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Tour Blog Part 9 : Stockholm

Filadelfiakyrkan Rörstrand - Filadelfia Stockholm

The venue in Stockholm was one of the most striking so far. A large church with a very wide stage and a dress circle and top balcony. At the back of the stage were pipes from the organ and in huge letters the word JESUS. The dressing room facilities were lavish with candelabras, comfortable sofas and very ornate fire places. The lift had buttons for floors 1 and a half and 5 and a half too (remember the films Being John Malkovich, and Harry Potter too?)! Not sure what was on those floors, and curiously if you pressed button 5 and a half the lift would not go there. 

The sound was surprisingly good in the room and the audience was pleasingly responsive. 

During the song 'Harmonie Korine' I leave the stage as I do not play on it. Sometimes I watch the video projected on the backdrop as it is great - very strange, evocative and powerful with weird imagery. So I noticed while this was on, I was standing next to a ten foot high wooden cross which seemed to accentuate the symbolism and imagery. "Whoa...talking of what I do during the gig, a few people have asked me what I am doing when I go up to the front of the stage and sit by the keyboard on the song 'the Raven..' Facebook, e mail, computer stuff.? No - I play the extra top line piano part, as Adam is already playing the main piano part which takes two hands. On the last tour I played about three songs on keys, but this tour just the one. I enjoy it. 

After the show and the traditional 'white Russian' drink at the end of the gig, we chilled for a bit then got on the bus as we were heading off to Oslo that night. Had a really interesting chat with our excellent tour manager Harv about his time touring with U2 during the Zooropa tour in the early nineties - a tour I actually saw at Wembley Stadium in London. Interesting to hear from someone what it is like on the inside and at the centre of a tour by such a huge band. Watched the film 'My cousin Vinnie' on the bus then to sleep. 

I woke up in Oslo where we got off the bus at 10 am and checked into our hotel. The snow was deeper here and the temperature lower. As I got to my room, I felt really exhausted and crashed out, not waking till lunchtime. Then I had a shower and started my book - 'Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman. So far...it is goooood. No gig tonight, so off for a meal with some of the chaps. Looking forward to the Oslo gig tomorrow and catching up with an old friend too.

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Tour Blog Part 8 : Hamburg

Still lots of snow when we reached Hamburg. As we had a day off, we stayed in a hotel - a smart one actually right next to the venue which is very handy. The venue in Hamburg was CCH Saal 2 and it was huge. A large concert hall that looked like it was usually for orchestras or choirs or maybe one of those great German radio bands like the NDR band. As there was the day off beforethe gig I thought I would use my time fruitfully by reading a book. 'The man in the high castle' by Philip K Dick was floating round the bus and it is said to be a classic so I thought I would give that a go. Managed to finish it over a couple of days. A kind of alternate reality book, not really science fiction, but very imaginative. Dick wrote the story that became the Bladerunner film amongst other things and is an iconic author who I have not read before. I enjoyed the book and it was interesting, but not quite my thing. Will probably try 'Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman next which I brought with me.

Anyway, the gig was seated and as I say in a huge room. These things did not help the vibe, though the sound was good. I think we played well but there was not much of a buzzy atmosphere. Marco's parents came to the gig and they are lovely and were in good spirits. I met some musician friends of Adam's too who were cool. They all enjoyed the gig a lot. After the gig had a nice hang with Guthrie and Marco in the hotel bar and had a good chat with them accompanied by a modest amount of Oban single malt whiskey. Strong stuff. I know the town of Oban quite well having played there once (Corran halls), stayed there a few times and taken the ferry to the island of Mull many times. Then sleep, before our long drive to Stockholm that was going to involve a short ferry ride, a very long tunnel and the huge Malmo bridge taking us to Sweden.

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Tour Blog Part 7 : Antwerp

So this was an interesting gig. A great theatre in the same building complex where I had played at a small festival of experimental music a couple of years ago called the International Festival of Looping. The theatre was all seated, and smaller than last night's gig in Amsterdam. Just before we went on, Steven said that he had read on Facebook that several people said they could not come to the gig because of the bad weather. He was worried the room might be half empty which would be bad as all gigs so far have been full. As it turned out it was fine, and the room looked pretty full to me. This was a relief and the fact that the venue was smaller than previous gigs and was seated made it feel quite relaxed. He said jokingly before we went on 'explore the space, explore the space, man' meaning reach out a bit further musically and 'fill' all the corners of the room. I think it is actually a quote from a film, but not sure which one. So with such encouragement, we tried some different things, and did do a bit of musical exploration. Some really different things were played and improvisations went in new directions. It felt really good, refreshing and fun. Marco also set up his new mini gong in his kit which he bought yesterday from my friend Steve Hubback. He used it in a few choice places (making sure he did not overdo it) and we all agreed it sounded fab! Thanks Steve. Also before we went on, Adam was playing Tale Spinnin' by Weather Report in the dressing room, which is wonderful and quite inspiring too.

