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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 65 - 01/28/02

Elton Dean & Mark Hewins
Bar Torque
Moonjune Records

The so-called Canterbury scene is hard to pin down. Starting with the amateur pop and blues group The Wilde Flowers in the Garden of England (Kent) in the mid 60s, and spreading out via offshoots such as Soft Machine, Caravan and Gong to a vast amount of bands, projects and artists, most of whom by now has little or nothing to do with Canterbury itself. The sound is often characterised by a mixture of pop, jazz and/or progressive rock and dry but witty lyrics. Elton Dean joined Soft Machine in time for Third. The album included the track "Moon In June" and probably shows the inspiration for the record company we are dealing with right now. (See also our "Moon In June" special way back in menu 8). Elton's saxes has been heard on many a stage and album accompanied by Keith Tippett, Carla Bley, Ninesense, In Cahoots, Soft Head, Soft Heap, his own Elton Dean Quartets etc. etc. Guitarist extraordinary Mark Hewins is a newcomer in comparison. He was drawn into the Canterbury sphere in the mid 70s by Dave and Richard Sinclair (ex. Caravan etc.). Later he met Elton through John Stevens Dance Orchestra (a jazz combo, obviously) and soon after played with him in Soft Heap. Mark has been a short time member of Gong and midi-guitar adviser for Lou Reed amongst numerous other projects. Enough said!

What about Bar Torque? Elton and Mark have joined forces as a duo now and again since Soft Heap days in the early 80s. The album was recorded at London Jazz Café in 1992, but remixed and so on by Mark almost ten years later. Improvised and instrumental jazz, only saxes and guitars... sounds tempting, eh? We're talking about the outskirts of the Canterbury sound. Actually it's not cacophonous, as I feared, not at all. Really, this is a relaxing album! Let's skip the modern chill-out label, it's relaxing and melodic mood music most of the time. Also there are lots of variations. Mainly due to Mark's use and techniques of midi guitar (it sounds far from a guitar at times), along with acoustic guitar in between. The album includes three long tracks and the variations within a track are greater than the differences between the tracks. This music is ideal to keep wandering in the background along with your thoughts. But it's also well worth checking out the melody lines of Messieurs Dean and Hewins, not least their interplay.

Bar Torque is not the best starting point if you wish to explore the wonderful world of the Canterbury scene (you might for instance start with one of the albums by Hatfield & The North). If you're well into the scene or interested in the contemporary British jazz scene, you can do a lot worse than checking out the album and Moonjune Records.

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