MOONJUNE'S SOFT WORKS CONSPIRACY
Excerpts taken from the All About Jazz article/interview
'Leonardo Pavkovic: Nothing Is Ordinary’ by Chris Slawecki
You can read the whole interview on AAJ: bit.ly/2TDkjW6
LP: In 2000, I had this crazy idea to help my old friend Elton Dean, to sort of reform or resurrect the legendary Soft Machine based, in large part, on information I found on the internet about a "one-off" show of the Soft Ware project featuring Elton on sax, Keith Tippett on piano, Hugh Hopper on bass guitar and John Marshall on drums.
So I reconnected with Elton on New Year's Day, 2000, and in June of that year he performed in New York City at a jazz festival with drummer Joe Gallivan, bassist Marcio Mattos and saxophonist Evan Parker. Elton stayed a few extra days at my place in the East Village, and he also met [my friend, the publicist] Jim Eigo. Perhaps acting on the good vibes of the situation, Elton asked Jim and me if we would be willing to help him with Soft Ware in the US. Elton asked me to talk to Keith Tippett, John Marshall, and Hugh Hopper, who I already knew from his visits to New York. They were all available and excited, except for Keith, who said he would consider it as a possible, occasional special project but not as a steady gig.
Keith's failure to make a solid commitment got Elton and I fantasizing about the fourth member. Mike Ratledge, the legendary Soft Machine keyboardist and one of my all-time personal music heroes, had made it clear that he wasn't interested in being a part of any recording or live performance music since leaving Soft Machine in 1976. We continued our thinking, dominated by a keyboard player to fill the fourth member role.
LP: OK, so in September 2000 I attended ProgFest in Los Angeles, and got to catch up with several of my favorite 70s progressive rock bands: Italian legends Banco, French legends Mona Lisa, and Dutch legends Supersister, an old favorite of mine who I never thought in my whole life I would be able to see!
[...] I met another person at this festival who wound up being one of the key people in starting MoonJune. A guy who happened to be passing by suddenly entered into a conversation I was having with a few early Soft Machine hardcore fans. I guess we were talking loudly and proudly about Mike Ratledge, and that's how I met Ken Kubernik, who jumped right into our conversation. Ken and I went for a coffee break during another intermission and began talking about several of our favorite music subjects, such as Soft Machine, the Canterbury scene, British jazz, and much more, and during our conversation, I told him about Elton Dean, Soft Ware and Keith Tippett situation. Little did I know the fruit that this conversation would later bear!
AAJ: So how or where do the Soft Machine variations come back in?
LP: At [...] (NEARfest), I ran into many friends I had made at some of the festivals I mentioned from the year before. One was a friend from Japan, Tatsurou Ueda, and we started talking. I asked him pretty casually, "Hey, is Soft Machine popular in Japan?" He said they were, so I shared with him that story of Elton Dean, Soft Ware, and my dream and Elton's dream to reform Soft Machine or a sort of Soft Machine. It's hard to believe, but he informed me that he had a very close friend who was a major player in the Japanese music business market, and that he would introduce me to him.
He went back to Japan and then a few weeks later I received an eMail from Tatsurou, introducing me to Masa Matsuzaki. I will never forget his eMail: "My name is Masa Matsuzaki, my company is interested in Soft Machine reunion. If you can make it possible, my company will arrange a deal with Universal Japan, and give you big advances. Well, I was very excited, and so I contacted Elton, even though we still hadn't recruited the fourth band member yet. Keith Tippett still wasn't interested, but Hugh Hopper and John Marshall certainly were.
The following month, July 2001, I met Ken Kubernik back in LA. When I explained the situation, he immediately became excited and suggested that he could contact his old friend in London, Dave Stewart. When I suggested Dave Stewart to the other three, John Marshall, who was mainly a jazz drummer, wasn't very familiar with Dave or his playing. But Dave Stewart was "persona non-grata" with both Hugh and Elton. It is one of those things that only musicians know — or don't know, maybe — why they dislike or hate each other. But we were left still searching for the elusive fourth member to round out the group.
