Reviews that mention John Butcher

November 7, 2019

Phil Minton/John Butcher/Gino Robair

Blasphemious Fragments
Rastascan BR 0076

180°

Submental

Splitrec 29

MétamOrphée

MétamOrphée

Free Sonne rnf 05

Defining who is a Jazz singer has long been a mug’s game, subject to all sorts of ifs and buts. However determining who is an improving vocalist is more straightforward – mostly through elimination. If recognizable words are lacking, melody and rhythm are secondary and vocal gymnastics include retches, yelps and other non-pleasant sounds, the case is strongly made for inclusion. Just as convincing, as free-form instrumentalist work out a particular program to expand creativity, so do advanced voice artists, as the British, French and Australian stylists here demonstrate. MORE

August 28, 2019

Pat Thomas/John Butcher/Ståle Liavik Solberg

Fictional Souvenirs
Astral Spirits MF 191/AS 088

ism

Metaphor

Umlaut Records umcd 0030

Equally proficient expressing his ideas on piano or with electronics, the UK’s Pat Thomas appears to have developed conflicting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-like strategies for either acoustic or processing improvisations. On Metaphor for instance, Thomas who has worked with everyone from Derek Bailey to Spring Heel Jack, fully assimilates the role of a pianist commuted to swinging FreeBop, assisted by Swedish bassist Joel Grip and French drummer Antonin Gerbal. The six remembrances displayed on Fictional Souvenirs however meld the oscillated jitters and wiggling wave forms from Thomas’ Moog Theremini and IPad-based electronics with the distinctive reed facility of fellow Londoner soprano and tenor saxophonist John Butcher and percussion sprawls from Norwegian drummer Ståle Liavik Solberg. MORE

July 24, 2019

John Butcher/Phillipe Lauzier/Éric Normand

How Does This Happen?
Ambiance Magnétiques AM 247 CD

Undoubtedly one of the most successful encounters Québécois have had with a British citizen since 1759, this live CD captures the close musical cooperation among London-based tenor and soprano saxophonist John Butcher, Montreal-based bass clarinetist Philippe Lauzier and electric bassist Éric Normand from Rimouski.

With Lauzier and Normand part of a contingent of forward-looking local players who have forged international connections, How Does This Happen’s two five-part instant compositions were recorded live during concerts in Montreal and Ottawa. Closely connected minimalist improvisations which have seen Butcher playing with numerous fellow sound explorers in Europe, North America and Asia, many of the tracks depend on the two reed players floating barely-there vibrations, while Normand’s bass and object shuffling provide the balancing fulcrum on which tones balance while peeping or trilling. While the majority of reed tones divide into smaller and smaller units as they’re pushed forward, multiphonic explosions are prominent at points as well. Case in point is “En consequence III”, where strained reed puffs and nearly inaudible bass thumps soon evolve into regular rumbles as an electronic-tinged continuum, allowing full reign to upwards twisting, irregular vibrations from both saxophone and clarinet. The climatic “En consequence V” intensifies these brief reflective motifs into harsher reed honks and band saw-like bass string buzzing into more pressurized yet sonically descriptive narrative. MORE

May 12, 2019

Joe McPhee/John Butcher

At The Hill of James Magee
Trost TR174 CD

Jason Kao Hwang Burning Bridge

Blood

True Sound Recordings TS1

GGRIL

Façons

Microcid 014

Ulrich Mitzlaff

Sonic Miniatures about Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

Creative Sources CS 531 CD

Larry Ochs-Gerald Cleaver

Songs of the Wild Cave

RogueArt ROG 0084

Something in the Air: Inventive Improvisational Inspirations Are Infinite

By Ken Waxman
MORE

May 12, 2019

GGRIL

Façons
Microcid 014

Jason Kao Hwang Burning Bridge

Blood

True Sound Recordings TS1

Ulrich Mitzlaff

Sonic Miniatures about Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

Creative Sources CS 531 CD

Larry Ochs-Gerald Cleaver

Songs of the Wild Cave

RogueArt ROG 0084

Joe McPhee/John Butcher

At The Hill of James Magee

Trost TR174 CD

Something in the Air: Inventive Improvisational Inspirations Are Infinite
MORE

December 12, 2018

Keiji Haino/John Butcher

Light Never Bright Enough
OTORokuo18 CD

Konstrukt & Keiji Haino

A Philosophy Warping, Little By Little That Way Lies in a Quagmire

Karlrecords KR052

Likely the musician who has got the most mileage out of an all-black wardrobe – complete with dark sunglasses – since Johnny Cash and Jim Morrison, guitarist Keiji Haino may be the sort of player that could only have appeared from Japan’s distinctive culture. Initially a theatre performer, his pseudo-psychedelic playing, often augmented with other instruments and vocals have earned him a reputation in Rock, Noise and Free Jazz circles, collaborating with everyone from Derek Bailey and Charles Gayle to Merzbow and Oren Ambarchi. Recoded during the same year in widely different circumstances, A Philosophy Warping, Little By Little That Way Lies in a Quagmire (whew!) and Light Never Bright Enough offer conflicting glimpses of his work. MORE

November 16, 2018

The Open Secret: John Butcher/Gino Robair/Dieb 13

Geography for Plays
Rastascan BRD069

Blume/De Joode/Butcher

Low Yellow

Jazz Werkstatt JW 184

Opposite sides of the Free Music coin, what these international improvising trios have in common is the talents of British reedist John Butcher. Low Yellow could be described as a classic Free Music session featuring the London-based Butcher on tenor saxophone with Dortmund-based percussionist Martin Blume and Amsterdam bassist Wilbert de Joode. Geography for Plays on the other hand centres on electronic impulses, with Butcher playing tenor and soprano saxophones plus feedback, Vienna’s dieb13 employing turntables and computer, while Californian Gino Robair is engaged with energized surfaces, prepared piano and the Blippoo Box, an analogue synthesizer with twin digital shift registers. MORE

November 16, 2018

Blume/De Joode/Butcher

Low Yellow
Jazz Werkstatt JW 184

The Open Secret: John Butcher/Gino Robair/Dieb 13

Geography for Plays

Rastascan BRD069

Opposite sides of the Free Music coin, what these international improvising trios have in common is the talents of British reedist John Butcher. Low Yellow could be described as a classic Free Music session featuring the London-based Butcher on tenor saxophone with Dortmund-based percussionist Martin Blume and Amsterdam bassist Wilbert de Joode. Geography for Plays on the other hand centres on electronic impulses, with Butcher playing tenor and soprano saxophones plus feedback, Vienna’s dieb13 employing turntables and computer, while Californian Gino Robair is engaged with energized surfaces, prepared piano and the Blippoo Box, an analogue synthesizer with twin digital shift registers. MORE

November 6, 2018

Okkyung Lee

Cheol-Kkot-Sae [Steel.Flower.Bird]
Tzadik TZ 4923

Big Bold Back Bone

In Search of the Emerging Species

Shhpuma SSH 032 CD

The Cluttertones

Leeway

SnailBongBong SBB 005

Elliott Sharp’s Carbon

Transmigration at the Solar Max

Intakt CD 311

Pavillon Rouge

Solution n⸰5

LFDS Records LFDS 006

Something in the Air: Eclectic: Electronics stretches the definition of Innovative Music

By Ken Waxman

At least when it comes to exploratory music old definitions no longer apply. Only on the equivalent of a rigid Doug Ford-like populist disc will you find players insisting on one style, be it rock, noise, jazz-improv or so-called classical. Accomplished improvisers in contrast draw on many sources to create unique musical programs, with sophisticated electronics regularly and effortlessly added to the mix. MORE

