Theo Travis - Open Air album review

The flute, the whole flute and nothing but the flute for Theo Travis

Theo Travis - Open Air album artwork

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Though he’s best known for his work with artists such as Robert Fripp, Soft Machine and Steven Wilson, Theo Travis’ solo discography has been a consistently inquisitive affair since the early 90s.

Initially found in post-boppish quartet formation playing a nimble tenor sax, he later migrated into a Canterbury-orientated state of mind on 2004’s Earth To Ether and served up a liberal splash of psychedelic grooviness with 2015’s Transgression. With this beautiful vinyl-only release, he’s stripped things back to one man, various flutes and a set of looping devices from which orchestral timbres bloom into carefully coaxed, opulent layers. Highlights include Whistman’s Wood, composed by veteran sax guru John Surman, whose groundbreaking looping experiments of the early 70s echo here in spirit. Sailing And Drifting spirals around Phillip Glass-like arpeggios and rows of glowing harmonies. As melodies entwine, the embers of the slowly fading cycles contain a mesmeric quality that’s typical of the record’s approach. However, Travis’ ability to keep a tight focus and his persuasive playing ensure Open Air avoids any unwanted drift into bland, New Age redundancies, sparkling with a keen magic all its own.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.