That November, I met Ken in LA yet again. Smiling from ear to ear, he gloriously announced: "The next time you are in LA, I will drive you to San Juan Capistrano and will introduce you to the greatest guitarist who ever walked the Planet Earth!" I answered, "You mean, I will meet the mighty Allan Holdsworth, one of the all-time greatest heroes of mine?" Ken answered, "Yes, sir — and THAT will be the most amazing Soft Machine reunion humanly possible!" So as soon as I got back to New York, I phoned all three. Hugh Hopper was evidently very excited: "Holy Cow! Allan Holdsworth! YES, I want to play with Allan Holdsworth ... he is a genius, I always dreamed of playing with Allan Holdsworth!" Hugh and Elton had never played with Allan before, but John and Allan had a history together in Soft Machine and several jazz projects, back in the '70's.
So, in January 2002, I found myself back in LA, and Ken drove me down to San Juan Capistrano, where I met the mighty Allan Holdsworth. I immediately liked Allan's vibe, and he liked mine. It was our first personal encounter, even though I had seen him perform so many times before, and after about ten minutes of chit-chat and quality draft ale, I asked this mighty, gnarly geezer: "Allan, would you like to join Soft Ware, the Soft Machine reunion, with Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper and John Marshall?" Quickly, he responded: "You mean John fucking Marshall? THE fucking John Marshall, one of the greatest drummers in the world? Oh yeah, I want to play again with my old buddy, the great John fucking Marshall!" So, we toasted to each other and shook hands! I really didn't have any idea what I was doing, really. Again, it was my "improvisational spirit" driving me to something that would change my life forever.
AAJ: That is an amazing story of persistence and dedication. It worked out well?
LP: You have to know about Soft Machine and be a fan of this seminal band to understand the dynamics and excitement that propelled our conversation. We had, in hand, four former members of the band, representing different periods of the band between 1969 and 1975. After talking to just a few people and several journalist friends, we realized that this would be something more than merely "special”. And after some brainstorming, we decided that the name "Soft Ware" should be changed to "Soft Works”. I immediately communicated our good news to the three musicians in London, who were all very excited. John Marshall actually phoned Allan, and the two spoke for a really long time.
I was already thinking ahead and eMailed Masa Matsuzaki in Tokyo. In a matter of only 15 minutes, I received an eMail screaming with excitement: "PLEASE, PLEASE, MAKE IT POSSIBLE!" A few days later, we received an official offer of a $50,000 record advance, with an additional sum available for a potential live record from Japan whenever the band was ready to tour there. Ken and I quickly formed a small joint company in LA and in a matter of weeks received half of the advances. What a deal! We had funds before the band rehearsed one single minute, played one single minute or even met, because three gentlemen lived in London and one in Southern California! We flew to London in June 2002 to record the album Abracadabra.
So "in a few words," that's how I started both MoonJune Records and my main business, MoonJune Music Bookings, which covers my bookings, management and general schmoozing and dealing in the music business around the globe. Once the Soft Works album was recorded, it was licensed to Universal Japan, to Mascote Provogue in Europe, and to Shrapnel Records in the US. The band played its debut gig at "The Progman Cometh" Festival, in Seattle, August 2002. They toured Japan a year later; toured Italy in January and February 2004; and played their last show at BajaProg, in Mexicali, Mexico, in March of 2004. In the meantime, I toured Japan, South and Central America with PFM in 2002, and that's how I became a tour manager!
As is the case with most everything I've done in my life, nothing can really be explained fully in just a few words or a few sentences. What happen with Soft Works, which became Soft Machine Legacy [and subsequently Soft Machine] and how I started working with Allan Holdsworth, is a huge chapter in my life. And how I started being a label, booking rep, tour manager — it simply cannot be explained in a few sentences, paragraphs or pages. It's more like a book, and a thick one. My life has been filled with magical and completely unpredictable moments!