At the end of the gig we did a different encore, segueing two of Steven's songs into one in a really cool way. I won't say which ones, but I think it worked.

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Tour Blog Part 6 : Cologne - Amsterdam

Theo on Flute

The Cologne gig went well. I remember the venue from Steven's last tour. A big hall and it was more full this time than last. Particularly memorable was the great catering backstage! Some kind of vegetarian parcel was amazing and the desert was a sort of creamy strawberry tiramisu goo with dark chocolate bits in. Nice. My guest was Luc from the Gong family who enjoyed it and hung out afterwards. Thomas from Inside Out records was also there and after the gig was hanging with the band talking Prog...Inside Out is the label the Tangent is signed to, and I have amazingly played on 7 Tangent albums on the label since 2005 as well as a couple of other independent releases. They are a very effective niche label and Thomas knows his stuff. The gig itself went well and had a large audience. For the first time on this tour, I played the gig without any notes to remind me of things I might forget. There is a lot to remember on a two hour set when you are playing complex music (and six different instruments). So that felt like an achievement. Marco threw in a couple of particularly memorable moments when he started throwing in a disco backbeat in the middle of some wild keyboard solo in Luminol. Very cool. 

Leaving Cologne we watched episode 2 from the fab BBC Sherlock series, the one with the yellow cipher and the smuggling of valuable Chinese antiques. Good stuff.

Woke up in a freezing cold and snow covered Amsterdam outside the Melkveg venue. The band 'Living colour' were also playing in another room in the same venue on the same night. I last played at the Melkveg in November 2006 at the amazing Gong 'Unconvention' which featured about 10 Gong related bands. About 40 musicians and others had piled onto a big bus in London and driven to the ferry and then to Amsterdam. The weekend of gigs culminated with the first concert by the Steve Hillage Band in about 25 years and the first set of him back with Gong in about 29 years. I remember looking out from the stage and seeing people crying with happiness! A DVD was made of the gigs which was fine but it did not capture the magic that was in the air in that room that night. It was quite special. 

Before the gig I met up with my friend Steve Hubback who is a percussionist and ace Gong maker. I had not seen him in some time so we caught up over a pizza near the venue. Steve showed me this great conch shaped Gong he had made which sounded amazing. Actually Marco bought it off Steve after the gig when they met. 

The Amsterdam gig itself was a big one. About 1500 people and the most smiley audience of the tour so far. I don' t know if it was the dope in Amsterdam or if people we just happy, but definitely more smiling all around the audience than previously. It was the second gig of the tour where the audience was standing and that may have contributed to the excited atmosphere. I thought the band played great and after packing up and relaxing a bit after the gig, off into the night towards Antwerp.

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Tour Blog Part 5 : Paris - Cologne

Theo and Guthrie

The venue in Paris, called Le Trianon, was familiar as we played there last year. It is a rather grand music hall type theatre, situated in Montmartre by the Sacre-Coeur. The onstage sound was good and in the soundcheck we had a pretty good jam as well as checking the things that needed checking. The gig itself felt good with no technical glitches and a relaxed vibe. Everyone played well and Steven seemed to have a good time. The audience was the first standing audience of the tour and I think that probably contributed to the excited and upbeat atmosphere. The crowd was really enthusiastic and we all appreciated that.

Afterwards, had a good chat with some of Steven's Scottish fans who are very nice and who I have met several times. They had come over specially for the gig and made a weekend of it. Then back onto the tour bus and we rolled out of Paris and off to Cologne in Germany. Adrian, our splendid merchandise man and fellow Brummie had brought the DVDs of the recent Sherlock Holmes BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch so we watched one of those (though I could barely keep awake!) which was very good. Then to bed and I woke up in Cologne where the bus had pulled up by our hotel which was situated next to the staggeringly impressive cathedral. We checked in and the rest of the day was off duty, so I took it pretty easy as was feeling a little rough. Grabbed a coffee, managed to catch up on some e mails and had a bit of a rest to the soundtrack of 'Man' by Francis Dunnery, 'Nine Lives' by Steve Winwood and 'On Land' by Brian Eno. All great albums. I did have a wander round the centre of Cologne later and went to look inside the cathedral too. What an amazing building. There was a plan for everyone to go for a Japanese meal that evening, but the restaurant that some of the guys knew of was full. So I ended up going for a Thai meal with Adam which was most tasty.