December 26, 2017

Butcher/Edwards/Sanders

Last Dream of the Morning
Relative Pitch Records RPR 1056

Dominic Lash Quartet

Extremophile

Iluso Records IRCD 006

Two generations of high-quality British improvisers demonstrate on these CDs that the characteristic inventiveness of players drawn to the gene hasn’t lessened even if the country goes through political-existential crises like Brexit. Although the seven players involved are actually close in age, the British with their mania for classification have, more than improvisers from other countries, insisted on where in a chronology their improvisers fit. Thus Last Dream of the Morning by saxophonist John Butcher, bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders featured five tracks from designated second generation improvisers. Extremophile recorded a three month earlier in 2016 is deemed to be by a quartet of third-generation improvisers: reedist Ricardo Tejero, bassist Dominic Lash, percussionist Javier Carmona and Alex Ward on guitar and clarinet. Although the Spanish background of two of the quartet’s players may superficially mark a change, the largest difference between the dates is Ward’s instruments. Butcher/Edwards/Sanders specialize in cerebral, close-knit micro interactions. Forthright electric guitar interchanges define Extremophile in a contrasting fashion. MORE

December 21, 2017

Guelph Jazz Festival

September 13-17, 2017
By Ken Waxman

Striding confidentially towards its 2018 silver anniversary, this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF) was invigorated with choice concerts throughout this Ontario college town. There were artists from the United States and Europe, yet two of the notable performances were from Canadian bands. Underlying their set at the Silence arts space September 15 with processed whooshes, pulses and hums, the Montreal-based members of Jane and the Magic Banana (JMB) found that sweet spot where punk attitude, tremolo oscillations and free experimentation locked together. Consisting of guitarist Sam Shalabi, electric bassist Alexandre St-Onge and drummer Michel F. Côté, all of whom used electronic processing JMB set was characterized by quick manipulation of a continuous drone which never sacrificed narrative for effects. Two nights later at the Cooperators Hall (CH), River Run Centre the Medham quartet playing a bracing set which nearly overwhelmed with ingenuity while adhering most closely to jazz conventions. With one dozen tunes given body by steady slaps or buzzing Arco from bassist Nicolas Caloia matched by the patterning groove from drummer Isaiah Ciccarelli, these two Montrealers, plus a third, growling baritone saxophonist Jason Sharp provided the backing and in Sharp’s rippling blasts, the challenge, to Vancouver-based violinist Josh Zubot’s slick, staccato horn-like sweeps. Dazzling as he swept or plucked his strings as the rhythm section output a connective beat, the violinist replied in kind to any sonic provocation from the others. MORE

September 8, 2017

Anemone

A Wing Dissolved in Light
NoBusiness Records NBLP 105

Toxic

This is Beautiful because we are Beautiful People

ESP-Disk ESP 5011

Brötzmann/Swell/Nilssen-Love

Krakow Nights

Not Two MW-937-2

BassDrumBone

The Long Road

Auricle Records AUR 16/17

Something in the Air: New Excitement at the Guelph Jazz Festival

By Ken Waxman

After a couple of quiet years the annual Guelph Festival (GJF), September 13 to September 17, is newly energized and asserting its role as one of Canada’s most consistent showcases of adventurous music. Another reason for this year’s buzz is that besides the outstanding Canadian and American musicians consistently featured at the GJF, major European improvisers will be on hand as well. MORE

June 29, 2017

John Butcher & Ståle Liavik Solberg

So beautiful, it starts to Rain
Clean Feed CF390 CD

Urs Leimgruber/Roger Turner

The Spirit Guide

Creative Works Records CW 1062

Jazz and improvised music, in common with many other spheres, have enough history to develop particular archetypes which are continuously cited in certain situations. For instance it seems that every set of improvisations featuring a saxophonist and a percussionist invariably gets compared to John Coltrane’s classic duets with Rashied Ali. But like totems no longer applicable for present times, the Trane-Ali duets have the same relevance to these saxophone-drums CDs as a Dizzy Gillespie trumpet solo would have to one by Axel Dörner. The instrument is the same, but the concept and intent are different. MORE

May 13, 2017

Trio Kimmig/Studrr/Zimmerlin and John Butcher

Raw
Leo Records CD LR 766

Rémy Bélanger de Beauport

D’éclisses
Ambiances Magnétiques AM 233 CD

Fred Lonberg-Holm/Adam Golebiewski

Relephant

Borcian Records No #

Fred Lonberg-Holm/Adam Golebiewski

Relephant

Borcian Records No #

Ugly Beauties

Strange Attractors

No Label No #

Something in the Air: The Cello Comes Into Its Own

By Ken Waxman

Heir to a long and prominent role in notated music, exploration of the cello as a front line partner has a shorter history in improvised music. Yet like a visual artist’s apprentice who subsequently envisages novel ways to utilize painterly techniques that surpass earlier conventions, today improvisers’ cello showcases expose the four-string instrument in a multitude of unexpected and interactive situations. MORE

October 6, 2016

RED Trio with John Butcher

Summer Skyshift
Clean Feed CF 372 CD

Roscoe Mitchell Trio

Angel City

RogueArt ROG-0061

Ensemble SuperMusique

Les accords intuitifs

Ambiances Magnétiques AM 222

Jack DeJohnette

In Movement

ECM 2488

Tarasov/Kanevičius/Mockūnas

Intuitus

NoBusiness NBLP 92/93

Something in the Air: Interpreting Roscoe Mitchell’s Challenging and Influential Music

By Ken Waxman

Confirming one again the continued vitality of the first generation of Free Music avatars, at 76, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell is still innovating with divergent aspects of, instrumentation and arrangements. One demonstration of this occurs Sunday October 16, when he leads a mixed, 15-member, Montreal-Toronto ensembles through several of his composition a part of the Music Gallery’s annual X-Avant Festival. Other components of note include concerts by the likes of composer Pauline Oliveros and violinist Sarah Neufeld, but Mitchell, co-founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC), and a stalwart of Chicago’s the Association For the Advancement of Creative Musicians, has a long relationship with Toronto going back to the early 1970s when he recorded some ground-breaking LPs in the city. MORE

October 6, 2015

S4

Cold Duck
MonotypeRec Mono 096

By Ken Waxman

No relation to the sparkling wine of the same name Cold Duck is instead a series of nine biting improvisations by S4, an ad-hoc, all-star quartet of soprano saxophone innovators – one British, John Butcher – and the others Swiss: Urs Leimgruber, Hans Koch and Christian Kobi, the last of whom is also a member of the all-saxophone Konus Quartett, which interprets notated music.