(Published on March 16, 2018. Courtesy of All About Jazz, a very special thanks to Chris Slawecki and Michael Ricci)
THE ORIGINS OF THE SOFT WORKS CONSPIRACY
by Chris Hoard
At age 16 in 1976 I happened upon Soft Machine’s Six in our local public library and Weather Report’s Black Market. These instrumental recordings were fascinating and strange to me; they embodied similar introductions to an alternate musical dimension where strains of jazz and rock were blended in with electric keyboards and synthesizers with wind instruments. Their furious notes were orchestrated like a swarm of exploratory space probes propelled by a warp drive rhythm section. The dynamic of the Softs dwelled somewhere between the vast reaches of interstellar jazz, and a supercharged take on instrumental rock sans guitar. With Six their explorations shifted effortlessly between frenetic, athletic bursts and introspective, extended pastels and ambient alien soundscapes. Soon thereafter I bought their new record, Softs and wore it out, amazed by the work of a brilliant guitarist, John Etheridge. Their sound became even more technically stunning and mesmerizing — a few years later I would discover its 1974 predecessor, Bundles, and the work of a certain guitarist who’d recommended John Etheridge as his replacement. As a university freshman I first saw Allan Holdsworth perform in Santa Monica in 1978 with the band UK, opening for Al Di Meola. I watched him play, jaws agape, and immediately sought anything he’d done before. I’d met Allan before he moved permanently to Southern California and interviewed him for my college newspaper in 1982. I was delighted to discover he took an interest in educating a neophyte local arts journalist about the wonders of Yorkshire “real ale". Given my study of music history, being a devoted Holdsworth fan and music journalist, Allan seemed interested in my opinion whenever he was finishing mixing his new recordings. We’d become friends, and I’d be invited to regular gatherings for ale “swilling". In 1985 I was treated to a preview of just mixed, new tracks on an giant pair of studio monitors at The Music Grinder studio in Hollywood for his new record, Metal Fatigue.
That evening we went to the Cat & Fiddle Pub (frequented by local English expats). It was the basement floor of a market in Laurel Canyon. We were met by another of my favorite musician heroes, drummer Mitch Mitchell. We listened to Mitch recount wonderful stories and some somber reflections from his work with Jimi Hendrix; I knew nothing of the early connection Mitch had with Soft Machine other than his friendship with Allan. Mitch of course had known the man Chas Chandler hired to be the tour manager of Hendrix’ initial conquest tour of his own country: Hugh Hopper. Soft Machine was also managed by Chandler, and he had made a cameo appearance on their first studio record after the US tour with Hendrix playing bass on one track, but Hopper’s legacy went deeper than Soft Machine — he was cited as one of the founders of “The Canterbury Scene” and one of the original innovators among Britain’s psychedelic rock movement. Hopper played bass in The Wilde Flowers, founded in 1964, members of which originated Soft Machine and Caravan.
Fast forward to the early 2000s, when I first met Leonardo Pavkovic. He was in the process of launching his own label, MoonJune Records (named after the epic Soft Machine track from Third). We’d been introduced by Ken Kubernik, a fellow music journalist and jazz enthusiast I’d met while working at The UCLA Daily Bruin. Like myself, Ken was a fan of all things English prog-rock and jazz, and one of the few musicos I’d met who’d heard of Soft Machine outside my high school pals. I doubt Stanley Kubrick or Arthur C. Clarke would have imagined what eventually arose from a cabal hatched in late 2001 by Leonardo and Ken. Here began of a series of improbable events: on paper, the planned inception of Soft Works emerged from an earlier Softs offshoot, Soft Ware (Elton Dean, Keith Tippett, Hugh Hopper, John Marshall) who’d performed only at a one-off festival gig in Germany in 1999.
I always hoped for a chance to actually see Soft Machine play live. While Soft Machine a celebrated series of records held in mythic reverence by a scattered global fan base and by the mid 70s had established a strong touring presence outside of the Americas, they never managed to tour the West Coast USA, during that period.
When Ken told me about how he intended to pitch a new Softs project to Allan, I was skeptical but hopeful. At that point in his life, Allan was in need of a fresh start and a record deal. The opportunity came up a year after the release of The Sixteen Men of Tain, his penultimate solo work. I’d wondered if Allan would be keen to work in a collective band setting again after spending nearly two decades in complete control of all production aspects of his recordings. For the producers, there was always a risk the experiment might blow up. From their inception Soft Works had coalesced with both great historical heft which arose from a deep well of musical experience.