Sunday now, and having made a couple of Mother's Day phone calls to my mum and to my lovely wife am ready now to go for a walk, then to soundcheck and tonight's gig. Then Amsterdam tomorrow.

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Tour Blog Part 4 : London - Paris

Theo during Soundchecks

Monday March 4 was the Royal Festival Hall gig in London. It is a great venue for classical, jazz and rock music and I have been many times to see some great gigs eg. Van Der Graf Generator reunion gig, Dave Gilmour, Chick Corea Electric Band, the Brecker Brothers, Stan Getz etc. I live quite near the centre of London so I took the tube to the gig which only took about 30 mins. I get off at Embankment station and walk over Hungerford Bridge from which you get a fantastic view of London, the river Thames and the South Bank where the venue is.

We played in the main hall of the RFH and I think it was completely full. Sold out. Amazing. Soundcheck was fine and we checked a few things in the set as well as the monitors ensuring we could hear properly. The gig itself felt really good to me. Good sound, good response from the audience, Steve seemed relaxed and was very funny on the microphone with his between song chat (not easy to do!). I think we played pretty OK.

At a 'hometown show' there are usually various friends and family who come along. So there was John Etheridge, Tim Bowness, Jakko Jaksyzck, Steve Hackett, Steve Rothery, Nik Kershaw, Robyn Koh, Steve's lovely mum and various others. Great to see them all at the after show party.

Afterwards, I put some of my things on the tour bus which was driving to Paris and then walked back over the bridge and headed home on the tube.

The next couple of days involved running around like a crazy person, teaching students and sorting stuff and life and everything before the European leg of the tour. Thursday was particularly crazy (and exhausting) but finishing with a wonderful jazz gig in Highgate, London.

Meanwhile Steven's new album 'the Raven that refused to sing (and other stories)' is receiving superb reviews. The Guardian gave it five stars out of five, and magazines and papers around the world have been saying it is the ..err....best thing ever. Steve mentioned that one magazine stated 'if there is only one album you ever own it should be this one..!' Others have been giving it 10/10 and 5/5. In the national album charts it has gone in at number 28 and in the rock album charts - number 1, above Muse, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Wow. First time I think I have been on an album that has been in the national top 40!

So now I am on the Eurostar to Paris for the next gig which is tonight.

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Tour Blog Part 3 : Glasgow (Part 2)

Steven with Nick and Marco in the background

Last night we played Glasgow ABC and we all loved it. The nerves and glitches of the first night were gone. The audience were well up for it and noisily enthusiastic (which we like!) In fact Marco had not been feeling well during the day, but he said that when he sat down to play the first number he felt great again. The power of music! The sound was good onstage and I think we all felt more relaxed. Everyone played great and Adam and Guthrie did some particularly good solos. It was good to see some friendly faces in the crowd who I remember from the Grace for Drowning tour too. We changed the encore last night to try something different and played a very old Porcupine Tree song called 'Radioactive Toy' which worked really well. The audience loved it.

Afterwards we hung out for a while meeting friends and fans and just chatting backstage. Some interesting issues came up and it was good to talk through them. Someone mentioned to Marco the Glaswegian speciality of 'deep fried Mars Bar' which is basically a Mars Bar deep fried in batter. Err...sounds a bit strange to me! Ever the adventurer, Marco went out into the night in search of one of these delicacies and indeed found one. I think he found it 'interesting'....

Another night on the bus and back to London for our Royal Festival Hall gig on Monday. Now that is something I am really looking forward to. I last played there in 2007 with David Sylvian on his world tour which I enjoyed hugely and I am sure this is going to be just as special. The Festival Hall is a great venue and being right in the middle of London on e South Bank of the Thames feels like you are playing at the centre of everything.

