog rock-based Canterbury Scene, the band spanned genres including jazz fusion and free jazz during its tenure. Bassist Hugh Hopper, saxophonist Elton Dean, and drummer John Marshall are noted for their longstanding tenure with this time-honored outfit. In addition, guitar hero Allan Holdsworth periodically performed and recorded with the group during the mid-'70s and early '80s. Therefore, this eagerly anticipated outing should warm the hearts of those who've followed the Soft Machine/Soft Works' legacy amid various offshoots during the last several decades.
On Abracadabra, the quartet reworks a few Elton Dean pieces, culled from his Moorsong CD, while also including guitarist Phil Miller's piece titled "K-Licks," among others. The musicians indulge in electrified and irrefutably spacious jazz grooves in concert with some ethereal treatments provided by Holdsworth's "synthaxe"-based guitar maneuvers. Yet Holdsworth's effectively designed chop chords and accentuating progressions help anchor the proceedings. Dean flexes quite a bit of muscle here, due to his hard-edged and somewhat gritty alto and saxello lines. Where many of these works feature gradually climactic cadenzas supported by Hopper and Marshall's limberly executed rhythmic maneuvers, Holdsworth conveys his infamous, doomsday chops, but the music quiets down on occasion, whereas the instrumentalists occasionally delve into the free zone. Otherwise, they turn in a spunky straight-four vibe on Dean's "Willie's Knee." As a result, many of the album's highlights are contained within the soloists' synergistic exchanges and in their ability to run on all cylinders when the situation arises.