In February 2019, I filmed an interview with Soft Machine, which Ken conducted. John Marshall had cited that risky proposition where “members from an earlier time teamed up with those from a later period, although they had never played together before". He recalled how he had misgivings about whether this experiment could work: I was the only one that had played with everybody. I said no at first, I’m not sure this would work… let sleeping dogs lie. And later I thought if it worked, I’d miss out — and if it doesn’t, well tough. John’s career in the decade preceding the formation of Soft Works in 2002, was that of one of the most accomplished drummers in latter 20th century European contemporary instru-mental music. He’d been a frequent contributor to the ECM labels landmark releases, recording and performing with Eberhard Weber’s Colours, and with greats in rock and jazz over the years; Nucleus, Jack Bruce, John Surman, Keith Tippett, John Taylor, Terje Rypdal, John McLaughlin, Arild Andersen, Michael Gibbs and John Abercrombie. While John was one of Europe’s most accomplished and influential musicians, his herculean bursts of percussive power were tempered by finesse and found a balance in both electric and acoustic instrumental settings. To those of us who followed him, John was Britain’s answer to Tony Williams.
Less than 16 months before the idea of Soft Works came into focus, Ken had met Leonardo by chance at a progressive rock festival in Southern California (ProgFest 2000). He’d overheard several dudes talking excitedly about Soft Machine, and had introduced himself to the bunch, immediately discovering a kindred spirit in Leonardo, who had already been in touch with bassist Hugh Hopper and saxophonist Elton Dean about a possible “Soft Machine reunion” earlier that year. Years earlier when I first mentioned Soft Machine in conversation with Allan, I recall him saying he’d hoped to work again with John Marshall, who’d been one of his most significant mentors during his early career on the London scene. The inception of Soft Works depended on an unknown musical chemistry which mixed plausibility of mixing an untested musical chemistry in a test tube with fingers crossed.
Elton was already a legendary figure from London’s sixties and seventies jazz scene. Elton had last recorded with Soft Machine on Fifth (1972). Both Hugh and Elton had continued to perform Soft Machine material with offshoot groups into the late 70s (Soft Heap, Soft Head). Eventually it came to pass I’d been asked to help facilitate a meeting with Allan, Ken and Leonardo. Shortly thereafter I was pleasantly surprised to hear the project was a go. In the following weeks, Leonardo, through his connections in Japan, secured an initial budget for a Soft Work’s debut studio recording to be completed in London, thanks to Masa Matsuzaki, a very influential figure in the Japanese music business. In an extraordinary and pivotal turn after an exploratory conversation with Leonardo, Masa advised he’d secured an excellent record deal with Universal Japan. Funding for the recording sessions had been provided even before the musicians had met in person or discussed a concept or musical selections for the recording. Ken and Leonardo became partners in the production team and began working with the label, developing an ambitious promotion plan to record Abracadabra and cover travel for Allan and two of them to England for the studio sessions in June 2002; they also secured a deal for via Shrapnel/Tone Center (USA) and Mascote Provogue (The Netherlands) for worldwide distribution and promotion, along with plans for a worldwide tour as headliners, major festivals, and opening slots for some of the world’s most successful progressive music and jazz artists.
At the time I wondered about problems arising given the studio recording schedule in London, having witnessed Allan’s perfectionism in the studio — particularly in crafting his otherworldly solos. Allan had honed his abilities as a master engineer and sonic innovator in his own studio over the prior fifteen years, and had several painful experiences with his own projects early on working with labels early on who had dictated use of their own studios and facilities. Additionally, Allan’s personal life had been in turmoil with the breakup of his marriage. While Leonardo’s and Ken’s plan proceeded on schedule, and all the tracks were completed, Allan had suddenly decided during the London sessions he would not record his solos there. It came as an unwelcome announcement to his fellow musicians and the production team on the final day of planned recording at London’s Eastcote studios. The release date was delayed by months and the original Japan and USA tour dates forfeited along the ambitious promotion plans. Abracadabra was released in Japan in March 2003, and worldwide in the Fall of 2003. Later Allan told me he hadn’t been happy with his guitar sound, which he couldn’t realize outside of his own studio. He decided he needed more time to record his solos, and that the recording would benefit if he had control over the engineering process and mix. While the results were sonically and musically impressive with Abracadabra, the initial plans for substantial earnings for all had gone by the wayside.
