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.

Performed with the same intensity that introduces snarling chalameau lowing, bird-like trills and an episode where it appears that the rolling friction from a gran cassa has replaced expected electric bass reverberations, “Par irruption” continues this close communion. While cleverly timed tongue slaps and coloratura drones emanate from both reedists, this resulting contrapuntal challenge is somewhat lessened by passages of almost sweet interface between the two. That the amiable sequence which is part of “Par irruption IV” is actually a prelude to subsequent tongue stops and line deconstruction only underlines the trio’s versatility. Finally that set is completed by thinner, quieter and more fractured reed vibrations plus bass rumbles proving that the group has achieved its goals within its self-defined parameters.

This is another high-quality CD confirming Butcher’s adaptability and showing how Canadian players can hold their own in any international situation.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. En consequence: I II III IV V 2. Par irruption: I II III IV V

Personnel: John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxophones); Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet) and Éric Normand (electric bass and objects)