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Elton Dean/Mark Hewins : Bar Torque

Saxophonist Elton Dean should be no stranger to long-time aficionados of the British progressive rock/jazz scene. Eons ago, Elton was one of the driving forces behind the legendary Soft Machine, and also spent time with such famed jazz luminaries as Keith Tippett and Carla Bley. Longtime friend and collaborator Mark Hewins joins Elton and contributes guitar and guitar synthesizer for a CD of instrumental improvisations.

Comprised of just three long tracks, the music contained here is very abstract, with Dean’s melodic bursts leading the way, while Hewins squeezes out all sorts of sounds from his guitar arsenal. He rarely gets to break a sweat however, as he mainly adds layer upon layer of sound effects and atmosphere. That maybe my problem with this CD-the songs are so meditative and repetitive that much is undistinguishable and unmemorable. This is especially true of the opening twenty- four-minute title track. While Dean’s sax lines are well played, the song drones on for way too long, and Hewins does nothing more than conjure up gongs, blips, and other odd percussion sounds with his MIDI guitar.

Mid-way through “Sylvan” the guitarist starts to come out of his shell slightly with some interesting sitar sounds, as well as some trebly, bottom heavy rumblings. Unfortunately it is not nearly enough to carry the song, as Dean is just squonking away quietly in the background, seemingly oblivious to the goings on. The last track, “Merilyn’s Cave”, is probably the most appealing of the three, as it contains some stabs at melody in addition to some quirky MIDI guitar noodling that add a spacey edge to it.

In summary, a CD that I really wanted to like, but overall it is just too abstract and lacks any focus, even after repeated listens. For sax freaks only…

Added: October 15th 2001
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: MoonJune Records
Hits: 3088
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Elton Dean/Mark Hewins : Bar Torque
Posted by digitalliance on 2007-05-18 00:02:21
My Score:

We wonder why this very fine (live) album is on your 'progressive' music website? It should not be classed in the genre of progressive. It is improvised 'ambient' music and therefore you have classed it wrongly and obviously handed it to the wrong reviewer to rate. I find the dismissal of the music distasteful and at times downright disrespectful.

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