Despite the stress and disruption, Leonardo managed to salvage some tour dates later that year; in August, 2002 a new festival was being promoted in the US, and despite the setback the group would tour in Japan and appear at a new festival in Seattle. As word spread about the project, among Soft Machine fans there had been excitement around former Softs again teaming up with Allan. And thanks to Leonardo’s connections, Soft Works would perform their first and only US appearance. Also present were bands featuring other Canterbury legends: Phil Miller’s In Cahoots, Pip Pyle’s Bash, Kevin Ayers, Daevid Allen, Richard Sinclair, among them. Many gathered from around the US and Canada, even Europe, for the debut of Soft Works in Seattle in August 2002, including myself, at the Progman Cometh festival. It was presumably the last we’d ever hear of this unique and short-lived chapter in the annals of the Softs — until now. Exactly one year after the Seattle festival performance, Soft Works performed four sold out concerts in Japan, three in Tokyo (at Ebisu Garden Hall), and a fourth in Osaka (Namba Hatch). Leonardo had obtained stereo soundboard recordings of the third night in Tokyo and the final show in Osaka. Soft Works performed total of only 11 shows, including five dates in Italy (Winter 2004), and their last date in Mexico at the BajaProg festival (March 5, 2004).
Many Holdsworth fans were not aware of Soft Machine’s long history prior to Bundles. As I’ve listened to these live tracks, I hear some parallels to an earlier, brilliant MoonJune archival live release — Soft Machine’s Floating World Live (2006), one the only two official live outing featuring the Bundles line-up. With this two-disc set, Soft Works Abracadabra In Osaka, I’m struck by how they compare — and arguably in ways, surpass their studio recorded counterparts, given the spontaneity and live dynamics and atmospherics captured. This release features re-workings of early Soft Machine favorites such as “Kings and Queens”, “Facelift", nearly all the titles from Abracadabra. A previously unreleased Holdsworth composition, “Alphrazallan”, is featured here; it opens with a calming, haunting orchestral guitar chord progression (it wasn’t coincidence that the track’s title referenced the name of an anti-anxiety medication). What strikes me about the performances captured on these two discs is the how band’s dynamics had evolved since the initial recording session. In 2003 Allan’s live performances were in peak form. Here fans will discover a markedly different experience from Allan’s own touring band. Hopper’s tribute to Coltrane, “First Trane” features a brilliant sax playing by Elton; its slow blues vamps mark a departure from the music heard at Holdsworth’s own live shows – here you’ll experience Allan’s reverence to one of his primary musical influences in a breathtaking solo. In these live recordings, you’ll hear Hugh, one of early progressive rock’s most inventive bassists, occasionally unleashing his trademark, innovative “fuzz bass” sound in ways which always realize focused and compelling ideas rather frenzied showers of notes. Elton contrasts with the rest of the band as the master jazz musician of the quartet; his own singular voice on alto sax and saxello takes flight. He also carves out inventive chord progressions and voicing on Fender Rhodes piano, over which Allan’s playing dances through fresh and transformative melodic tapestries. Throughout these live tracks Allan is afforded vast open reaches to explore in a more open context than with his own bands, rekindling his explosive chemistry with John Marshall. Herein Holdsworth devotees can discover a contrast in a setting, where some of the most storied masters and innovators from the 60s and 70s generation forge new paths together. The combined power of this unique group’s voices, history, and the depth of their experience is stunning throughout this recording.
