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.

Oakland, Calif.-based percussionist Robair, who has worked with improvisers as different as multi-reedman Anthony Braxton and turntablist Otomo Yoshihide, plus frequently with Butcher, easily gets with the program as well. Using tools that include styrofoam, a faux dax, an e-bow snare and motors as well as more (un) conventional percussion, over the course of four tracks here, he scraps, scratches, strokes, whizzes, twists and turns out an entire sound field from his instruments. Leaving very few aural spaces unaccented, the two players fabricate tones that, on the last track for instance, resemble motors grinding, garbage cans being dropped, and cash registers ringing. The climax, — probably from Butcher’s reed — transmutes what could be feline wailing into a hiss of pure white sound.

Other members of the animal kingdom aren't neglected either, with the saxophone producing, with almost note-perfect replication, tiny bird sounds on the third track, while the bow of Robair’s faux dax and fizzing styrofoam generate aviary cries that could be linked to larger fowl on the second. Both men have, in the past, relied on electronic aids, but this live performance shows that they’re perfectly capable of creating these sounds in real time.

In short (sic), Butcher and Robair have come with another fine, if abbreviated session. If you want to consider another condensed situation though, only 241 numbered copies of this CD-R have been burned. That means the best — if not the only — way to get your hands on it is at www.limitedsedition.com.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. One 2. Two 3. Three 4. Four

Personnel: John Butcher (tenor or soprano saxophone); Gino Robair (percussion, styrofoam, faux dax, e-bow snare, motors)