Pick almost any two musicians covered within these pages and you can almost guarantee that they have played together at some point. The intricacies of the Canterbury scene provide much of the attraction, although they also make family trees very complex. This article looks at the lengthy association between bassist Hugh Hopper and saxophonist Elton Dean which started twenty years ago with the Soft Machine's experimental septet line-up. The two have collaborated on an astonishing fourteen albums, which is all the more surprising when you consider that all of Elton Dean's bands have used string bassists.
The list of record releases contained in this biography should be more or less comprehensive; the snippets of information about gigs, tours etc are such more likely to be incomplete: information has been derived from a confusing set of sources, often giving years of events, but not months. In addition it has proven difficult to track down details of some of the bands Elton Dean has played with: for instance the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Soldiers of the Road and a band rumoured to be called 'K', I also have no date for the Harry Beckett radio sessions which featured Dean and Courtney Pine, or a recent tour with Kenny Wheeler, For the family tree, please bear in mind that rarely has either musician been involved in only one project or band at a time - thus there is no strict chronological passage from one band to the next, This article could not have been achieved without Philippe Renaud's indispensable discography 'Notes' Thanks also to David Higginson and Hugh Hopper. Question: does anyone know what happened to 1982?
Both musicians are born in 1945, Elton Dean is born in Nottingham, but brought up in London, Hugh Hopper is educated at the Simon Langton school in Canterbury, which is to spawn the whole 'Canterbury Scene'.
Hugh Hopper, Robert Wyatt and Daevid Allen form a short-lived trio in London. At some point Mike Ratledge plays with the group. Allen leaves for Paris, to be joined far a while by Wyatt and Hopper, who develops a fascination with tape-loops.
Wilde Flowers are formed. Hopper stays with them until March 1967, during which time the band at various times include three-quarters of the original Caravan (the other member, David Sinclair joined on Hopper's departure) as well as Wyatt and Kevin Ayers from the original Soft Machine. The only constant member in the band's history is Hugh Hopper's brother Brian, who plays sax and guitar, Hugh Hopper also briefly plays sax between Christmas 1966 and his departure. Before this, however, the band record demos (still unreleased) which include an instrumental version of Hopper's 'Memories'.
With the Soft Machine becoming an integral part of the underground scene in London, Hopper becomes the Softs' roadie in late 1967, 'Memories' is again recorded amongst a collection of demos later to turn up as the 'Jet Propelled Photographs' LP, The band also play Hopper's 'Hope For Happiness' live. Meanwhile Elton Dean plays with Bluesology alongside Marc Charig, Lang John Baldry and Reg Dwight (who according to popular belief took the pseudonym Elton John after the association with Dean). One song from this era later turns up on 'RARE TRACKS' (Polydor 2483 274). Dean then joins the Keith Tippett Sextet, which begins a long association between him and Tippett, as well as teaming him up with Charig and Nick Evans, ever present in later bands.
In February, Hopper becomes the natural replacement far a burned out Kevin Ayers in the Soft Machine, joining Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge and soon recording 'VOLUME TWO' (Probe SPD 1002) with them, his vinyl debut. Brian Hopper adds saxophone on some tracks. A concert recording from an Amsterdam concert in March later turns up as a CD release: 'TURNS ON PARADISO' (Amazing Discs CDLP 1505) although it remains unsanctioned by the musicians involved. Hugh Hopper also contributes bass on Kevin Ayers' debut solo album 'JOY OF A TOY' (Harvest SHVL 763) along with Wyatt and Ratledge. The Soft Machine also provide uncredited backing on Syd Barrett's album 'THE MADCAP LAUGHS' (Harvest SHVL 765), Elton Dean records with Keith Tippett's Sextet on the album 'YOU ARE HERE I AM THERE' (Polydor 2384 004) in a line-up completed by Evans, Charig, Jeff Clyne (bass) and Alan Jackson (percussion). All these musicians bar Jackson also turn up on Julie Tippett's album '1969' (Polydor 1383 077) along with a host of other players, many later to play in Nucleus. In October, the horn section of Keith Tippett's Sextet (Dean, Charig, Evans) join the Soft Machine along with multi-instrurentalist Lyn Dobson. This septet tours briefly and records some impressive sessions for Radio 1, later to appear on 'TRIPLE ECHO' (Harvest SHTW 800), including the otherwise unreleased 'Mousetrap' and 'Eammon Andrews', By December, however, the experiment has been ended on financial grounds, although Dean and Dobson retain as full members of the line-up, and Evans will return to add trombone to the next album.