Designated by Roman numerals, Cold Duck’s tracks, lasting from barely one minute to more than 12, could be the auditory sound track of an experimental ornithologist’s laboratory. But unlike such trial and error endeavors, the quartet deliberately creates timbres that range from police-whistle harshness to fipple-like songbird echoes, with a goodly collection of tongue slaps, tongue pops and snorts thrown in for good measure. At the same time its skill is such that “III” is harmonized as intimately as if by a bel-canto choir, but open enough so that every strain, partial and split tone is audible as the four work through tonal variations. Severing and re-attaching with plasticine-like continuity on “VII”, tremolo whines and lip burbles maintain a shrill pitch until the final moment when one sharp tone push the other reeds into more comfortable interaction. Then on the extended “IV”, S4 members pump air bubbles through their horns with a velocity that resembles electronic processing. After the narrative is magnified enough, it’s squeezed like a balloon, slowly deflating as growls and yelps mix with puffs and squeaks. Subsequently united circular breathing leads to an aural rainbow-like expansion of tonal colours involving all four. MORE

June 1, 2015

Fred Frith & John Butcher

The Natural Order
Northern Spy Records NS 060

Fred Frith/Michel Doneda

Frith-Doneda

Vand'Oeuvre 1440

Four decades after he made his name in so-called AvantRock with the bands Henry Cow and the Art Bears, Sussex-born guitarist Fred Frith now spends more time immersed in experimental music as composition professor at the Bay area’s Mills College as well as in improvising situations with international associates. Nonpareil Frith improv, as has become evident over time, involves leveraging away from song and/or Rock influences while performing with no more than two or three associates. MORE

April 13, 2014

John Butcher/Leonel Kaplan/Christof Kurzmann

Shortening Distances
L’innomable 2013/No #

The Apophonics

On Air

Weight of Wax Wow 05

Common Objects

Live in Morden Tower

Mikroton CD 29

There’s a probing consistency in British saxophonist John Butcher’s music, with the following of unexpected paths one of its chief listening pleasures. Like many other peripatetic improvisers, the London-based soprano and tenor saxophonist is involved with many other musicians, yet as these sessions demonstrate, he maintains a consistency of approach. MORE

April 13, 2014

The Apophonics

On Air
Weight of Wax Wow 05

Common Objects

Live in Morden Tower

Mikroton CD 29

John Butcher/Leonel Kaplan/Christof Kurzmann

Shortening Distances

L’innomable 2013/No #

There’s a probing consistency in British saxophonist John Butcher’s music, with the following of unexpected paths one of its chief listening pleasures. Like many other peripatetic improvisers, the London-based soprano and tenor saxophonist is involved with many other musicians, yet as these sessions demonstrate, he maintains a consistency of approach. MORE

April 13, 2014

Common Objects

Live in Morden Tower
Mikroton CD 29

John Butcher/Leonel Kaplan/Christof Kurzmann

Shortening Distances

L’innomable 2013/No #

The Apophonics

On Air

Weight of Wax Wow 05

There’s a probing consistency in British saxophonist John Butcher’s music, with the following of unexpected paths one of its chief listening pleasures. Like many other peripatetic improvisers, the London-based soprano and tenor saxophonist is involved with many other musicians, yet as these sessions demonstrate, he maintains a consistency of approach. MORE

February 6, 2014

The Laycock Duos

Christian Asplund
Comprovise Records 20/304

High quality souvenirs of a unique Improviser Residencies program at Utah’s Brigham Young University, the five performances on this CD not only demonstrate the creativity of accomplished international players, but also the clever interaction of each with pianist/violist Christian Asplund. A native of Kingston, Ont. Asplund has taught at BYU since 2002.

Although there’s conceptional rapprochement between Asplund and instrumentalists such as clarinetist Bill Smith and trombonist Stuart Dempster whose expertise is more on the New music side of the continuum, the less stiff and more sympathetic pieces here involve full-time committed improvisers. Lengthier than any of the other tracks at nearly 20½ minutes, The Secret Substance finds Asplund using extended techniques to complete British tenor saxophonist John Butcher’s staccato-to-mellow output. Strummed piano keys meld with continuously breathed timbres at some points; as do sprawling, sul ponticello fiddle slices with reed tongue slaps at others. The end results produce dual resonations that widen the dynamic range as they meld. MORE

December 8, 2013

Butcher/Buck/Mayas/Stangl

Plume
Unsounds 35u

Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton

Live at Maya Recordings Festival

NoBusiness NBCD 55

Michel Doneda/Joris Rühl

Linge

Umlaut Records umfrcd 07

Lori Freedman & John Heward

On No On

Mode Avant 16

Matt Mitchell

Fiction

Pi Recordings PI50

Kidd Jordan & Hamid Drake

A Night in November Live in New Orleans

Valid Records VR-1015

Paul Bley Trio
MORE

November 8, 2013

Festival Report

Crak Festival Paris
By Ken Waxman

Completed in the mid-16th Century in the flamboyant gothic style, the mammoth and solid Eglise St-Merry characterizes the Beauborg area on the right bank of Paris as much as the nearby ornate 19th century Hôtel de Ville and the brutalist, high-tech architecture of 1977’s Centre Georges Pompidou. During the second annual Crak Festival September 26-29 however, St-Merry’s musty arches, pulpits and 30-foot-high ceilings served as an unexpected backdrop for sounds from the 20th and 21st centuries and beyond. MORE

April 11, 2013

Way Out Northwest

The White Spot
Relative Pitch RPR 1006

Perhaps it should be called a North American Free Improv Agreement or NAFIA. Every time experimental British saxophonist plays in the northwestern part of this continent his trio is made up of two Vancouver-based players: bassist Tortsten Müller and drummer Dylan van der Schyff. Listening to the nine pitch-perfect improvisations on this disc demonstrates why this configuration has been maintained since 2007.

The veteran bassist, who is perfectly capable of atonal string-stretching and scrubbed pulsations, is careful to maintain a connective pumping throughout. Liberated by that stance, the drummer has the freedom for strategic moves involving everything from cymbal snaps and woodblock clipping, the better to complement Butcher’s narratives. MORE

February 28, 2013

John Butcher

Bell Trove Spools
Northern Spy NSCD 032

John Butcher/Matthew Shipp

At Oto

Fataka 2

Expressive in distinct ways, these CDs by British soprano and tenor saxophonist John Butcher not only expand understanding of his distinctive solo playing, but on one session also demonstrates how he reacts in a duo situation with a free player from a parallel tradition.

That CD is At Oto, and the other musician is New York pianist Matthew Shipp. Shipp is known for his work with the most committed exponents of the tough and vociferous Free Jazz tradition as well as electro-oriented experimenters who flirt with Rock and Hip-Hop beats. Butcher, on the other hand, whose list of collaborators, is as extensive as Shipp’s, comes from the cerebral and hushed Free Music tradition, where improvisers share concepts with notated musicians, especially when it comes to utilizing electronics. MORE

February 28, 2013

John Butcher/Matthew Shipp

At Oto
Fataka 2

John Butcher

Bell Trove Spools

Northern Spy NSCD 032

Expressive in distinct ways, these CDs by British soprano and tenor saxophonist John Butcher not only expand understanding of his distinctive solo playing, but on one session also demonstrates how he reacts in a duo situation with a free player from a parallel tradition.

