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Hugh Hopper — Jazzloops / The Stolen Hour
(Cherry Red EXM029, 2004/2023, 2CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-10-04

Jazzloops / The Stolen Hour Cover art

As a bassist and composer, Hugh Hopper’s legacy is assured by the work he did in Soft Machine and elsewhere, but there was another side to his creativity. He was ever pushing the boundaries of how he made music, and these two albums represent a very different kind of process than the spontaneity he was known for. Jazzloops (2003) and The Stolen Hour (2004) were more assembled than played. Hopper took audio from a variety of sources, likely rehearsals and jams, and combined them with loops and parts of his own to create something very different from what listeners were used to. A number of other musicians contributed to the original source recordings, including Robert Wyatt, Elton Dean, Patrice Meyer, Didier Malherbe,  John Marshall, and many more, and Hopper used them in a variety of ways. Some rhythmic parts were looped to create funky grooves, some were snipped and used as interjections, and some (mostly sax solos) were used in longer chunks, often with electronic processing applied. The tracks range from atmospheric ambience to casual funkiness, generally staying on the sparse side, with rarely more than a drum loop, a bass line, and a sax solo or melody. Minimal guitar and keyboard parts spice up the arrangements from time to time. The result has a quirky lo-fi vibe to it, by which I mean that it doesn’t have the kind of precise fidelity and big sound that most electronic music has. This comes, of course, from the nature of the source materials. Conceptually, it’s similar to what Teo Macero did with Miles Davis recordings in the Bitches Brew era, taking the real playing of jazz musicians and splicing it into tracks. Hopper is using smaller elements than Macero did — short phrases of drums to be looped rather than full-band sections — but the principle is the same. In addition, I’m pretty sure that almost all of Hopper’s own parts were added after he put the other parts together. All of which is neither here nor there. The point is that Hugh Hopper ventured into very interesting territory with these two albums, and the results are quite enjoyable. I find the grooves and moods a little more fun on Jazzloops than on The Stolen Hour, but both are good, and with the new Cherry Red reissue, they’re both in the package, so you don’t have to choose. It’s great to have these two little gems rescued from obscurity.

Filed under: Archives, 2023 releases, 2004 recordings

Related artist(s): Elton Dean, Steve Franklin, Hugh Hopper, Didier Malherbe, Simon Picard, Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Patrice Meyer, John Marshall

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