The Soft Machine record 'THIRD' (CBS 66246) with a basic line-up of Wyatt, Ratledge, Hopper, Dean and Dobson, Meanwhile, Elton Dean has concurrently formed Just Us, featuring himself, Evans Charig, Jeff Green (bass) and drummer Phil Howard. Lyn Dobson leaves the Soft Machine in February. In August the reduced line-up play as part of the Promenade Concerts, a performance captured by the BBC and later released as 'SOFT MACHINE LIVE At THE PROMS 1970' (Reck 5). Robert Wyatt briefly leaves the band, joining Kevin Ayers and the Whole World. Also during the summer he records a solo album 'THE END OF AN EAR' (CBS 64819) which features Elton Dean as well as Marc Charig and Caravan's David Sinclair. Wyatt rejoins the Soft Machine and in the autumn the band record 'FOURTH' (CBS 64280), Dean records again with Keith Tippett on 'DEDICATED TO YOU BUT YOU WEREN'T LISTENING' (Vertigo 6360024), an album on which Wyatt, Evans and Charig also re-appear.
The Soft Machine continue to gig as a quartet despite Wyatt's growing disaffection. In May, Dean records his first solo work: 'ELTON DEAN' (CBS 64539), principally with members of Just Us. In June, Dean is one of about 50 musicians involved with the Centipede project (Wyatt is another) which records a double album: 'SEPTOBER ENERGY' (Neon NE3). In September, Robert Wyatt is sacked from the Soft Machine and replaced by Just Us drummer Phil Howard. The new line-up records the first half of the album 'FIFTH' (CBS 64806) Meanwhile, Centipede tour and Elton Dean contributes to two further albums: 'HEADS, HANDS AND FEET' (Capitol 608) and 'REG KING' (UAS 29157).
In January, Phil Howard leaves the Softs to be replaced by Nucleus drummer John Marshall. The band complete 'Fifth'. In May Dean also leaves to play with Just Us on a full-time basis. However, Howard leaves Just Us in October and the group struggle to survive financially. Dean records on the Mike Hugg album 'SOMEWHERE' (Polydor 2382 213), Towards the end of the year, the new Softs' line-up with Karl Jenkins (also ex-Nucleus) record the double album 'SIX' (CBS 68214).
Hugh Hopper records his first solo album '1984' (CBS 65466). Largely experimental, it is very much a solo venture, although John Marshall, Lol Coxhill, Gary Windo and Nick Evans all guest. Hopper leaves the Soft Machine in March. Shortly afterwards he joins Stomu Yamasht'a's band East Wind, where he collaborates with Gary Boyle for the first time, on the album 'FREEDOM IS FRIGHTENING' (Island ILPS 9242). In July Elton Dean joins Supersister, a Dutch fusion band. He also contributes to a second Mike Hugg album, 'STRESS AND STRAIN' (Polydor 2371 109). Hugh Hopper makes a further series of solo recordings which would form the first hall of his second LP.
Elton Dean leaves Supersister in February. In March he again teams up with Hugh Hopper to record the second half of the latter's LP 'MONSTER BAND' (Atmosphere IRI 5003), taken from a gig in Bordeaux. The line-up is completed by drummer Mike Travis and two French musicians, although gigs in the same month also feature Laurie Allen and Lol Coxhill. Hopper also records a second album with Stomu Yamasht'a; 'ONE BY ONE' (Island ILPS 9269) and plays bass on much of Robert Wyatt's comeback album 'ROCK BOTTOM' (Virgin V2017), Hopper joins Gary Boyle's band Isotope, replacing Jeff Clyne, and plays bass on their second album 'ILLUSION' (Gull 1006). Much of the material on it has already appeared in different forms on the 'Monster Band' LP. Meanwhile, Elton Dean has joined the Blue Flames, a backing band for a Georgie Fame tour, Dean also makes an appearance an Alexis Korner's 'MR BLUES' (Polydor 2371 109), along with Nick Evans.