That CD is At Oto, and the other musician is New York pianist Matthew Shipp. Shipp is known for his work with the most committed exponents of the tough and vociferous Free Jazz tradition as well as electro-oriented experimenters who flirt with Rock and Hip-Hop beats. Butcher, on the other hand, whose list of collaborators, is as extensive as Shipp’s, comes from the cerebral and hushed Free Music tradition, where improvisers share concepts with notated musicians, especially when it comes to utilizing electronics. MORE

July 6, 2012

Interview:

Veryan Weston
By Ken Waxman

London-based pianist Veryan Weston is a well-travelled musician who regularly turns up in a variety of free music situations in the United Kingdom and aboard. Best-known for his long associations with iconoclastic saxophonist Lol Coxhill and distinctive vocalist Phil Minton, Weston has also spent time in various ensembles with, among others, drummer Eddie Prévost, saxophonist John Butcher and is sometimes a member of the London Improvisers Orchestra. Weston and British alto saxophonist Trevor Watts are playing at the Stone this month as part of a duo tour of the US. MORE

July 6, 2012

Festival Report:

Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon
By Ken Waxman

London saxophonist John Butcher and Chicago percussionist Tim Daisy were the MVPs during the Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon at the end of April. To stretch the metaphor further, Butcher was doubly valuable, since as a pinch hitter he replaced Una Casa/Observatorio’s third member when that saxophonist was unable to perform with Buenos Aires-based trumpeter Leonel Kaplan and Viennese computer manipulator Christof Kurzmann. If Butcher’s playing was sympathetically creative with that trio, his improvising was equally spectacular with The Apophonics, a new group, otherwise consisting of British bassist John Edwards and Bay-area percussionist Gino Robair. Meanwhile the cap-sporting Daisy subtly pacing Wrack, the chamber-styled string-and-horn quintet; as well as added rhythmic heft to saxophonist Dave Rempis’ Percussion 4Tet, whose raucous free jazz closed the festival to enthusiastic audience cheers. MORE

April 11, 2012

John Butcher/Toshimaru Nakamura

Dusted Machinery
Monotype Records mono 041

Classic man verses machine improvisation, British saxophonist John Butcher matches his skills against the distinctive audio feedback produced from a so-called no-input mixing board given near-anthropomorphic cunning through the manipulations of Japan’s Toshimaru Nakamura. By connecting the board’s input to its output, Nakamura’s blurry oscillations evolve in ever-changing textural pitches from grinding croaks to ear-splitting yowls. It’s a tribute to the talents of Butcher that his perceptive reed thrusts and rejoinders evolve as appropriately as they do. Although by the final track he adopts a mechanized strategy by adding feedback loops to his reed-playing, on the other pieces Nakamura’s signal processing, oscillations and indistinct mechanical static confront only what Butcher can produce with tongue, lips, mouth, throat and fingers. MORE

February 20, 2012

Bailey/Butcher/Robair

Scrutables
Weight of Wax WOW 04

A hitherto unreleased session now made more audible through modern technology, this CD captures the unmistakable spiky playing of the late British guitarist Derek Bailey in cohesive improvisations alongside London saxophonist John Butcher, with whom he often played at the time, and visiting American percussionist Gino Robair. More crucially it’s a valuable addition to the guitarist’s burgeoning discography.

By this point the playing of Bailey (1930-2005) was very much sui generis. Having along with others, mid-wifed the growth of self-defined improvised music in the United Kingdom, his tart and acerbic method of string scraping and finger-picking had retained constant whether playing with older associates or newer musicians world-wide. As open to multiple pairings and new partners as Bailey, Butcher had by this time (2000), perfected soprano and tenor saxophone multiphonics making his tones as distinctive as the guitarist’s. Rather than being odd man out, Bay area percussionist Robair, whose rhythmic versatility is expressed by labelling his percussion instruments energized surfaces, had already set up a playing relationship with Butcher. But this is his only recorded meaning with Bailey. MORE

January 20, 2012

Rhapsody's 2011 Jazz Critics' Poll

Individual Ballot
From Ken Waxman

1) Your name and primary affiliation(s) (no more than two, please)

2) Ken Waxman

Jazz Word (www.jazzword.com )

3) Your choices for 2011's ten best new releases (albums released between Thanksgiving 2010 and Thanksgiving 2011, give or take), listed in descending order one-through-ten.

1. World Saxophone Quartet Yes We Can Jazzwerkstatt JW 098

2. Gerald Cleaver Uncle June Be It As I See It Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-375

3. Hubbub Whobub Matchless MRCD 80 MORE

December 25, 2011

RED Trio + John Butcher

Empire
No Business Records NBLP 37

Although it may be fanciful to suggest that this is British saxophonist John Butcher’s Hard Rock record, his playing is certainly more voluble, raunchy and strident than on the majority of his recent sessions.

It may be because on this three-track LP the master of cerebral understatement is matched up with a trio of Portuguese Gen Xes who in this context enliven the common piano-bass-drum trio with enough rough and physical textures to frighten fans that prefer impressionistic pastels. That’s rough, but not crude however, for pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, bassist Hernani Faustino and percussionist Gabriel Ferrandini have demonstrated a sensitive interface on other discs. MORE

December 10, 2011

Burkhard Stangl

Hommage à moi
Loewenhertz loew 020

Obviously no sufferer from false modesty, Viennese guitarist Burkhard Stangl showcases a cross section of his composition and improvisations from the late 1980s to some of his most recent on this provocatively titled three-CD set. Known for his contributions to flugelhornist Franz Koglmann’s projects, as well as his membership in Polwechsel, efzeg and different New music chamber ensemble, plus for creating the odd film score, Stangl is as versatile as he is prolific. With Stangl’s music ranging across genres, Hommage à moi, presents pieces performed by groups ranging from duos to combos to extended ensembles. Similarly tracks touch on electro-acoustic compositions; notated and improvised music; extended orchestral salutes to English lutenist Robert Dowland (1563-1641) and more contemporary influences and associates; plus miniatures for instruments such as church organ, voice, a recorder trio and vibraphone-guitar and bassoon-flute combinations. MORE

November 15, 2011

John Butcher & Gino Robair

Apophenia
Rastascan BRD 065

Tatsuya Nakatani/Michel Doneda

White Stone Black Lamp

Nakatani-Kobo Kobo-1

Ariel Shibolet/Haggai Fershtman

Happiness for Things Unseen

Kadima Collective KCR 29

Even when it comes to experimental sounds, certain stricture exist, which if not challenged threaten to straightjacket improvisers into pre-determined concepts. Consequently for the indolent or casual listener any saxophone and percussion duo is often slotted within the parameters set up more than 35 years ago by Americans John Coltrane’s and Rahied Ali’s Energy Music on one hand and Briton’s Evan Parker’s and Paul Lytton’s reductionist Free Music on the other. MORE

September 10, 2011

Rastascan

Label Spotlight
By Ken Waxman

“There was never a master plan, except to release music I enjoy and promote musicians I want to help”, says Bay area drummer Gino Robair when asked why he started Rastascan records in the early 1980s and has kept it going ever since.

Over the years the California imprint, named after the term “rasters” from television technology, has put out music on CD, LP, DVD and cassette, as downloads and even on flexi-disc, with sessions featuring artists ranging from Anthony Braxton and Evan Parker to lesser-known improvisers. “Unlike many labels that take a curatorial stance or try to ‘produce’ each record, I give the artists full control over the presentation of their work,” explains Robair. “They determine the look of the graphics, the order and choice of the music, the titles of the album and pieces. That’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about running a label; seeing and hearing the full artistic statement that the object represents”. MORE

June 10, 2011

Festival Report:

Freedom of the City 2011
By Ken Waxman

Electronics, percussion and home-made instruments were prominently featured in many contexts during London’s annual Freedom of the City (FOTC) festival, April 30 to May 2. In spite of this, some outstanding performances involved the hyper-traditional piano or saxophone.

A snapshot of contemporary, mostly European, creative music, FOTC encompassed sounds as different as electronic processing from the likes of Adam Bohman and Lawrence Casserley; rarefied ensemble minimalism; unabashed free jazz from saxophonist Lionel Garcin’s and pianist Christine Wodrascka’s quartet; an entire evening devoted to the massive London Improvisers Orchestra (LIO); and pianist John Tilbury’s and bassist Michael Duch’s interpretations of Cornelius Cardew and Morton Feldman compositions. MORE

January 28, 2011

David Sait

Sixty Interpretations of Sixty Seconds by Sixty Solo Improvisers
Apprise Records AP-04

As much a triumph of organization and timbral arrangement as music, this matchless CD is the result of a unique initiative by Toronto-based guzheng player David Sait. During 2009 and 2010 he solicited and collected original 60-second recordings from 60 improvisers he had played with or admired in the past, then knit the results into 10 separate tracks, each of which encompasses improvisations from six of the participants.