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Tour Blog Part 2 : Glasgow

Beggs and Govan

So last night was the first gig. Manchester Academy 1. A good venue and sold out. The band was a bit nervous as there is a lot of new material which we have not played live before. We went on a 8 pm and in the first number there was a small technical glitch with some sounds which was off-putting but not disastrous.

The set seemed to settle in as it went on and the new songs got a very good response. I thought the band was on fire and Guthrie did an amazing job on his first gig with the band. Nick Beggs excelled himself with his sartorial elegance unveiling a brand new outfit - a mix of Dickensian grandness and Count von Dracula! Marco played with his usual fire but perfect precision.

Speaking to people afterwards who had also seen the Grace for Drowning tour, the opinion was that this set was even stronger and more focused, which is great. And I think as the tour goes on, it will get better and better. Nice to hang out with my friend Dave Sturt and brother Sandy afterwards.

After the gig I had a wander around Oxford Rd in Manchester as this was exactly where I had been a music student all those years ago and even went to see my old music department in Denmark Rd which felt weird (Micaela- are you there?!).

In fact the venue was right next to the Whitworth Park halls of residence where I had lived and opposite the Contact Theatre where I did my first ever demo tape of my own band. The bus set off late and we rolled into Glasgow early this morning. I slept pretty well, but sleeping on band tour buses is a little strange as the bunks are very small, and there is not even room to sit up. so not good for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia.

With time to kill this morning I wandered around Sauciehall St (pronounced Sock-- ee-hall I believe) and grabbed a coffee and porridge at Starbucks. And now, the sun seems to have come out.

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Tour Blog Part 1 : On the road

Day One...

So today is the day it all kicks off. Yesterday was our final day of rehearsal and it was great. All the songs we are playing from the new album are sounding fantastic and the band is smoking...I mean really smoking. I have played with a lot of excellent bands but this is something else. Just to name check everyone there is Guthrie Govan on guitar (new boy!), Adam Holzman on keys, Nick Beggs on bass and Chapman stick, the amazing Marco Minneman on drums, SW centre stage and yours truly blowing things.

We left London late last night travelling through the night on our night liner tour bus and arrived in Manchester early this morning ready for an early get in and sound check and production rehearsal. We are playing in the Academy 1, which is next to the University Union - the University where I attended late last century (!) to study music (all classical and specialising in Shostakovich actually) .

Funny coming back here again. The last couple of gigs I did in Manchester were with the mighty Soft Machine Legacy at the wonderful Band on the Wall (by the way new album coming out 'Burden of proof' March 25) and Gong at Academy 2 which is next door. Both good but very different gigs. Nice to be back here and a few friends coming along tonight.

There is excitement in the air as this is a new set, new line up, new show and much anticipation.

The response and reviews of SW's new album have been really excellent so far, including the five star review in the Guardian newspaper. Let's hope people dig the gigs too. Sitting backstage now waiting for soundcheck. Not long now....


Best wishes

Theo

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Travis & Fripp - When The Rains Fall (from Follow) 2012

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Cipher : The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari


Looking for more Cipher Soundtracks? Click this link to see more!

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Cipher : The Last Laugh


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Secret Island - Reviews

"The whole outfit sounds poised relaxed and beautifuly modulated "- 

Dave Gelly. Musician Magazine.


"One of the outstanding releases of 1996. A very fine album.. "-
Helen Mayhew. Jazz FM


"Well up to scratch.... A cracking album.. "-
Brian Morton. Radio3 Impressions


"..features John Etheridge and shows just what a good composer Travis is "-
Lynton Chiswick. Time Out


"This is a sophisticated and mature piece of writing from a musician known as much for his composition as for his playing....an original and personal jazz conception "-
Ian Ritchie. Absolute Jazz(Internet magazine)


" The strong melodic themes and thoughtful solos which distinguished his earlier recordings are much in evidence on the new one, and there's a bonus in the prescence of guitarist John Etheridge, whose ringing sound and bright ideaas add a new dimension to Travis' music "-
Pete Martin. Jazz UK 

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View From The Edge - Review

"...a strong album and should go further to establishing him as a national name." -
The Birmingham Post

" Travis continues to avoid the stock harmonic solutions...well worth checking out and a lot more to come." -
Derek Briggs. Jazz On CD

"It is impressive for the determination with which Travis avoids the standard patterns and cliches of jazz" -
The Observer Review

"a triumph of popular appeal and art." -
Derek Briggs. Jazz On CD

"Once again Travis' striking composition make the music both distinctive and accesssible" -
Pete Martin. Studio Time


