For this session, Soft Machine alumnus Elton Dean assembled a veteran crew of European and American improvisers. Together they conjure up a mix of free blowing and loosely articulated compositions. The density of the bass-heavy ensemble is leavened by the high spirits. While the session has elements of a free-form clambake, Dean holds the proceedings together with catchy, emblematic compositions. The session includes spontaneous blowing notably on "Dirty Licks" with its focus on the strings and percussion and the atmospherics of "Bigger Boundaries." Other pieces explore steadier grooves including the propulsive swing of "Allez Ali" and the waltz "Three Forty." Roswell Rudd, Paul Rutherford, and Annie Whitehead make for a stellar trombone section (and they sound like a section even in the heat of collective blowing). The trombonists get their say on the fanfare opening and the collectively improvised all-trombone trio "Snap, Crackle and Pop." "Ruddfish Dish" is a broad ballad featuring Rudd in a highly sympathetic setting. Dean himself takes some edgy solos on "Dirty Licks" on soprano saxophone and "Three Forty" on alto. But his greatest contribution is serving as the ringmaster for this sonic circus.
by David Dupont