Considering that anyone hearing the results wouldn’t realize that each 60-second cut was recorded independently of the others, the suturing is almost faultless. Bearing in mind that contributions came from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, Spain, Australia, Ukraine, France, Belarus, Finland, Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Portugal, Belgium, Serbia, Ireland and Italy, the idea that cerebral improvising is universal suggests itself as well. MORE

December 29, 2010

John Butcher/Rhodri Davies

Carliol
Ftarri 220

Rhodri Davies/Michel Doneda/Louisa Martin/Phil Minton/Lee Patterson

Midhopestones

Another Timbre at19

Rhodri Davies/Stéphane Rives/Ernesto Rodrigues/Guilherme
Rodrigues/Carlos Santos

Twerf Neus Ciglau

Creative Sources CS 156 CD

When blazing new sonic trails it seems that Welsh harpist Rhodri Davies has a particular affinity for doing so alongside saxophonists, as these CDs recorded between 2007 and 2009 attest. Furthermore, listening to these sessions chronologically, it appears that Davies is becoming progressively more selfless with his timbral palate whether he’s joined by Japanese Onkyo practitioners or European formalists. Only on Twerf Neus Ciglau for instance, are the harp’s expected ringing tones heard. On the other CDs, unexpected textures produced by manual string preparations, electronics, an embedded speaker and other techniques associated with a pedal harp, a lever harp or an electric harp predominate. MORE

November 21, 2010

John Butcher/Claudia Ulla Binder

Under the Roof
Nuscope CD 1023

Quatre Têtes

Figuren

Creative Sources CS 146 CD

Born in southern Germany, but a Zürich resident since 1986, pianist Claudia Ulla Binder has evolved her own style of improvisation. Rather formal and cold, it seems to draw heavily on her background, which includes a Masters degree in Psychology, a later degree in classical piano – and perhaps the climate of northern Europe.

However these two recent CDs, while as rigorously structured as her earlier sets, appear to mark newfound relaxation. Under the Roof for instance finds her in the company of London-based saxophonist John Butcher, whose cerebral tonal experiments haven’t stopped him from being one of the most expressive of reedists. Open to every sort of free sound, his piano partners have ranged from Steve Beresford and Chris Burn of the United Kingdom to Italy’s Alberto Braida. MORE

August 22, 2010

Weightless

A Brush with Dignity
Clean Feed CF154 CD

Atonal, audacious and admirable, Weightless is an irregularly constituted quartet made up of four top-flight improvisers: two from England and two from Italy. Recorded during two German gigs, the polyphonic expression is the result of the almost familial musical relationship between bassist John Edwards and saxophonist John Butcher on one side and pianist Alberto Braida and drummer Fabrizio Spera on the other.

Over the past few decades Butcher has sonically matched wits with everyone from British guitarist Derek Bailey to French clarinetist Xavier Charles. Edwards, one of London improv’s go-to bassists, has played with personalities as different as British saxophonist Evan Parker and American drummer Sunny Murray, while Lodi-based Braida and Spera have separately or alone linked up with stylists such as Canadian bassist Lisle Ellis and German synth master Thomas Lehn. MORE

June 6, 2010

Festival Report:

Freedom of the City 2010
By Ken Waxman

“To Thine Self Be True” is lettered horizontally in careful script above the stage at Conway Hall in London’s Bloomsbury district, where London’s annual Freedom of the City (FOTC) festival took place May 2 and 3. Although related to the philosophy of the Ethical Society which built the edifice in 1929, the slogan can easily also be applied to five dozen or so improvisers featured at FOTC.

Organized about decade ago by saxophonist Evan Parker and AMM percussionist Eddie Prévost to showcase the city’s vibrant improvising scene, FOTC today welcomes as many tyros as veterans – and from the Continent and North America as well as the United Kingdom. Participants ranged from eccentric soprano saxophonist Lol Coxhill, 77 and American trumpeter Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, 67, to young participants in Prévost’s weekly improv workshop and American brassman Peter Evans. MORE

February 16, 2010

Polwechsel & John Tilbury

Field
hatOLOGY 672

AMM with John Butcher

Trinity

Matchless MRCD 71

Adding a new element to an established entity even in improvised music can be liberating, upsetting or something in-between. This thesis is demonstrated on these CDs, with, for a variety of factors, varying results.

On Field for instance, where the distinctive pianism of British keyboardist John Tilbury joins the Austrian-German-British Polwechsel quintet, the resulting sound field is enhanced. Trinity on the other hand is more problematic. Here British saxophonist John Butcher – who was a member of Polwechsel when the first CD was recorded – adds his reed style to sounds created by the long-standing AMM duo of Tilbury and percussionist Eddie Prévost. Oddly enough the triangle appears unbalanced not from Butcher’s novel contributions, but from a bewildering reticence on the part of Prévost. This is especially puzzling since the saxophonist and the percussionist recorded a notable disc in 2005. MORE

February 16, 2010

AMM with John Butcher

Trinity
Matchless MRCD 71

Polwechsel & John Tilbury

Field

hatOLOGY 672

Adding a new element to an established entity even in improvised music can be liberating, upsetting or something in-between. This thesis is demonstrated on these CDs, with, for a variety of factors, varying results.

On Field for instance, where the distinctive pianism of British keyboardist John Tilbury joins the Austrian-German-British Polwechsel quintet, the resulting sound field is enhanced. Trinity on the other hand is more problematic. Here British saxophonist John Butcher – who was a member of Polwechsel when the first CD was recorded – adds his reed style to sounds created by the long-standing AMM duo of Tilbury and percussionist Eddie Prévost. Oddly enough the triangle appears unbalanced not from Butcher’s novel contributions, but from a bewildering reticence on the part of Prévost. This is especially puzzling since the saxophonist and the percussionist recorded a notable disc in 2005. MORE

February 1, 2010

John Butcher Group

Somethingtobesaid
Weight of Wax WOW 02

Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble

The Moment’s Energy

ECM 2066

Now that a large portion of improvised music is deliberately moving further away from its swing-blues roots and into an accommodation with New music, a few far-sighted so-called classical festivals have made a place for improvisers. Tellingly, both these captivating CDs featuring ensembles performing large-scale compositions by significant British saxophonists, were commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. More importantly, neither work is a jazz-classical cameo, but expansive enough to allow the composers’ ideas to be figuratively painted on a larger canvas, using an extended sonic palate. MORE

February 1, 2010

Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble

The Moment’s Energy
ECM 2066

John Butcher Group

Somethingtobesaid

Weight of Wax WOW 02

Now that a large portion of improvised music is deliberately moving further away from its swing-blues roots and into an accommodation with New music, a few far-sighted so-called classical festivals have made a place for improvisers. Tellingly, both these captivating CDs featuring ensembles performing large-scale compositions by significant British saxophonists, were commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. More importantly, neither work is a jazz-classical cameo, but expansive enough to allow the composers’ ideas to be figuratively painted on a larger canvas, using an extended sonic palate. MORE

November 12, 2009

John Butcher

Resonant Spaces
Confront 17

Accepting the challenge of solo improvising in selected parts of northern Scotland and the Orkney Islands, British saxophonist John Butcher evolves specific strategies that transform these sites into resonating showplaces. The result is as spectacular as it is unique.

