Hugh Hopper Band — Carousel
(Cuneiform Rune 67, 1995, CD)
by Mike Ohman, 1995-07-01:
Former Soft Machine bassist Hopper has pretty much kept a low profile throughout most of the 80s, so it's good to see him active again. His latest project is a band bearing his name, recorded in the Netherlands with Dutch musicians. Though not really a solo album, Carousel nonetheless finds him back on form. Though bearing Hopper's name, Carousel is very much a group album. Hopper composed only half of the album's ten tracks, and two others are group compositions. And while Hopper's bass does get some solo space, the instrumentation is pretty well balanced, with guitar and sax acting as fundamental sonic components. Stylistically the slant is steeply towards jazz, rock appearing evidently as an afterthought, centered principally in Hopper's fuzz-toned bass. The pieces range from tight latter-day fusion, to unrestrained free-form jazz, to at times an almost big-band sound (on the two tracks with trombonist Robert Jarvis). Hopper even pulls a piece from the archives, namely the old Isotope track "Sliding Dogs." Musically, the band still sounds a bit disjointed, but with work I feel that will improve. While not an unqualified success, it's good enough to expect exciting things from Hopper and company in the future. Keep an eye out.
by Rob Walker, 1995-07-01:
For the past decade bassist Hugh Hopper has played bandleader to a number of different lineups, all of which have been oriented primarily towards live gigs. Carousel finds him back in the studio with the latest incarnation of his band in an attempt to capture the energy and creativity of the group's live performances in a studio quality recording. It's obvious that this ensemble has played extensively together; there is a strong sense of unity and balance in their sound. The music is nominally in the fusion realm, but these tunes are much more varied and eclectic than that term usually implies, ranging from light playful pieces to free form improvisational mayhem. The band works marvelously well together; Hopper's versatile bass along with some solid and tasteful drumming provide a firm anchor for the melodic and improvisational explorations of the others. Saxophonist Frank Van Der Kooy gets perhaps the biggest share of the spotlight, contributing some strong tenor and soprano solos as well as a few unison lines with Hopper's fuzz bass, which briefly recall Hopper's Soft Machine days of old. Guitar and keyboards round out the sound. Overall, Carousel does an excellent job of showing off this ensemble's diverse sound and interactive prowess. Though two of the seven studio tracks were completely improvised, the cohesiveness of those performances would make the average listener think otherwise. Three live tunes from a 1993 gig are included here as well, perhaps as an incentive for impressed listeners to seek out the various live albums recorded by Hopper's group over the years. For anyone into improvisational and fusion style music, this is some solid and creative material.
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more