Bar Torque

Artist: Mark Hewins

Date of Release: 02/06/2001

Catalogue no: MJR001

Label: MoonJune Records

Price: £9

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Track Listing







Bar Torque








Merilyn's Cave






Appearances by

Elton Dean

“Unbelievable! The melancholy mysticism of the rare beauty. One of the best progressive jazz releases in a long time.”
- (5 stars) The Global Muse, USA

“The realm of perfection. This is literally the music of the spheres, filling your senses and your heart with wonder. Think Miles' In a Silent Way with only Wayne Shorter and John McLaughlin on a guitar synth, then quadruple the beauty.
- (5 stars) Beyond Coltrane, USA

Editor’s pick of the month - October 2001
- (5 stars) AllAboutJazz.com, USA

- (5 stars) Progressor, Russia/Uzbekistan




01/01/2002 Shaun Dale - Cosmik Debris, USA

Saxophonist Elton Dean has been one of the leading figures in British jazz and progressive music for over 40 years. A graduate of Long John Baldry's Bluesology and Georgie Fame's Blue Flames before joining Soft Machine in 1969, he's since moved through innumerable lineups, whether leading his own quintets, working with leaders like Keith Tippet, touring with Carla Bley or lending his talents in any number of studio situations. For the last twenty of those years, guitarist Mark Hewins has often appeared in those lineups as well, working with Dean in groups like Soft Heap and Mark Hewins' FF when he wasn't playing in Gong, working Nashville studios, designing MIDI guitar software or otherwise playing a primary role in the British progressive scene. Bar Torque documents an evening in 1992 when Dean and Hewins appeared as an improvisational duo at London Jazz Cafe. Guitar and saxophone duos are about as rare as any lineup I can think of, but this one works. A large measure of that success must be credited to Hewin's skill as a programmer of the MIDI guitar, which allowed him to lay down a canvas of sound for Dean to fill with his elegant, lyrical improvisations. The result is a moody, melodic soundscape consisting of three longform improvs (the shortest cut, "Sylvan," logs in at 13:25). In some ways the music reaches back across the decades to Dean's Soft Machine days, in others it reaches into a future that still hasn't arrived ten years after these tracks were recorded. In other words, the music here is timeless. The talent here is immeasurable. The release of Bar Torque is invaluable.


11/09/2001 Jerry Kranitz - Aural Innovation, USA

Now here's an interesting collaboration. Saxophonist Elton Dean (Soft Machine, Soft Heap) and guitarist Mark Hewins (Soft Heap, Gong) have put together a set of duo improvisations that straddle the line between jazz and ambience. Dean has a gorgeously melodic playing style that longtime fans will surely enjoy. But what gives the music it's special character is Hewins' harmonic guitar techniques which include rubbing, blowing, and tapping his guitar, as well as cautious use of Midi technology. When I reviewed his The Electric Guitar and Big Big Spaces albums (see AI #12) I was struck by the seemingly endless variety of sounds Hewins could coax from his instrument, some sounding like keyboards, though still recognizable as a guitar, and some that sound like pure ambient space. Bar Torque consists of three tracks. Clocking in at 25, 13, and 14 minutes, the duo have plenty of room to stretch out and develop their improvisations. The beauty of the music is that it journeys along, quite deliberately, but more as an occurrence in time rather than a concern for direction or goals. Throughout the album Hewins amazes with such sonic creations as rushing wind, chirping birds, various percussive sounds, and a string of bells that struck me in particular, each note including a distinct initial attack and a subsequent note. As he plays a melody on these "bells" Dean's saxophone sings in harmony, the combination creating an entrancing marriage of music, atmosphere, and sound. Hewins also creates dark background drones that rumbled to the point where the desk my speakers sit on vibrated audibly. The contrasts between what each musician produces is striking, yet not so much as how the cooperative result works so well. Another highlight is the ambient experimental sounds Hewins produces on "Sylvan", at one point sounding like an ambient sitar, and another being such a low drone that the depth and intensity of it sent caused a rumbling between my ears. Yet Dean is still playing his lyrical sax melody, not once being drowned out by the guitar despite the volume it's operating at. Overall, a beautiful set of music, and a case study for guitarists from which they'll spend many tranfixed hours gathering ideas (or just figuring out how he dunnit).


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