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Soft Machine Legacy- The Nodder

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2am - Reviews

"Travis has made a record of real jazz interest and wide general appeal." -
Jazz On CD

"Travis has been getting alot of media praise, well merited this disc suggests." -
Jazz Journal

"Another blinder from saxophonist Theo Travis.." -
Musician

"Tough contemporary jazz with a boppish edge..an impressive start." -
Penguin Guide to Jazz

"An authentically intoxicating early hours set" -
The Financial Times

"If you like small-combo modern jazz with music that speaks intelligently, buy this one. " -
Jewish Chronical

"2am features some killing ballads" -
Venue

"This one earns an "A" for atmosphere" -
Cadence Magazine

"An exciting and rightly acclaimed debut CD" -
The Birmingham Post

"2am highlights Travis' abilities as a player and composer with tunes like 'Fish' and 'Nightmare In New York' typical of his driving energy and capturing something of the excitement he generates live" -
Coventry Evening Telegraph

Lollipop marzipan apple pie oat cake sweet roll carrot cake toffee dessert marzipan. Gummi bears jelly-o liquorice lollipop chocolate bar. 

Pastry jelly jelly sugar plum jelly tiramisu cupcake sugar plum. Pastry pie pudding tiramisu donut ice cream candy. Sweet marshmallow soufflé pudding. Marzipan macaroon jelly beans. Croissant gummi bears chupa chups sugar plum tootsie roll apple pie cupcake.

Candy sweet roll jelly beans candy marzipan. Powder jelly-o cookie sweet roll tart pudding croissant bonbon pudding. Gummi bears caramels donut carrot cake carrot cake chupa chups bonbon tootsie roll.

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Cipher - The Phantom of the Opera

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Earth to Ether - Reviews

All About Jazz (1)
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 hereâ€"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 systemâ€"'ambitronics'â€"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. Chris May

All About Jazz (2)
Earth to Ether, when placed in direct comparison to View from the Edge, demonstrates just how far Travis has come in the intervening years, yet also illustrates a conception that has existed all along and continues to be honed.
Concentrating on flute this time - Travis plays sax on only three of the nine piecesâ€"the atmosphere is more ethereal, more elegant, and his allegiance to the Canterbury sound is more dominant, possibly because groups like Caravan and Hatfield and the North made strong use of the instrument, but also because of a certain airy and pleasant sonority of the material. The appearance, on three tracks, of ex- Hatfield and the North and Caravan bassist/singer Richard Sinclair, this time on vocals and guitar, cements the link.
And yet, for all Travis' influences, his general leaning towards a more acoustic sound gives his material distinction. He has an uncanny way of making his compositions match their titles. 'The Mystic and the Emperor,' with it's dark tone that opens up into an uptempo solo section with shades of Brazilian music somehow embedded, feels wholly appropriate. 'The Munich Train,' a duet between Travis' flute and Sinclair's voice and guitar manages, remarkably, to truly evoke the image of a train trip, from the gradual pullout from the station to the more propulsive middle section that reflects the train picking up speed. Travis ends the piece with a richly visual instrumental section where he uses his ambitronics method of looping flute phrases in real time to create a rich wash that conjures images of distant places.
There are few players who would be brave enough to attempt an acoustic rendition of King Crimson's classic '21st Century Schizoid Man,' but Travis excises the instrumental section in the middle of the piece, and turns it into a truly schizophrenic take, slowing down the rapid-fire ensemble passage from the centre of the original piece to half-time and positing it as a hip hop-inflected theme, going into double-time for the solo section and then returning to the half-time theme. As always, Travis' tenor tone is robust and clean. On 'Marti,' he demonstrates his debt to Stan Getz on a bossa-inflected piece that features guest guitarist Mark Wood on classical and electric guitars.
For the most part the album features Travis' current touring group of pianist Simon Colam, bassist Andy Hamill and drummer/percussionist Marc Parnell, players who have developed a clearly simpatico approach. On the charged and polyrhythmic 'Things Change' the rhythm section manages to hold the convoluted pattern together, gradually building in intensity until the end, where Parnell gets the opportunity to strut. 'Full Moon Rising Part 2' is essentially a blues, and gives everyone a chance to blow, with Travis switching from flute to tenor for his solo, and to give added weight when the group returns to the lightly funky theme at the conclusion of the piece.
With View from the Edge and Earth to Ether demonstrating an eclecticism that is tied together by a generally acoustic approach that still manages to blend in some contemporary ambiences, Theo Travis has established himself as a leader with a specific vision that brings together a multitude of influences into a unified and distinct concept. And as Travis becomes increasingly busy with both his own projects and work with others including Gong, Anja Garbarek and Cipher, it is only a matter of time before he gains exposure in North America, and the broader audience he deserves.