In January, Elton Dean forms Ninesense, an ambitious project dominated by six prodigious horn players; Dean and Alan Skidmore on saxophones, Radu Malfatti and Nick Evans on trombones, Marc Charig and Mongezi Feza on trumpets, Keith Tippett is the pianist, Harry Miller plays double bass and Louis Moholo drums. Before the end of the year, Just Us would be swallowed up by Ninesense: the last Just Us gigs feature Ninesense members Miller and Tippett, and only Jeff Green does not appear in the larger ensemble. Elton Dean also guests for at least one Hatfield and the North gig, along with Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers. Hugh Hopper, meanwhile, tours with Isotope.
An extraordinarily busy year for Elton Dean in particular, In March, Hugh Hopper leaves Isotope, having laid down many of the bass parts for 'DEEP END' (Gull 1017), When the album eventually emerges however, Hopper features only on one track; 'Fonebone', which he also wrote. Also in March, Ninesense make their vinyl debut 'OH! FOR THE EDGE' (Ogun OG 900), recorded live in London. The band for this concert is in fact an eight-piece, with Radu Malfatti being absent, and Harry Beckett becoming the second trumpeter on the death of Mongezi Feza. In June Hugh Hopper completes his third solo album 'HOPPERTUNITY BOX' (Compendium Fidardo 7), calling on Dean, Charig, Dave Stewart, Gary Windo and several ex-associates from Isotope. Shortly afterwards Hopper and Dean record on more equal terms in a quartet with Keith Tippett and Joe Gallivan (drums/synth). The album is called 'CRUEL BUT FAIR' (Fidardo 7). In the meantime, Elton Dean gigs with Chris MacGregor's Brotherhood of Breath along with many of Ninesense, and in May is involved in the premier concert of Keith Tippett's Ark, at the time a mere 11-piece. Dean also appears on two further albums: the Intercontinental Express album 'LONDON' (Fidardo 8) along with Gallivan, Evans, Charles Austin and Ronnie Scott amongst others; and another Julie Tippetts album 'SUNSET GLOW' (Utopia Buli 1248) again with the stalwarts from Ninesense. In November, whilst Hugh Hopper is gigging with Carla Bley, Mike Mantler and Gary Windo, another London concert is recorded for release, by the Elton Dean Quartet, 'THEY ALL BE ON THIS OLD ROAD' (Ogun OG 410) features Keith Tippett, Louis Moholo and bassist Chris Laurence. Dean finishes the year by gigging with Moholo's band Culture Shock.
Another busy year. Three albums appear under Elton Dean's name: the first is recorded in February by a new band featuring two saxophonists, Elton Dean and Alan Skidmore, 'EL SKID' (Vinyl VS 103) also features drummer John Marshall and bassist Chris Laurence. The association with Joe Gallivan continues, not only in gigs abroad to promote 'Cruel But Fair' (one of these, in May, is broadcast on German radio), but also with the release of the album 'THE CHEQUE IS IN THE MAIL' (Ogun OG 610), recorded in March, with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler as the third member of the trio. Ninesense record their second album 'HAPPY DAZE' (Ogun OG 910) in July, with Radu Malfatti returning to the fold. Dean, along with Keith Tippett and Nick Evans appears on one track on the Dudu Pukwana album 'DIAMOND EXPRESS' (Freedom FLP 41044). Amidst all this activity, Dean and Hopper appear together in Carla Bley's band of largely American musicians which records 'EUROPEAN TOUR 1977' (Virgin watt 8).
In April a new Hopper/Dean outfit, Soft Head tour France with the Gilgamesh keyboard player Alan Gowen and drummer Dave Sheen. One gig is recorded for posterity and appears as 'ROGUE ELEMENT' (Ogun 0527). Amongst the tracks are a superb re-working of the Ninesense number 'Seven For Lee' and an almost unrecognisable re-hash of 'Seven Drones' from 'Cruel But Fair'. In May, Dean gigs with an expanded version of Ark, who record the double album 'FRAMES' (Ogun OGD 003/4), In June, Hugh Hopper again teams up with Alan Gowen to record the second Gilgamesh album 'ANOTHER FINE TUNE YOU'VE GOT ME INTO' (Charly CRL 5009) with guitarist Phil lee and drummer Trevor Tomkins. In August, the latest Ninesense offshoot, the Sextet (Tippett, Dean, Moholo, Evans, Charig and bassist Paul Rogers) perform in London. Soft Head becomes Soft Heap when Pip Pyle replaces Dave Sheen. The result is the album 'SOFT HEAP' (Charly CRL 5014). Pip Pyle is concurrently gigging with National Health.
