View From the Edge

Theo Travis

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View From the Edge Review

by Dave Nathan

View From the Edge is the second trip to the 33Jazz studios for reedman Theo Travis, and the result is auspicious, at least according to U.K. jazz fans and critics who voted it Best British Jazz CD of 1994. With a play list of one standard and eight Travis originals, the album captures events of the times he has experienced and scenes to which he has been exposed in musical form. And the titles of all the selections have meaning; you can hear the relationships between the events and the scenes he depicts in his music, which demonstrates his effectiveness as a composer. The two sections from his "Broad Street Changes" suite are good examples of his capability. Opening with a drum roll, "Fort Dunlop" describes a once vibrant factory that is now closed, and "The Ghosts of Witley Court" portrays a handsome home that was destroyed by fire. In both, one hears what once was -- the vibrancy of a working factory and the stateliness of a British mansion -- contrasted with their current derelict, abandoned states. Rich harmonies compete with stark lines in these two pieces. On the former, David Gordon's piano expresses the feeling of the factory's loss while Travis' sax cries out against the tragedy of it all. "The Ghosts of Witley Court," on the other hand, creates an almost Delius-like pastoral sound of the countryside with Travis' flute and Tony Coe's bass clarinet. "The Purple Sky" has a psychedelic atmosphere appropriate to the richness of the colors created by a sunset. Jeff Clyne's bass is featured on this cut. On the event side of the musical ledger, "Freedom" celebrates the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa. The music captures both the joy and solemnity of the event, again with very expressive tenor work from Travis. Mark Wood on rock-sounding guitar has a major role here, as does Gordon (once again). This album successfully presents modern musical concepts in a manner proving that progressive jazz can be breathtaking without bombarding the ears of the listener with a cacophony of strident sound. This is an album that combines the imaginative with the beautiful, and it is recommended.

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