Using either soprano or tenor saxophone acoustically, amplified or with feedback, Butcher takes into consideration the sites’ distinguishing natural or man-made characteristics. On “Close by, a waterfall” for instance, split tones, tongue slaps and reed bites are amplified in the Smoo Cave near Durness, so that the sibilant water pressures backdrop tonal reverb and oscillated buzzing. At the Wormit Reservoir near Fife, his circular breathing on soprano uses fortissimo multiphonics and disassociated pitch changes to reflect back upon the edifice’s stones, creating reverberating tones completely acoustically. Sometimes Butcher allows nature to take over, as when outside, he ceases his key percussion, letting gusts of wind blow through his saxophone. MORE

December 18, 2008

London Improvisers Orchestra

Improvisations for George Riste
psi 08.06

London & Glasgow Improvisers Orchestras

Separately & Together

Emanem 4219

Successfully guiding free-form improvisations and conductions utilizing the talents of independent musicians in a large orchestra is a challenge; trying to do the same with two outsized improvising ensembles can be foolhardy. Yet that memorable experiment is captured on Separately & Together, a two-CD record of a 2007 meeting between London’s 27-piece Improvisers Orchestra and Glasgow’s 17-piece Improvisers Orchestra. Separate sets by both bands are also featured. MORE

December 18, 2008

London & Glasgow Improvisers Orchestras

Separately & Together
Emanem 4219

London Improvisers Orchestra

Improvisations for George Riste

psi 08.06

Successfully guiding free-form improvisations and conductions utilizing the talents of independent musicians in a large orchestra is a challenge; trying to do the same with two outsized improvising ensembles can be foolhardy. Yet that memorable experiment is captured on Separately & Together, a two-CD record of a 2007 meeting between London’s 27-piece Improvisers Orchestra and Glasgow’s 17-piece Improvisers Orchestra. Separate sets by both bands are also featured. MORE

April 1, 2008

James Carney Group

Green-Wood
Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg

Red Toucan RT 9332

Kartet

The Bay Window

Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup

Red Toucan RT 9331

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

April 1, 2008

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest
Drip Audio DA 00272

Kartet

The Bay Window

Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

James Carney Group

Green-Wood

Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg

Red Toucan RT 9332

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup

Red Toucan RT 9331

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

April 1, 2008

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup
Red Toucan RT 9331

Kartet

The Bay Window

Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

James Carney Group

Green-Wood

Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg

Red Toucan RT 9332

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

April 1, 2008

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg
Red Toucan RT 9332

Kartet

The Bay Window

Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

James Carney Group

Green-Wood

Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup

Red Toucan RT 9331

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

April 1, 2008

Kartet

The Bay Window
Songlines SGL SA 1560-2

James Carney Group

Green-Wood

Songlines SGL SA 1566-2

Alberto Braida/Wilbert de Joode

Reg Erg

Red Toucan RT 9332

Carl Ludwig Hübsch

Primordial Soup

Red Toucan RT 9331

Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff

Way Out Northwest

Drip Audio DA 00272

By Ken Waxman

Music transcends borders, and so does music distribution in the Internet age. Couple this with the maturation of the Canadian improvised music scene and a new phenomenon is visible: CDs recorded elsewhere, but released by Canadian labels for international distribution. MORE

January 11, 2008

Martin Küchen

Homo Sacer
SOFA Sillón 4

Urs Leimgruber

13 Pieces for Saxophone

Leo Records CD LR 498

John Butcher

The Geometry of Sentiment (2004/6)

Emanem 4142

Soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone pulsations along with modulated feedback and literal instrument deconstruction are featured in various permutations on this trio of top-flight solo discs from European practitioner of reed wizardry. The paramount non-specialist appeal of these sessions is tracing how individualistically each old hand – or should that be fingers and mouth – approaches his art. MORE

January 11, 2008

John Butcher

The Geometry of Sentiment (2004/6)
Emanem 4142

Martin Küchen

Homo Sacer

SOFA Sillón 4

Urs Leimgruber

13 Pieces for Saxophone

Leo Records CD LR 498

Soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone pulsations along with modulated feedback and literal instrument deconstruction are featured in various permutations on this trio of top-flight solo discs from European practitioner of reed wizardry. The paramount non-specialist appeal of these sessions is tracing how individualistically each old hand – or should that be fingers and mouth – approaches his art. MORE

January 11, 2008

Urs Leimgruber

13 Pieces for Saxophone
Leo Records CD LR 498

Martin Küchen

Homo Sacer

SOFA Sillón 4

John Butcher

The Geometry of Sentiment (2004/6)

Emanem 4142

Soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone pulsations along with modulated feedback and literal instrument deconstruction are featured in various permutations on this trio of top-flight solo discs from European practitioner of reed wizardry. The paramount non-specialist appeal of these sessions is tracing how individualistically each old hand – or should that be fingers and mouth – approaches his art. MORE

November 17, 2006

Contest of Pleasures

The Albi Days
Potlatch P205

Just as members of the European Union are gradually adopting shared principals, so the members of Contest of Pleasures (COP) – from different countries –subordinate individual techniques to a group style. Comfortable utilizing the acoustics of a space, multiple mics and post-performance editing to shape and blend their reductionist improvisations, the three have produce a memorable aural soundscape here.

A step forward from COP’s first CD in 2000, The Albi Days illuminates how French clarinetist Xavier Charles, German trumpeter Axel Dörner and tenor and British soprano saxophonist John Butcher use wave form modulations and extended techniques as a matter of course. Encompassing pressured staccato timbres plus elongated rumbles and slurs, the five layered, all-acoustic improvisations take on quasi-electronic timbres, especially when hissing flutters and video-game-like fusillade is heard. Very occasionally the three unite for triple counterpoint, three part harmony or startlingly – in Dörner’s or Butcher’s case – let loose with identifiable brassy grace notes or reedy tongue slaps. MORE

October 2, 2006

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Horn_Bill: Reed Solos
Matchless MRCD63

By Ken Waxman

An extended sonic essay in 21st Century reed techniques, HORN_BILL is an unaltered depiction of unaccompanied solos by five British sax players and a Berlin-based clarinetist. Absorbing in its audacity, this two-CD set captures the players not only eschewing melody, rhythm and harmony for silences and trifling breath dynamics, but in essence negating – with one significant exception – expected reed sounds.

The exception is tenor saxophonist Lou Gare’s “Saxophony”. A Free Music pioneer as a member of AMM up to the 1970s, Gare’s jazz-related variations have a title that perhaps unconsciously reflects some of the spectacular showcases of pioneering American sax popularizer Rudy Wiedoeft (1893-1940). As solipsistic as the others’ solos, his mellow tone is reminiscent of Coleman Hawkins’, with the variations played allegro with a wide, smeary vibrato and what seem to be a compendium of boppish licks. Although Gare exposes some falsetto note clusters, most of the time he lapses into almost pre-modern jazz riffs as if he was one part of a fanciful big band reed section. Most tellingly, just before the finale, he suddenly begins playing variations on “Lover Man”. MORE

August 21, 2006

NEWS FROM THE SHED

News From The Shed
EMANEM 4121

By Ken Waxman

Twenty years after the News From The Shed quintet was first constituted and about a dozen since it stopped playing concerts for good, a CD like NEWS FROM THE SHED takes on historical as well as musical importance.

