Whether working Daevid Allen's Gong or collaborating with progressive supergroup The Tangent, Theo Travis refuses to be categorized as a one-trick pony. On his latest release, Earth To Ether , he takes out his flute, alto flute, and tenor saxophone and offers up what may be considered his most "progressive" release to date.
The opening "The Mystic And The Emperor" quickly allays any qualms about the man's absolute mastery of the flute as his fluidity and form are front and center. "21st Century Schizoid Man" follows suit. Yes, that 21st Century Schizoid Man. Theo revamps the King Crimson classic and offers it up as a jazzy , although abridged, version which concentrates primarily on the lead break in the middle section of the seminal progressive masterpiece. A very interesting rendition to say the least, with unique arrangements where Travis' prowess on the tenor sax shine through. "The Book" sounds like a long-lost Caravan track. That's because none other than Richard Sinclair makes his first of three guest appearances on this disc. Sinclair croons his way through the number with his inimitable style and delivery. This is a very laid-back number which once again displays his superb flute playing. I should also add that pianist Simon Colam does a great job during his solo, as he does throughout the disc. Theo returns to the tenor sax on "Marti", a lovely ballad where saxophone, piano, and acoustic guitar share the spotlight in a Latino-flavored ballad . The disc's "proggiest" moments come courtesy of "The Munich Train", a duet featuring Theo Travis on flute and Richard Sinclair on acoustic guitar and vocals. The latter's slightly off-key, flat vocal delivery ( his trademark) works very well with Theo's ethereal flute passages. Mr Sinclair sticks around for one more song. "The Frozen Time" is a soft jazz number reminiscent of lounge acts often heard in small airport bars. It's an uneventful number, but is aptly performed by all. "Stewed Flute" is a short solo offering where Theo stretches out his finely honed chops. It segues into "Things Change", an odd-metered, slightly avant track with repetitive piano lines and soaring flute fills which sail above the melody. This one builds nicely and goes out packing a punch. Theo then brings us full circle and pulls double duty on "Full Moon Rising pt 2". This is a classic jazz number where all members of the quartet get their time in the limelight. Travis alternates between flute and tenor sax and gives stellar solos on each instrument.
Yet another winner by a standout musician who is not afraid to explore many musical styles in his career and then offer his listeners a taste of all his wares. For those of you who are only familiar with this man due to his The Tangent appearance, do yourselves a favor and check this one out. It may scratch a jazz itch you never knew you had. Recommended.