Elton Dean: Moorsong

It may seem strange that half of the new CD by British experimental-jazz saxophonist Elton Dean sounds like a stab for the opening slot on Medeski, Martin and Wood’s next tour, but it’s true: Moorsong is primarily an organ-driven jam-band album. Dean was a member of rock-jazzers Soft Machine from 1969 to 1972, however, and despite his long history of playing free and avant-garde jazz, he has groove deep in the heart.

Dean is the man who way back when provided the stage surname for Eminem’s best friend, Elton John (the two played together in the mid-’60s band Bluesology), and the saxophonist gets positively flamboyant and funky on Moorsong’s first five tracks. Hammond organist Alex Maguire dominates the album’s first half with the sort of barroom-organ grinding heard more often on those Blue Note rare-groove records than a Dean album.

Moorsong comes down from it’s giddy high on tracks six and seven, “Reel Welders” and “Soldering On,” with Dean and bassist Fred T. Baker, guitarist Mark Hewins and drummer Mark Sanders leaving the organ grooves behind for moodier free improv. The CD closes with the title track, a duet between Dean and Hewins that is a tribute to Pink Floyd’s original leader, Syd Barrett. Like Syd, Moorsong is a bit schizophrenic, but there’s some genius lurking in there.