Released as an LP on reedist John Butcher’s own Acta label in 1989, the session confirmed that the second generation of British Free Improvisers had established themselves as firmly as the first. Perhaps it’s comparable to HORACE SILVER AND THE JAZZ MESSENGERS or Max Roach and Clifford Brown’s DAAHOUD of the 1950s, which served notice of a hard bop renaissance spearheaded by younger players. MORE

August 14, 2006

POLWESCHEL

Archives of the North
Hatology 633

By Ken Waxman

Situated even more so than previously within its own unique sound world, the now five-man Polwechsel mixes reductionist techniques and inchoate electronic tinctures with the autonomy of FreeImprov to make its point

On this CD, the Austrian-British band changes direction by adding two percussionists – Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr – to an aural concept that previously was advanced by Polwechsel founders, Werner Dafeldecker on bass and cellist Michael Moser and given auxiliary tinctures when London-based reedist John Butcher joined the ensemble at the beginning of the century. MORE

October 10, 2005

Sealed Knot

Unwanted Object
Confront

Davies/Hayward/Ekhardt/Capece
Amber
Creative Sources

The Cortet
HHHH
Unsounds

By Ken Waxman
October 9, 2005

Visions of formally attired symphonic types producing shimmering glissandi, or alternately of Harpo Marx manhandling the luminescent strings, remain in most folks’ minds when they think of harpists. That may be why the 47-string symphony harps or smaller 34-string Celtic harps are usually musically underrepresented except for their coloration qualities. MORE

September 7, 2005

Another Memorable Total Music Meeting

for CODA

Gradually returning to fiscal health – its artistic vigor has never been in doubt – the 37th annual Total Music Meeting will take place November 3 to November 6 at the Berlinische Galerie Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur in Berlin’s now fashionable Kreuzberg.district. Concerts begin at 8 pm and feature three to four performances each night.

Although the program has not yet been officially announced, participants definitely include British saxophonists John Butcher and Evan Parker; Americans like trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and drummer Gino Robair, the Loos ensemble from the Netherlands; the trio of Swiss saxophonist Urs Leimgruber, American bassist Barre Phillips and French pianist Jacques Demierre and German musicians like trumpeter Axel Dörner, drummer Günter Baby Sommer and multi-reedist Wolfgang Fuchs. Attendance per night is usually in the 300 person range. MORE

March 7, 2005

John Butcher

Cavern with Nightlife
Weight of Wax

By Ken Waxman
March 7, 2005

Exposing new challenges and resolutions, Cavern with Nightlife is yet another object lesson in the evolving sound odyssey of British saxophonist John Butcher.

Already master of the solo and duo session, he expands the expected palate on these five tracks recorded in Japan. Using both soprano and tenor saxophone the first four pieces have him utilizing the acoustic resonance of Utsunomiya City’s Oya Stone Museum to conjure up enhanced, ever-shifting aural reflections, in the process often creating enough textures for a battalion of reed players. With this huge former lava quarry 60 metres underground and taking up an area of 20,000 square metres, massive reverberations are available. Recorded in a new Tokyo club, the CD’s final track is a first-time meeting between Butcher, adding amplified feedback to his tenor saxophone output and Toshimaru Nakamura, whose preferred axe is the no-input mixing board.Beginning with a great, bubbling gout of sound on “Ideoplast”, the first track, Butcher shapes stentorian reverberations with growls and tongue slaps. Soon he’s circular breathing a solid line of muffled vibrations, constructing his solo one slap at a time. Inert node extrapolation and other timbres attach and detach themselves as he plays. Climax is a sibilant wavering line following triple-stopped tonguing. MORE

November 15, 2004

JOHN BUTCHER/GINO ROBAIR

New Oakland Burr
Ratascan BRD 051

PAAL NILSSEN LOVE/MATS GUSTAFSSON
I Love It When You Snore
Smalltown Supersound STS 063 CD

Stripping down to essentials, intrepid improvisers find solos and duos present unvarnished sounds with the fewest possible obstructions.

Especially popular are discs that match a single reedist with a single percussionist to see what sparks fly. Participants in these two short CDs recorded around the same time have frequently been involved in similar situations. While all four have the scope to display outstanding, extended techniques, nowhere is there a feeling that these aren’t just new notches in the players’ belt. They may be impressive to newbies, but they’re not near any of the player’s highest standard. MORE

June 28, 2004

JOHN BUTCHER/CHRISTOPHER IRMER/AGUSTÍ FERNÁNDEZ

Clearings
ART.CappuccinoNet 008

Trans-European improv, CLEARINGS showcases a meeting of minds among musicians from three different countries with three distinct approaches to free music. Resulting in a substantial program of melding timbres, the CD confirms that only in a liberated musical situation like this could disparate styles meld.

As a matter of fact, if there was ever a complete misnomer, then it’s the title of the second track, “Bumpy Ride”. Here and elsewhere, the distinctive smeary trills of Britain’s John Butcher morph into wiggling irregular vibrations and join the speedy spiccato bowing of Germany’s Christoph Irmer and the dissonant, uneven note clusters of Spain’s Agustí Fernández sans bumps. MORE

February 16, 2004

NO SPAGHETTI EDITION

Real time satellite data
SOFA 513

CHRIS BURN’S ENSEMBLE
Ensemble at Musica Genera 2002
Musica General MG 006

Overcoming the challenge of fomenting non-idiomatic improvisations in the gray area between composition and improvisation has been a preoccupation of inclusive European musicians for the past few decades. Making that concept work in the field between electronic and handmade sounds preoccupied them in the 1990s. In the 21st Century, as these two consummate CDs demonstrate, the most accomplished instrumentalists are able to wrap all these tendencies into a program that can be performed by larger bands -- six and eight musicians are featured in the sessions here. MORE

December 1, 2003

JOHN BUTCHER

Invisible ear
Fringes 12

ANTHONY BRAXTON
Solo (Milano) 1979
Golden Years of New Jazz GY 20

When visionary Anthony Braxton ushered in the idea of solo saxophone sessions with FOR ALTO in 1969, he probably never released how many contemporary reedists would follow his lead.

Today it seems that nearly every modern horn player, excluding the so-called Smooth Jazz fraternity, has tried his or her hands -- or more rightly fingers -- at the concept with mixed results. Luckily the CDs here feature the work of two stylists who thrive on solo playing, because they’re internalized its inherent challenges, beyond novelty. Instructively, as well, the discs also show how unique applications have altered underlying concepts. MORE

September 15, 2003

JOHN BUTCHER/MIKE HANSEN/TOMASZ KRAKOWIAK

Equation
Spool/Field SPF 303

ANDY MOOR/JOHN BUTCHER/THOMAS LEHN
Thermal
Unsounds u04

Like the fabled jazz gunslingers of the 1960s -- saxophonist Sonny Stitt comes most readily to mind -- free music practitioners have become inured to travelling -- regularly moving from town to town and country to country to play their music.

Unlike those 1960s jazz sharpshooters, who roamed like solitary quick draw artists in the Old West, rounding up a posse of backing musicians to support them in taming the music when they arrived in a location, free improvisers are more syndicalist. Rather than seeing themselves as a single playing with a group of deputized accomplices, they integrate themselves into the posse to produce group music. MORE

July 21, 2003

JOHN BUTCHER & JOHN EDWARDS

Optic
Emanem 4089

Never one to shy away from a challenge, British saxophonist John Butcher has plunged into a farrago of collaborations during his career, in groups ranging from duos to biggish bands.