Jazz Review
The columnist Paul Jennings once wrote of how he had seen a for-sale card in the window of a music shop in Charing Cross Rd. It said "Flute for sale". Easily concealed.£20"
In the ensuing funny piece he imagined a totalitarian state where flutes are outlawed and as such become a symbol of resistance.
Theo Travis has kept his flute partially concealed until relatively recently, making more a name for himself as a tenor ssaxophonist recording an album a year between 1993 and 2003. He's in good company. Many of jazz music'sbest flautists are/were tenorists:Yusef Lateef, James Moody, Charles Lloyd, Lew Tabackin, Eric Dolphy and even John Coltrane. (I wonder how being a saxophonist informs the flute playing , if at all?) This latest work ofrom Travis, made with his regular mainstream touring group, is a real grower. Of the nine numbers, eight are original compositions and they have a gently captivating, radio friendly quality.
Travis plays flute on all but two of them. He's a lithe, but full-muscled flute player. unlike some flautists there's none of that breathy panting with Travis, or anxious struggling to be heard on the top line. His sound is unmistakeably, effortlessly and purely there. When he does pick up the tenor, it is in two different modes, giving a glimpse of the man's flexibility. With "21st Century Schizoid Man" (that's right pop pickers, the King Crimson hit), he's all tough hustle bustle, leading the rhythm section a dance; on "Marti", by comparison, Travis comes on like a latterday Getz, tenderly caressing the Brazilian tinged melody. Three of the tunes have lyrics fitted (two of them by novelist Jonathan Coe) and aresung by Richard Sinclair, whose pleasant voice reminded me a little of Robert Wyatt.
Altogether, here's an album that seals Travis's growing reputation as one of our most fascinating windmiths.
Garry Booth

Jazzwise Magazine
" After the wide open spaces of Heart of the Sun, Earth to Ether is more of a chamber piece, focussing heavily on song and flute rather than the dramatic arrangements and stellar soloing of Travis' last outing. Although he's always featured flute, Earth to Ether is the first of Travis'albums to bring th einstrument to the fore in a group context. But Travis doesn't just go for splashes of colour, the flute's usual role. Instead he draws on Tubby Hayes'fleet-footed muscularity and Harold NcNair's funk anbd takes the flute, notably the alto, into darker spaces, such as the bluesy, multitracked "Stewed flute" or the lyrical yet mysterious "This Frozen Time". The other major development is the inclusion of Richard Sinclair's fragile, haunting voice. Combined with Jonathan Coe's lyrics, the results are strongly melodic, but never tip into the whimsy that can mar such an "English" sound. Throw in Travs' now longstanding and robust band, able to whip through a furious"21st Century Schizoid Man" or the groove of "Full Moon Rising pt2" and the overall sound is rich, lyrical and refreshing, and a further reflection on the wide range of exciting voicesthat make up contemporary British jazz"

Live Review
Theo Travis Band. Bonington Theatre, Arnold, Nottingham - Thursday 4 November 2004.

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 "live loop" his instruments, which built up random phrases into layers and textures. This worked best on his alto flute - 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 Keane, 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's piano, deep bass and Marc'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's 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."

Metro Newspaper
"The reluctance of jazz musicians to acknowledge any music made after, say, 1958 seems like a wilful withdrawal from reality. However, tie any jazz musician who came of age between 1970 and 1975 to a chair, and it won't take him long to confess an early fondness for Yes and Genesis. So, Earth to Ether, the forthcoming album from reedman Theo Travis, is refreshing in the way it actively embraces the prog rock legacy.
Travis adds charm to 21st Century Schizoid Man, King Crimson's masterpiece and the world's most histrionic rock song; henavigates tricky time changes on tenor sax at terrific speed, yet with a sense of relaxation that defuses the bombast of the original. There are also dreamy vocal pieces, reminiscent of the great Robert Wyatt, and Travis' fondness for flute gives off the authentic whiff of the early 1970's.
In fact, Travis has worked with John Etheridge (Soft Machine), Bill Bruford (Yes/ King Crimson), and Dick Heckstall -Smith (Colosseum), while he has also filled in for Didier Malherbe in psychedelic prankster band Gong. His floating soundscapes, rhythmic cadences and blistering workouts of today seem like a natural extension of his interest in prog-rock - albeit looser, less drilled and genuinely exploratory."