Ninesense continue to gig, Dean, Charig and Evans appear with a new un-named band with drummer John Stevens and bassist Barry Guy in November. Soft Heap tour Scotland and the north of England with a new bassist, John Greaves, Elton Dean is thus the only member not currently with National Health (similarly, Phil Miller is the only National Health member not with Soft Heap).
Elton Dean records 'BOUNDARIES' (Japo 60033) with a new bassist, Marcio Mattos alongside the more familiar faces of Keith Tippett, Marc Charig and Louis Moholo, in June and July, Hugh Hopper and Alan Gowen record their final album together: 'TWO RAINBOWS DAILY' (Red Records Rouge 1).
Hugh Hopper enters the Mother Gong fold in the summer of 1981, and has a hand in the album 'ROBOT WOMAN (Butt 003), He plays bass on two tracks, one of which, 'Customs Man', he co-writes. Hopper also appears on Didier Malherbe's second solo project 'MELODIC DESTINY' (Gas tape OT1). In October, following the death of Alan Gowen, National Health re-form to record in album of his music, Elton Dean is amongst the guests an 'DS AL CODA' (Europa JP 2008).
Soft Heap reform with a line-up of John Greaves, Pip Pyle, Elton Dean and Mark Hewins. They play gigs in July and record for the BBC, Meanwhile, Phil Miller forms In Cahoots, initially as an outlet for improvisation for its members: Miller, Pyle, Dean, keyboardist Peter Lemer and ex-Hatfield colleague Richard Sinclair. This line-up also makes a BBC radio session, this time in November. Also in November, Hugh Hopper and Richard Sinclair record their as yet unreleased and untitled album, featuring a feast of new songs with distinctively quirky vocals.
In January Elton Dean records a radio session with his quintet. In Cahoots continue to tour, and make another session appearance in February. Hugh Hopper cuts a demo with Rick Biddulph and Mike Travis under the name 'North and South'. A Hugh Hopper composition, 'Amber and the Amberines' appears on the Robert Wyatt EP 'WORK IN PROGRESS' and later the album '1982-4' (Rough Trade RTSP 25). Elton Dean appears on the Ken Hyder album 'UNDER THE INFLUENCE' (Konnex ST 5001) along with Paul Rodgers, Ted Emmett, Chris Biscoe and Nick Evans. In October, Keith Tippett's Septet perform their Arts Council funded masterpiece 'A LOOSE KITE IN A GENTLE WIND FLOATING WITH ONLY MY WILL FOR AN ANCHOR' (Ogun OGD 007/8), recorded in Exeter and broadcast on Radio 3, although appearing on vinyl only later as a double album. The line-up is Tippett, Charig, Evans, Dean, Rodgers, with Larry Stabbins on sax and Tony Levin on drums. Towards the end of the year, Pip Pyle forms his own band Equip Out, along with both Dean and Hopper, as well as saxophonist Didier Malherbe and keyboard player Sophia Domancich.
