Monday, November 09, 2009
Happy Daze Elton Dean's Ninesense
Elton Dean's Ninesense
Though he’ll always be best remembered in the wider music scene for his work as a member of Soft Machine in which he was primarily a player rather a writer, Elton Dean’s qualities as a composer are also worthy of respect and celebration.
Perhaps the best examples of this aspect of Dean’s musical personality are to be found in the welcome reissue of two classic Ogun albums from the ‘70s now handily combined into one disc.
As Steve Lake and Dean’s sleevenotes from the time make clear, Dean always considered Ninesense to be following in the footsteps and spirit of the legendary Keith Tippett sextet that made such an impact in the late 60s.
Whilst his own playing was often acerbic and angular, Dean’s writing possesses an undeniably sentimental mood a lot of the time. Yet from these richly harmonic themes, piercing solos burst forth, exhorted to do so by the increasingly stinging horn charts that conspire to ratchet up the emotional temperature. In short: good arrangements designed to get the best out of the featured player.
The first album captures the band in the studio and the whilst the production is superb, occasionally there’s a slightly muted feel to the proceedings. By contrast, its 1976 follow-up, Happy Daze, is a live recording and as a result is a far more freewheeling proposition, stirring up a joyous no-holds barred racket.
Which is why this release is pretty much essential - you get both sides to this top-flight ensemble with inspired playing from the cream of the crop of the UK jazz scene. Happy days, indeed.