The Hairless Heart Herald
Who is your favourite saxophonist? Mel Collins, David Jackson, Jimmy Hastings? All the aforementioned are great players and much acclaimed in the prog world but those of us who have listened to The Tangent, and more recent Gong and Porcupine Tree will have discovered another name to add to the list of names - Theo Travis.
Theo, who has a degree (with honours) in music, is also a composer and flautist, and is one of the biggest names on the British jazz scene today. His active involvement in such an eclectic range of music is reflective in his latest album, Earth To Ether.
Earth To Ether features Theo's regular touring band of Simon Colam (piano), Andy Hamill (bass) and Marc Parnell (drums). Marc, who has worked with Martin Barre and Jethro Tull, is the son of the great Jack Parnell who us older persons will remember as being ever present on our TV screens in the 60's and 70's with his orchestra.
Neither progressive nor jazz fans will be disappointed with this album as the way you hear the music will be influenced by your own particular affinity to either genre. The complexity of the opening track, 'The Mystic And The Emperor', is a delicate weave of prog and jazz, Theo's flute reminiscent of Ian Anderson's solo albums combining with the ripple of piano and meandering background bass with Latin style percussion. In a word, superb.
The dialogue "Stand back, I'm going in" pre-empts the start of a track every prog fan will recognise; '21st Century Schizoid Man'. Theo's take on this standard bearer of prog is truly unique commencing with a 'Starsky and Hutch' style almost unrelated jazziness, erupting with a sax flourish into good old King Crimson. Cool jazz or cool prog, cool is the operative word.
The voice of Canterbury and prog legend, Richard Sinclair, guests on three of the nine tracks adding, dare I say, that 'Hatfield' touch of brilliance. Author of the novels 'The Rotter's Club/ and sequel' 'The Closed Circle' (highly recommended reading by the way), Jonathan Coe, pens the lyrics to the tracks 'The Munich Train' and 'This Frozen Time', both of which feature Richard on vocals and guitar, co-written with Theo. The feel of these tracks is, by default, very Canterbury and as you might expect from an author, the lyrics tell a story around some delightfully atmospheric flute work. Love the lyrical reference to 'winter wine' in 'This Frozen Time'.
I hate comparing flautist styles with that of Ian Anderson because it it is so obvious yet 'Stewed Flute' is one of those pieces which actually fits the comparison though the track also contains elements of Clive Bell's style of Japanese flute.
'Things Change' returns to the progressive emphasis with flute lead and bass, complex piano and percussion providing the base line in this great instrumental. 'Full Moon Rising Part 2' (Part 1 can be found on Theo's 'Secret Island' CD) closes the album. This ultimately jazzy piece features Theo's mastery of the tenor sax, and is a groovy, funky, fun way to finish.
Those of us with an ear for both jazz and prog are guaranteed to love this album and prog fans who are not yet jazz converts will have their eyes (or ears?) opened when they hear Earth To Ether.
Jem Jedrzejewski

The Scotsman (****)
"Flautist/saxophonist Theo Travis is a strong composer, and his accomplished writing provides varied and attractive material for his quartet. Former Caravan and Hatfield and the North vocalist Richard Sinclair is a special gueston three songs, and Travis' love of prog-rock is also reflected in a cover version of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man", long a staple of his live set."