John Marshall ultimately became the most lasting constant under the Soft Machine name since Mike Ratledge’s departure during the 1976 Softs sessions. He appears currently on nine releases under the Soft Machine name, and recently on the MoonJune label Soft Machine Legacy and Soft Machine releases Hidden Details and Live at The Baked Potato. Sadly Allan’s recorded studio output had nearly ended after Soft Works; he never finished the new studio record he was working on after 2001, and subsequent releases featured mainly archival studio and live material. Ironically, guitarist John Etheridge, the musician he originally recommended to replace him when he originally left Soft Machine in 1975, availed himself to again to continue working with Hugh, Elton, and John. They took the name Soft Machine Legacy — resulting in five album releases through MoonJune from 2005-2013 (Live In Zaandam, Soft Machine Legacy, The Paris Concert, Steam, Live Adventures). Ultimately when Elton Dean passed at age 60 in 2006, Theo Travis joined the Legacy. Theo is an extraordinarily talented English saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist who worked with on projects with Robert Fripp, David Sylvian, Steven Wilson, Tangent, among many others. When Hugh became ill, the great journeyman of the british jazz scene, and veteran Soft Machine bassist Roy Babbington took his place, again. In 2015, Babbington, Etheridge, Marshall and Travis had once again claimed the name Soft Machine. With any luck in our current global pandemic circumstance — will persist into the 2020s. Few stranger things in our musical universe have happened – than the British avant-garde, ever transformative music continuum called Soft Machine. They made their first US tour appearance since the Bundles tour in 1974, in October 2018. Without the cabal which hatched Soft Works, we might not have seen what continued during the two decades following Allan’s involvement – and what eventually became the resurrected Soft Machine. As of this writing, in fall 2020, Soft Machine had released an excellent new live record, Live at the Baked Potato. After witnessing the short-lived experiment of Soft Works perform in 2002, I couldn’t have imagined Soft Machine would ever emerge again in recent years to perform dates in America. Never say never.
— Laguna Beach, California, August 2020
released December 4, 2020
ELTON DEAN saxello, alto sax, Fender Rhodes
ALLAN HOLDSWORTH guitar
HUGH HOPPER bass guitar
JOHN MARSHALL drums
Produced by Leonardo Pavkovic.
Recorded live at Namba Hatch, Osaka, Japan, August 11, 2003.
The original source: 2 CDRs with flat stereo-mix of the show.
Carefully restored, enhanced and mastered by Mark Wingfield.
Leonardo Pavkovic would like to thank, for various and always valid reasons: Ken Kubernik, Chris Hoard, Mark Wingfield, Hajo Muller, Tatsurou Ueda, Masa Matsuzaki, Yu Minagawa, Aki Noumi, Atsushi Naito, Atsushi Fukatami, Tack Takahashi, Seijiro Udo, Kei Ikuta, Bill Hein, Terry Donnelly (R.I.P.), Martin Knutton (R.I.P.), Hiro Kitada (R.I.P.), Rosewell Rudd (R.I.P.), Steve Feigenbaum, Aymeric Leroy, Dennis Wilson, Fernando Natalici, Philip Bagenal, Sergio Fornasari, Umberto Bonnani, Rino Zinno, Fausto Bonfanti, Vic Albani, Centro Servizi Culturali Santa Chiara di Trento, Mike Varney, Maurizio Comandini, Christine Polao, Andy Summers, Keith Tippett (R.I.P.), Phil Miller (R.I.P.), Pip Pyle (R.I.P.), Liam Genockey, Mark Fletcher, Art Themen, Nic France, Asaf Sirkis, Gary Husband, Paul Dunmall, Nick Utteridge, Jerry Cook, Greg Sherman, Jeff Sherman, Alfonso Vidales, Val Wolfe, Phil Howitt, Marino Sala-Dean, Maxi Marshall, Christine & Rosa Hopper, Beppe Crovella, Beledo, John M. McGuire, Dave Freeman, David Robin (R.I.P.), Dan Perloff, Evan Cohen, and above all Elton Dean (R.I.P.), Hugh Hopper (R.I.P.), Allan Holdsworth (R.I.P.), and specially John Marshall, for being with me since the very beginning of our dreams, Soft Machine, the MoonJune years: Soft Works, Soft Machine Legacy and today’s Soft Machine. And of course giant thanks to John Etheridge, Theo Travis and Roy Babbington.
