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Progressive Music: Allan Holdsworth, Soft Machine Legacy

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ALLAN HOLDSWORTH FLATTire (Music for a Non-Existent Movie) (CD on Moonjune Records)

Originally released in 2001, this reissue CD from 2013 features 47 minutes of relaxed but peppy music.

Joining Holdsworth (who plays synthaxe and guitar) is Dave Carpenter on acoustic bass on two tracks.

While guitar is the main instrument here, most of the sounds bear little resemblance to the stringed instrument. Horns, percussion, sweeping keyboard washesÑall are generated by Holdsworth on the synthaxe. In fact, the only apparent "guitar" passage is found at the beginning of the album.

Whatever comprises the tuneage, the notes are generally nimble-fingered, illustrating HoldsworthÕs adept musical skills. The keyboardish riffs are sprightly, reedy and drenched in a certain smirking charm. Inventive variations of each songÕs central theme are explored in a satisfying manner.

The percussion is often artificial-sounding, but this simplicity hardly deters from the rhythmsÕ apt posture in the music. While locomotion is achieved on a few occasions, the beats tend to serve a more subtle goal: that of sneaky agitation.

These compositions are agile and highly melodic. Their allure can be quite infectious as the tunes unfurl their upbeat selves. The songs pursue a meandering path, toying with each inherent melody through animated diversions. A jazzy undercurrent can be found lurking in the structure of most of these tunes, lending a sobering element to the otherwise jovial mood the music has.

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SOFT MACHINE LEGACY Burden of Proof (CD on Moonjune Records)

This CD from 2013 features 55 minutes of modern jazz music.

Soft Machine Legacy is: John Etheridge (on guitar), Theo Travis (on tenor saxophone, flute, Fender Rhodes piano), Roy Babbington (on bass), and John Marshall (on drums and percussion).

Guitar, bass, drums and woodwinds conspire to generate some tasty progressive jazz tunes.

The guitar has a delectable twang, issuing riffs that sparkle like diamond streaks in the sunlight. During more sober passages, the guitar adopts a tenderness, delivering chords like gentle sonic caresses.

The bass remains fundamental, integral, but often cunningly buried in the mix, contributing a foundational rumble from a seemingly subterranean vantage.

The percussion is nimble and complex, producing rhythms that suitably propel the music. Even when taking a background position, the tempos remain slick and prone to unexpected diversions.

Horns provide a stabilizing jazz touch to the otherwise modern tuneage. Their blaring is crisp and drenched with wry emotion. Flute strains lend a romantic flavor with winsome airs that saturate without being overwhelming.

These compositions serve to bridge the gap between progrock and modern jazz, combining the best elements of each genre in a rewarding fashion. Most of the tune seethe with a friendly bounce, communication jubilation. Some tracks pursue a moodier vein, tickling a touch of sobriety into psychic existence. Whatever the velocity, the intent is to entertain, an ambition that is amply achieved.

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