This long discussed project from various past members of Soft Machine is finally upon us. Calling themselves Soft Works, Abracadabra features Elton Dean on saxes and Fender Rhodes, Allan Holdsworth on guitar and synthaxe, Hugh Hopper on bass, and John Marshall on drums. What's interesting to note is that some of these musicians never performed together in Soft Machine, as they were in the band during different era's of the group. Amazingly though, after hearing this CD you could easily assume that they have been playing together as a unit for the past twenty years.
Fans of guitar legend Allan Holdsworth will be happy to know that the maestro's playing here is pure jazzy bliss. The epic opener, "Seven Formerly", is a perfect stage for both Holdsworth and Elton Dean, whose sax work is just as impressive thoughout this CD. On the Hugh Hopper penned "First Trane", the guitarist lays down some neat jazz chords (thick on the stereo chorus, much like a fiery Mike Stern) while Dean's sax screams alongside Hopper's walking bass lines. When it comes time for Holdsworth to solo, his trademark crying notes just shred through the mix in magnificent fashion. There's a great mix of styles on this CD, from atmospheric, moody jazz to energetic fusion rave-ups. "Elsewhere" is a great example of the latter, with Dean's sax leading the way and Marshall's busy drum fills providing solid accompaniment. Holdsworth's dizzying guitar solo on "Madame Vintage" is a wonderful treat, as he rampages with reckless adandon while Hopper and Marshall pound away furiously. It's a perfect end to a perfect album.
This is a must have for every jazz-fusion and progressive rock lover. Eight tunes, half over six minutes long, with plenty of firepower and nifty melodic passages. Here's hoping that this becomes more than just a one-off project.