Graphics and design by Hajo Müller (www.hajo-art.com
Photos courtesy of Centro Servizi Culturali Santa Chiara di Trento.
For more information about this historic archival release, please refer to the extensive liner notes in the album’s booklet.
SOFT WORKS NOTES by Leonardo Pavkovic
Perhaps if there were a "progressive mantra," it might be embodied by my drive and determination to always keep moving forward and looking ahead -- that same 'go for it'-type attitude which so many great MoonJune artists carry with them into live performances and recording projects. That said, a person cannot gauge progress without reflecting back on the road traveled which carried him to a given point in life. The music on this album brings back a lot of fond memories, but it goes far deeper than that: the band, itself, was a result of some of my earliest efforts in the music industry; efforts which served as an impetus for carrying the entire 'MoonJune' concept forward.
As many of you reading this are no doubt already aware: I first met Elton Dean back in the mid '80's, while still residing in Italy. In what some might refer to as "fate" or "destiny" (and it would certainly be difficult to argue against it, in this instance), Elton and I reconnected again, a decade-and-a-half or so later, via two mutual friends -- ethnomusicologist, Verna Gillis, and her husband, the legendary jazz trombonist, Rosewell Rudd. Fittingly, it happened on the first day of the new millennium: January 1, 2000.
Reflecting back on that day, it truly was the start of a new era in my life. Had Elton's and my paths not again crossed, I seriously doubt that not only would 'Soft Works' never have materialized, but more than likely I wouldn't have started MoonJune Music Bookings & Management or the MoonJune Records label, either. It seemed like a dream, at the time: getting to assist and produce the very musical artists I had long idolized. Looking back, it still bears that same resemblance. 'Dreaming,' in fact, is central to this story. Not long after reconnecting with Elton, the two of us met with John Marshall and Hugh Hopper (whom I had the privilege of meeting, 5 or 6 years earlier), and corporately began dreaming about a potential Soft Machine reunion!
The dream continued the following year, when LA jazz / rock journalist, Ken Kubernik, introduced me to another of my heroes: legendary guitar icon, Allan Holdsworth. Knowing his previous history with the band, I naturally viewed Allan as the missing piece to the Soft Machine reunion puzzle. I told him of our (Elton, John, Hugh and myself) ambitions and offered him the position as the band's fourth member -- which he promptly accepted.
Shortly thereafter, I met back up with Elton and 'Soft Works' was born. In collaboration with Ken, "Abracadabra" (up until now, the lone release by this exquisite lineup) was the first project I ever produced.
Unfortunately, the career of the late, great Allan Holdsworth had its fair share of peaks and valleys. After a dozen shows in Japan and Italy, and festival gigs in the US and Mexico, Allan decided to bow out. [Shortly thereafter, he was replaced by UK guitar virtuoso, John Etheridge, which gave birth to 'Soft Machine Legacy.' (... and which has more recently adopted the original 'Soft Machine' moniker.)]
Throughout the world, demand for the band was instantaneous and fevered. My reflections on this period are always bittersweet. There was a ton of potential that unquestionably was left unfulfilled by Allan's departure. Conversely, seeing what started as a promising vision of hope become a reality served as the motivation and impetus for all things MoonJune!
My magical encounters with Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper and Ken Kubernik led to meeting John Marshall and then, ultimately Allan Holdsworth. Although sadly short lived, the creation of this progressive supergroup fundamentally changed my entire existence. Despite the lone studio album and only a small handful of live performances, the progressive genre is graced by our foresight to have recorded several of these shows. "Abracadabra In Osaka" represents the best of these recordings: serving as a living testimony of true musical icons -- the group which unknowingly became the seed which would sprout, grow and blossom into MoonJune Records and MoonJune Music.
Thank you, Elton, Hugh, John and Allan -- and Ken ... with your help, I have achieved an incredible dream in my own life! I am truly blessed to love what I'm doing, and to be doing what I love.