The second Hopper/Dean/Tippett/Gallivan album 'MERCY DASH' (Culture Press CP 2001) is completed, although some of the material dates back to their initial collaboration. Amongst the tracks is a re-working of 'Calyx', originally written by Phil Miller for Hatfield and the North and Robert Wyatt. In February, the Elton Dean Quintet again appear on the radio. In Cahoots tour Holland in March. In April the EDQ tour Italy and record 'THE BOLOGNA TAPE' (Ogun 530) with a new line-up of Dean, Harry Beckett, Nick Evans, Marcio Mattos and drummer Liam Genocky. The same line-up record two tracts for the tape 'HORIZONS' which accompanies Phil Renaud's discography 'Notes'. Also in April Equipe Out play in France. In May Hugh Hopper plays live with Oddjob in Holland, a band which also features Phil Miller, Geoff Leigh and numerous Dutch musicians. Hugh Hopper replaces Richard Sinclair in In Cahoots, He also forms a new band: Goes Dutch, with Kees van Veldhuizen (alto/soprano saxes), Frank van der Kooy (tenor sax), Dionys Breukers (keyboards) and Pieter Bast (drums). In September the Mad Axe Quartet are formed. They play only one gig (at the Bull and Gate in London) with a line-up of Hugh Hopper, Lol Coxhill, Mark Hewins and Dave Sheen. October and November see Equipe Out record their debut album 'EQUIPE OUT' (52 Rue Est RE 004) although it is not released until 1987. The first of the In Cahoots contributions to the debut Phil Miller album are recorded in November, with radio sessions following in December. In addition, Elton Dean appears on a Harry Beckett album 'PICTURES OF YOU' (Paladin Pal 2) along with future Earthworks bassist Mick Hutton, Pete Sabberton and Tony Marsh. Hugh Hopper records a demo with vocalist John Atkinson.
In January Hugh Hopper plays with the Patrice Meyer Quartet. In Cahoots tour Holland and Germany in May with a line-up of Hopper/ Dean/ Miller/ Lemer/ Pyle. Hopper contributes to the Patrice Meyer album 'DROMEDAIRE VIENNOIS' (FMR 0906) in a band which also includes Pip Pyle, He also appears on the eponymous 'ANAID' album. Hopper's band Goes Dutch tours Holland and Belgium. In March Elton Dean records a new live record whilst on tour in Brazil with his quintet. 'WELCOMET' (Impetus 18615) features Dean, Beckett, Mattos, Genocky and Paul Rutherford on trombone. In November the Patrice Meyer Trio tour Britain for the first tine; guitarist Meyer is again joined by Hopper and Pyle.
Equipe Out continue to gig and Goes Dutch again tour Belgium and Holland. In October Lindsay Cooper, most readily associated with Henry Cow, premieres her work 'Oh Moscow', co-written with Sally Potter, in Zurich. The bassist for this project is Hugh Hopper. In Cahoots record a further piece for Phil Miller's debut album 'CUTTING BOTH WAYS' (Impetus IMP 18615) in November, although the band that tour England in the same month feature a new keyboard player, Steve Franklin, who replaces Peter Lemer. Elton Dean also features on a radio session by the Music Doctors, a band established around Mark Hewins and Johnny Oslo, but on this occasion featuring both Dean and Lol Coxhill.
Hugh Hopper plays his last gig with In Cahoots in February. He is replaced by Fred Baker. In July the new In Cahoots line-up of Dean/Miller/Pyle/Franklin/Baker record pieces for the second Phil Miller album 'SPLIT SECONDS' (Reck 8). Elton Dean completes the 'DUOS' cassette (ED Tapes) which sees him collaborate with Mark Hewins, Keith Tippett, Marcio Mattos and pianist Howard Riley. By now, Hopper, Dean and Malherbe have all left Equipe Out. Hugh Hopper plays with Low Flying Aircraft, a group led by Tippett and former King Crimson violinist David Cross, although he does not appear on their eponymous debut album. Radio sessions by the Elton Dean Quartet feature a new line-up of Mark Hewins, Marcio Mattos and drummer Mark Sanders.
In February, Lindsay Cooper's 'Oh Moscow' is performed in East and West Berlin. The plan is to eventually make a film and album around the work.. A further Elton Dean cassette emerges; 'TRIOS' (ED Tapes) with Keith Tippett, Marcio Mattos, Howard Riley and John Etheridge. Dean also receives an Arts Council grant for a projected work for four saxophonists. Hugh Hopper leads his own band which plays Holland in September. The line-up is Hopper, Patrice Meyer, Pieter Bast, Frank van der Kooy and Dionys Breukers, Hopper also appears on the Anaid album 'BELLADONNA' (03 JM). In Cahoots play European and London concerts in the autumn promote the 'Split Seconds' album. November sees Hugh Hopper perform with Lindsay Cooper in Canada, In December, Elton Dean tours England with a quartet also featuring John Etheridge, Fred Baker and drummer Mark Summers.