Theo Travis

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Reviews of Theo Travis


15/11/2004 Chris May - All About Jazz

Earth to Ether(33jazz)
Quirky, quietly trippy and deliciously uncategorisable, Earth To Ether is an oddity (we like odd) even by Theo Travis' standards. The British flautist/saxophonist's varied activities include leading a hardworking on-the-road straightahead band, co-leadership of ambient/electronica outfit Cipher and free improv trio Marshall Travis Wood, and ongoing composing, performing and producing collaborations with Daevid Allen's Gong and singer/songwriter Anja Garbarek (daughter of Jan). Each of these diverse projects is stamped with Travis' trademark lyricism and love of lush, dreamy soundscapes.
There are elements of all these experiences here—plus guest contributions from prog/Canterbury vocalist/guitarist Richard Sinclair (Caravan, Hatfield & The North, Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, Tony Coe); lyrics from Jonathan Coe, author of the acclaimed cult novel The Rotters Club, ('The Munich Train,' 'This Frozen Time'); astral jazz ('The Mystic & The Emperor'); in-the-Jobim-groove bossa nova ('Marti');
shades of Eddie Harris' hot tenor soul-jazz ('Full Moon Rising Part 2')... and a straight up cover of King Crimson's '21st Century Schizoid Man.'
The wonder is, it all fits so seamlessly together.
The three vocal tracks, it has to be said, have precious little to do with jazz, and should the jazz police discover them on this album, Travis will have some questions to answer. But they are enchanting pieces of music however you label them (progressive folk? the sound of psilocybin?). Sinclair's voice is one of a kind, and full of character, and he is an ideal vehicle for Coe's deceptively simple lyrics (young woman on a train, observed; the loss of a partner, wintertime), which gain resonance with every repeated listening.
As well as the ability to put out grits 'n' chitlins tenor solos, Travis and Eddie Harris share another, electronic lineage. Back in the '60s, Harris pioneered the use of the electric sax; forty years later, Travis has developed his own live-and-in-real-time multitracking system—'ambitronics'—which allows him to build up complex canvasses of sound via a series of foot pedals. The system here enriches in particular Travis' flute work on 'The Munich Train' and 'Stewed Flute,' the latter an otherwise unaccompanied flute solo. Travis, admirably, is in complete control of the electronics, while a lesser artist might be overwhelmed by a blizzard of loops and overdubs.
Out of the left field for sure, Earth To Ether will sidle up to you and, if you let it, magic you away.


04/11/2004 Bonnington, Arnold

Theo Travis Quartet live “From past visits we always look forward to something new from this hi-octane quartet and in terms of innovative sounds this gig was no exception. One was the alto flute that Theo Travis has added to his cache of tenor sax and flute. Second was his application of an electronic device that enabled him to do live looping withť his instruments, which built up random phrases into layers and textures. This worked best on his alto flute - he would play a phrase would detach itself and seem to float around the auditorium while he improvised with his tenor sax over the top. Very effective! His third new offering was pianist Simon Colam, a meticulous musician and brand new on the London scene. His shimmering cascades and cleanly executed lines promise much when he frees himself from the rather strict routines demanded by Theo's outfit. Some things in the band have not changed. The most apparent was the phenomenal drumming of Marc Parnell. He showed a great flair for showmanship his in solos and was an almost telepathic communicator with the rest of the band, especially when Theo was in full flight. Every twist and turn received an instant response. This brings us to Theo's tenor sax, sounding richer, even more appealing and bristling with ideas. Bass player, Alex Keen, brought in at short notice was precise, nimble-fingered with a beautiful, warm tone. Theo played material from his numerous albums, especially his latest effort Earth To Ether. The opener The Mystic And The Emperor, introduced flowing, silvery lines from Theo's flute, elaborated upon in turn by Simon Colm on piano, deep bass and Marc Parnell's chattering snare. A turbulent excursion into jazz-funk produced 21st Century Schizoid Man, whipped up again by some fabulous drumming. Featured was a fine collection of lyrical ballads, with Theo particularly excelling on his alto flute with an original, The Book. Another ballad, Marti, initially featured Simon Colam on piano in a placid mood, followed by luscious tenor sax from Theo. The mood changed on Fort Dunlop a number Theo introduced at his last outing to the Bonington, his glorious tenor riding over a march tempo and superb bass. Shore Thing was a great ballad which showcased Simon Colam's delicate and precise piano style. Barking Dogs And Caravans was another we have heard before, featuring fleet-fingered bass from Alex Keane and Marc Parnell again stealing the limelight with his magnificent drumming.
Bonington Theatre, Arnold, Nottingham -Thursday 4 November 2004 review


15/08/2004 Aural Innovations (USA)

"Slow Life is a set of solo alto flute pieces recorded using what Theo calls his "system of ambitronics", which is described as a series of foot pedals enabling him to build up layered loops of flute and spontaneously overdubbing other flute lines. There are no efx that morph or distort the natural sound of the instrument, but the resulting layered loops do produce an ethereal atmosphere within which the flute can explore, and makes for a surprisingly full sound given the solo nature of the album. The music is generally slow paced, with deep consideration given to each note and phrase. One of my favorite tracks is "Sleep", which features a somber but beautiful melody that reminds me of a Chinese film I can't quite place. Some of the music brings to mind Robert Fripp's soundscape guitar works, though Theo's flute is more pleasant and atmospheric as opposed to the robotic Fripp sound. Overall, Theo's flute excursions did a good job of holding my attention throughout the set. If you're in the mood for an ambient melodic solo flute journey, there's some hypnotic music to be heard here.


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