Recently he’s recorded two fine improvisations with percussionists -- American Gino Robair and Canadian Dylan van der Schyff. So, perhaps in the spirit of English fair play, this admirable CD was recorded at two concerts with a fellow Brit, bassist John Edwards. The result spotlights the reedist’s improv strategies, as well as the bassist’s response to them. MORE

February 3, 2003

NO SPAGHETTI EDITION

Pasta Variations
SOFA 509

JOHN BUTCHER/PHIL MINTON
Apples of Gomorrah
GROB 429

The glue -- or maybe it’s the spittle -- that holds these two sessions together is the oral work of British performer Phil Minton. One hesitates to call him a singer since his vocal tones seem to range from improvising instrumental emulation to aural recapitulation of all the intonation related to the Seven Ages of Man. And all that is mixed with cartoon character voices, operatic snatches and animal calls. MORE

January 13, 2003

Simon H. Fell

Composition No. 30.
Bruce’s Fingers BF 27

The compositions and performance of British bassist Simon H. Fell on this two-CD set may be the long-awaited physical flowering of Gunther Schuller’s and John Lewis’ ideas from the 1960s. Fell may also have taken those theories even further.

In the early 1960s, Schuller, a modern composer, French hornist and head of Boston’s New England Conservatory; and Lewis, pianist and music director of the Modern Jazz Quartet; conceived of Third Stream music that would combine elements of music’s first and second streams of classical music and jazz. They recorded a few albums and even put together a mixed jazz and classical ensemble called Orchestra USA. MORE

October 28, 2002

BUTCHER/MASASAOKA/ROBAIR

Guerrilla Mosaics
482 Music 482-1013

A first-time collaboration between a well-travelled British saxophonist and two Californians proves that improvisational cohesiveness and empathy are often little affected by geographic distance and instrumental suitability.

While London-based reedman John Butcher’s instruments -- soprano and tenor saxophone -- are often seen as germane to improv as freedom, the others’ choices are a bit less common. Bay area percussionist Gino Robair also works out on such unusual noisemakers as the faux dax, bowed metal, and motors -- all late 20th century inventions. Meanwhile Brooklyn-based Miya Masaoka, plays not only one of the most traditional of Japanese instruments -- the 21-string koto -- but its 21st century cousin, the laser koto, with MIDI-triggering. This allows her to often double and triple the sound she produces. MORE

May 17, 2002

JOHN BUTCHER & GINO ROBAIR

Liverpool (Bluecoat) Concert
Limited Sedition LS026

Brevity, it’s said, is the soul of wit. Yet, as this singular duo CD proves, it can also be the font of improvisation. After listening to the slightly more than half an hour of interaction between reedman John Butcher and percussionist Gino Robair that is this limited-edition disc, you realize that the duration couldn’t and shouldn’t be lengthened.

That’s because the British saxophonist and American drummer did all that was necessary in the time allocated to them at this concert situation in the Beatles hometown of Liverpool, England. By this time, having matched wits -- and often spit -- with a panoply of British, North American and Continental improvisers, London-based Butcher knows the drill. Using either soprano or tenor saxophone he creates whizzing reed trills, elongated sonic echoes, split tones and flutter tonguing on these tracks, broken up with key pops and the occasional note fart. When Robair brings his junk shop collection of percussion instruments into play, Butcher then decides how best to respond, and the improv dance continues. MORE

January 15, 2002

CHRIS BURN/JOHN BUTCHER/RHODRI DAVIES/JOHN EDWARDS

The First Two Gigs
EMANEM 4063

Good things often come in small packages.

A vest pocket version of the octet/nonet Ensemble, British pianist Chris Burn has been leading on-and-off since 1984, this quartet on its maiden voyages seems more focused than the larger group, perhaps because each of the musicians has to assert himself even more in a more compact situation.

Recorded in two different London clubs in sessions four months apart, to be honest, the performances here don’t sound at all like that of four musicians groping towards a common modus operandi. Perhaps it’s because each has some sort of playing experience with at least one of the others. MORE

November 12, 2001

PAUL DUNMALL/JOHN EDWARDS/JOHN BUTCHER

Hit And Run
FMP CD 116

PAUL DUNMALL/PAUL ROGERS
Alien Art
DUNS Limited Edition 008

Despite equal billing for all three musicians, except for its final five minutes, HIT AND RUN isn't a trio session at all. Instead it features bassist John Edwards doing yeoman service in duets with two of his British countrymen who happen to be some of the most accomplished reedists on the planet: John Butcher and Paul Dunmall.

Each of the meetings, however, is as different as the bearded, heavyset Dunmall and slimmer, clean-shaven Butcher are from one another. Dunmall's "Gaulstones" is a gaudy free-for-all featuring him on two different bagpipes and soprano saxophone; while Butcher's "Rhymes" is divided into four shorter rhymes, with him moving effortlessly from soprano and tenor saxophone and back again. What they share in common is excellence. MORE

October 29, 2001

GINO ROBAIR

Buddy Systems
Meniscus Records MNSCS 003

For an artist, putting together a compilation of selected duos and trios over a four- year period can sometimes result in sins of inclusion rather than omission. This 74 minute souvenir of Bay Area percussionist Gino Robair's partnership with 10 local and international improvisers comes awfully close to that weakness a couple of times, but manages to finally negate those flimsy spots with superior execution.

Robair, a long time member of the Splatter Trio, with a hefty background in improv, electronic music and straight composition has amassed so many playing buddies that he apologizes in the booklet for not including more of them here. He made the right choices to maintain the proper variety, though. Additionally, by playing not only what he terms meta-percussion, but also theremin, he can amplify the proceedings past any lesser ideas from his guest(s). MORE

October 1, 2001

JOHN BUTCHER

Music on seven occasions
Meniscus Records MNSCS 004

JOHN BUTCHER/DYLAN VAN DER SCHYFF
Points, snags and windings
Meniscus Records MNSCS 010

As amiable as he is adventurous, British saxophone explorer John Butcher rarely misses an opportunity to collaborate with similar intrepid musical explorers. Comfortable in a variety of formations, the two accomplished discs here highlight his duet work.

A superb pair, the main difference between them is choice of partners. MUSIC ON SEVEN OCCASIONS is just that, recorded over a three year period in the 1990s in different American and British studios, featuring nine partners plus four solo saxophone interludes. POINTS, SNAGS AND WINDINGS, on the other hand, has one fewer musician on board then there are nouns in the title. It's a record of duets between Butcher and Vancouver, B.C.-based percussionist Dylan van der Schyff, done last year in Vancouver. MORE

June 7, 2001

JOHN BUTCHER/ALEX DÖRNER/XAVIER CHARLES

The Contest of Pleasures
Potlatch P 201

One of the difficulties in recording improvised music, as some practitioners have pointed out, is that you're making a permanent record (sic) of something that existed only in the moment. Furthermore, when the metaphoric snapshot which is a CD is released, it only reproduces the sound of the instruments, not the shape or acoustical properties of the room in which the recording takes place. What's more, a truism derived from jazz notes that music, which impresses a live audience often, loses its impressive immediacy when pressed onto that small circular disc. MORE

March 8, 2001

JOHN BUTCHER/GINO ROBAIR/MATTHEW SPERRY

12 Milagritos
Spool Line SPL 109

British sonic explorer John Butcher is one woodwind player who has worked assiduously on discovering every last sound he can pull out of the innards of his horns, most notably when he produces a solo session.

Mouthpiece mavens may drool when given something to like that to absorb, but others may find his interactions with other players easier to swallow. You won't think his skilled saxophone spewing all wet if you can hear it amalgamating with the deft improvising of other musicians.

MORE