Soft Machine Legacy dedicate Live Adventures to saxophonist Elton Dean (who died in 2006) and bassist Hugh Hopper (who died in 2009), two key members of Soft Machine during the group's heyday who were also members of Soft Machine Legacy during the 2000s. Their deaths were major losses, but did not signal the end of this Soft Machine spinoff band. In terms of personnel, Soft Machine were always in transition in the 1960s and 1970s, and the same goes for Soft Machine Legacy in the 21st century -- although, of course, transitions brought about by the losses of Dean and Hopper bring an element that transcends the mere musical differences that led to the original Soft Machine's revolving-door lineups. And yet, under these circumstances, perhaps the impulse to continue interpreting the music of the Softs -- including music in which Dean and Hopper played critical roles -- becomes even stronger. Bearing that in mind, the Soft Machine Legacy lineup heard on Live Adventures salutes the Softs with intriguing results. Recorded in October 2009, this 58-minute CD documents some live performances in Austria and Germany during a European tour. The performances are strictly instrumental, and the lineup consists of John Etheridge on electric guitar, Theo Travis on tenor sax and flute, Roy Babbington on electric bass, and John Marshall on drums -- all, aside from Travis, alumni of Soft Machine's jazz-rock period (in fact, Etheridge, Babbington, and Marshall can all be heard on the 1976 album Softs). The original Soft Machine began as a vocal-friendly progressive and psychedelic pop/rock band and evolved into instrumental fusion/jazz-rock; Live Adventures celebrates Soft Machine's fusion side and reminds listeners that fusion is a bona fide form of jazz, not simply instrumental rock with occasional jazz overtones. Yes, Hopper's "Facelift," Travis' "The Last Day," and Etheridge's "In the Back Room" are very rock-influenced, but a jazz/improvisational mentality is present throughout Live Adventures. When Soft Machine Legacy perform older Soft Machine material, there are no note-for-note re-creations; there is only interpretation. Further, the probing, stream-of-consciousness approach that Travis brings to his tenor solos is influenced by the post-bop breakthroughs of fearless explorers like Coltrane, Dolphy, Kirk, and Lateef -- and Travis' previous work with Soft Machine Legacy (as heard on Steam) and such British prog rock icons as Gong and Robert Fripp gives him a unique perspective on the Softs' oeuvre as well. Live Adventures is a heartfelt tribute to Soft Machine -- and to Dean and Hopper -- but like other CDs in the Soft Machine Legacy catalog, it charts its own direction forward.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson