John Butcher/Paal Nilssen-Love

Clean Feed CF 067

Negating the myth that advanced technical experimenters lack the fortitude and passion to play with real guts, Concentric finds London-based saxophonist John Butcher – the epitome of a reasoned, mathematical thinker – pumping out smeared vibrations and split tones reminiscent of testosterone-fuelled Energy Music.

One reason for the tenor and soprano saxist’s exceptional change-of-pace could be that the CD is a duo with Norwegian percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, who has used his rhythm inventiveness to face down such Free Jazz heavy-hitters as Germany’s Peter Brötzmann and Sweden’s Mats Gustafsson.

Just because both men steer clear of microtonal sounds however, doesn’t make their interaction any less sophisticated. The four long selections highlight how comprehensive instrumental inventiveness can be displayed fortissimo and staccato as well as with softer contours.

Sounding at points as if he’s eviscerating pitches from the bowls of his tenor saxophone, Butcher’s resulting squalls are matched by drum-stick across-the-cymbals ratchets from Nilssen-Love. Moistly lipping rough kazoo-like multiphonics, the saxophonist’s reed strategy intentionally exposes additional overtone as well as the grainy notes themselves. His advanced techniques are matched by the drummer’s tick-tock strokes, woody nerve beats and tam-tam resonation.

Concentric climaxes with “The Stob”, nearly 18 minutes of contrapuntal improvising. As Butcher showcases a compendium of pressured note clusters and envelopes of cylindrical mouthpiece squeaks, the drummer’s bouncing and rebounding wallops properly frame a concluding bout of quivering circular breathing and concentrated tongue stops.

Although there is fiercer playing here than on most Butcher CDs, his enduring sound invention makes this a notable, if unique session.

Ken Waxman

CODA Issue 333