Soft Machine NDR Jazz Workshop: Hamburg, Germany May 17, 1973

This 1973 NDR Jazz Workshop showcases mid-career Soft Machine as the former psychedelic Canterbury collective skipped prog-rock in the journey towards jazz-fusion. Featuring founding keyboardist Mike Ratledge, alongside three former members of Nucleus (a group that helped usher in jazz-fusion several years prior), this live package takes the majority of its set list from Six, a live/studio album released around the same time of this televised German gig. Since the live portion of Six was recorded half-a-year earlier, it's no surprise the performances show the then-quartet becoming quite familiar with these compositions, performing completely in-synch, filling every moment with vigour. The NDR selections are that much more nuanced and spirited, while the live versions of studio tracks from Six are certainly more interesting. Remarkably, care of Udi Koomran's formidable mastering and restoration, the sound quality on this Cuneiform release is almost on par with the original Columbia recording of Six. Popular opinion may consider the first few line-ups of Soft Machine their finest, with Cuneiform's tendency to release their earlier work as evidence, but this CD/DVD release shows that this 1973 incarnation were undoubtedly worthy in their own right. (Cuneiform)