Soft Machine were one of first and one of the greatest jazz/rock bands of all time. Their importance and influence was especially great in Europe, where they influenced several generations of bands, and their influences can still be heard to this day in bands like Jaga Jazzist and beyond. Grides presents the most famous version of the band (Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge, Robert Wyatt) recorded live at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on October 25, 1970, in a high-quality, previously unreleased recording, just a few months after the release of Third and at the peak of their popularity.
Self-avowed amateur musician Kevin Ayers left Soft Machine because they were too advanced for him. His claim disavowing pop music ran contrary to wanting to make money, and his attitude about writing critical songs flew in the face of his theory that many musical judgments are generally negative. The ultimate flip-flopper beyond the pale of many politicians, Ayers was admittedly a lazy drunk whose disdain for learning technique branded him not only an anomaly, but in many circles charming via an idiot savant persona.
Difficult as it may be for younger listeners to believe, there was a time when ECM released adventurous improvised music. Back near its inception in the early '70s, the label issued a wide variety and decent number of challenging avant-garde recordings that represented some of the most forward-looking musical thinkers of the time. One of these was Marion Brown, who, at the time of this session, was about midway between his extreme post- Coltrane explorations and the luscious, down-home evocations of Georgia that he would create for Impulse! over the next few years. He gathered 11 musicians, including a couple from the then current Miles Davis Bitches Brew band (Chick Corea and Bennie Maupin), the then little-known Anthony Braxton, Andrew Cyrille, and the late great vocalist Jeanne Lee for two side-long, wide-ranging pieces.