Sid Smith Diary (Krimson News)
" Travis has the rare knack of making more from less, completely avoiding the breathy overblowing that is the last resort of flautists who are both running out of ideas and breath at the same time. His recent UK tour showed Theo Travis in fine form fronting an excellent group of needle-sharp players. The popular stereotypical image of a sax player is that of a beret-wearing, shade-wearing outsider giving voice to his tortured soul through his horn. In concert, this potent archetype is politely disarmed as Travis makes his point without recourse to populist histrionics or reed-biting avant-garde posturing.
Certainly the broad-range of people Travis has worked with demonstrates he has a foot in both the jazz mainstream and progressive rock related field. Having just finished laying down some tracks for David Sylvian, Travis can be found in the company of ex-Soft Machine stalwarts John Marshall and John Etheridge, as well as Tim Bowness, Gong, and Anja Garbarek.
In concert, Theo Travis remains as concise and measured as he does on his new album Earth To Ether . What makes Travis so listenable is that his playing serves the composition rather than the other way round. The dividend paid out for this approach is a highly melodic, well-rounded music, full of dazzling expression and a deft fluidity.
The ascending chord sequence on Earth To Ether, The Mystic and the Emperor, suggests that Travis regards onwards and upwards as the place to be. The allegorical title finds fitting expression in the exchange between spiritual matters and their temporal counterparts; Simon Colam’s ethereal piano shimmers like a heat haze whilst double bass player Andy Hamill produces an earthy solo delving deep, offering a contrasting yet complimentary expression.
The energies created with this track are continued in an imaginative arrangement of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man. Theo has said that the inspiration for attempting this came from ProjeKct Two’s loungecore version. Here, Travis draws down some prime tenor sax, emphasising the hard-bop heritage that was drawn upon by at least one of the composers of the piece.
The appearance of Richard Sinclair on three of nine tracks is particularly welcome given his lengthy bout of musical silence. Yet his lugubrious vocals (along with Travis’ choice of cover material) will consolidate his prog-friendly profile and in doing so, alienate himself from the serious jazzers who might consider fraternising with prog a heinous artistic crime.
However when the results are as convincing as the urbane ballad The Book or This Frozen Time (the latter lyrics supplied by Brit-Lit author, Jonathan Coe) Travis can afford to shrug off any naysayers. With its punchy dynamics (it was mixed and mastered by Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson), Earth To Ether is a triumph; a diverse album united by significant compositions and top-drawer playing from all concerned. "

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Slow Life - Review

" Occupying a territory between the Minimalist excursions of Steve Reich and the loop innovations of Fripp and Eno, 'Slow Life' is one of the most consistently challenging and ethereal albums in the career of Theo Travis. Exclusively using the rich possibilities of the alto flute, Travis launches into a series of cogent and controlled tonal improvs that firmly places him in the vanguard of the ever-growing looping community." Burning Shed website " The 'travis system of ambitronics' is awesome. this is an excellent minimalist, ambient, space music disc! " Jim Brenholts -
Ambient Navigator (USA).

"Despite the complexity of the arrangements, the nine pieces, each recorded live in the studio, are characterised by a sense of space, freedom and clarity. The overlaid flute loops resist entanglement and the listening experience is almost entirely restful."
Nicholas Royle. The Wire

"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.
Aural Innovations (USA)

"Sinuous alto flute strands are stratified across contemplative soundspaces by Theo Travis. With dreamlike slowness, layers of flutatious curlicues unfold across Salad noir... Similarly placid waves flutter through Chasing the slow train, sometimes evoking a bit of American West, othertimes a fairyland madrigal sound. Stereo (2:20) balances sparse tweedling episodes with moments of silence. In Mellotromatic (10:29), hovering counterpoints of high and low cohabitate expansively sprawling tone-vistas. Another more-than-ten-minute piece closes the disc; the warm currents of who stopped you furl and unfurl with reedy breaths. These nine solo flute compositions are beautiful and thoughtful. "
Ambientrance (USA)

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View From The Edge - Review

If the title sounds familiar, that is because this is a reissue of the saxophonist's powerful 1994 album featuring his quintet of the day (with the excellent Rob Statham in particularly ear-catching form on electric bass), and special guests Tony Coe, Jeff Clyne and John Marshall. This was the Birmingham-born saxophonist's second album, and featured mostly his own music, other than a brisk version of Cole Porter's 'Love For Sale'. Then as now, he largely avoided stock harmonic solutions in his playing, and the disc revealed a pleasingly eclectic approach to his diverse influences, which would develop in even more wide-ranging fashion in the ensuing years, taking in bop, free improv, prog rock and electronica. 

The remastered version of the original album comet in a 2-CD package with a second disc made up of one live cut ('The Ghosts of Witley Court' from the Jazz Cafe in 1994) three genuinely alternative takes of tracks from the album, and two more - 'Psychogroove' and 'The Purple Sky' - in contemporary 'reconstruction/remix' versions by Cipher and Hugh Hopper respectively. The original music still sounds fresh, and the alternate perspectives offered on the second disc are equally compelling. 

Kenny Mathieson. Jazz Wise. August 2003

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