John Butcher
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British jazz saxophonist John Butcher (1954) was already in his thirties when he abandoned Physics to join the ranks of creative musicians inspired by Evan Parker (as well as by the new realm of electronic music). After cutting his teeth in Chris Burn's Jazz Ensemble and Jon Corbett's Freelance, Butcher recorded duets with Burn on piano (composed by Burn), Fonetiks (december 1984), and formed a trio with guitarist John Russell and violinist Phil Durrant documented on the eleven short pieces of Conceits (april 1987). The trio expanded to a quintet with the addition of drummer Paul Lovens and trombonist Radu Malfatti, and assumed the name News from the Shed. The ten brief pieces on News from the Shed (february 1989) were studies in contrast, texture and silence. Butcher leaned towards cerebral, not aggressive, improvisation, relying on all sorts of effects at his instrument. In the meantime, Butcher had also joined Embers, formed in 1986 by Australian classically-trained reed player Jim Denley (a member of Burn's ensemble) with Burn himself and cellist Marcio Mattos. The four lenghty improvisations of their Live (november 1988) also employed a sampler. Butcher was also active in Georg Graewe's quartet Frisque Concordance (1991), in John Stevens' Spontaneous Music Ensemble (1993) and in Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra.

His art of methodical and surgical exploration, of painstaking coloring, of abstract dissonant soundpainting peaked with his solo-saxophone albums, veritable concertos for microtones and overtones: Thirteen Friendly Numbers (december 1991), that first experimented with multi-tracking (notably in Bells and Clappers, Mackle Music), the live London & Cologne (august 1998), that finally included longer pieces such as the nine-minute Some Kind Of Memory and the 13-minute A Thing or Two, besides Shrinkdown for four overdubbed sopranos, and the live Fixations 14 (collecting pieces from 1997 to september 2000). These three works marked a progress from a purely scientific approach to a more emotional stance.

In the meantime, Butcher also engaged in duets with vocalist Vanessa Mackness on Respiritus (may 1994), in duets with assorted improvisers (notably trombonist Jeb Bishop and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm) on Anomolies in the Customs of the Day (february 1998), in duets with pianist Georg Graewe on Light's View (november 1998), and in electroacoustic duets with Phil Durrant (playing only electronics) on Secret Measures (november 1997), besides joining the Austrian quartet Polwechsel in 1997 (with guitarist Burkhard Stangl, cellist Michael Moser and bassist Werner Dafeldecker) and resurrecting his acoustic trio with Durran and Russell for the live juggernauts of The Scenic Route (may 1998).

Unfortunately, Butcher suddenly became hyper-prolific and the quality of his recordings decreased accordingly. Most albums were simply predictable and childish. A few were utterly disposable. Collaborations included: Apples of Gomorrah (august 1999), with vocalist Phil Minton, Requests and Antisongs (february 2000), a second collaboration with Durrant, Vortices and Angels (may 2000), that assembles duets with either guitarist Derek Bailey or harpist Rhodri Davies, Shooters and Bowlers (may 2000), a collaboration with drummer Gerry Hemingway, Intentions (june 2000), with violinist Phil Durrant and cellist Peggy Lee, Guerrilla Mosaics (june 2000), with koto player and percussionist Gino Robair, Points, Snags and Windings (july 2000), with percussionist Dylan Van Der Schyff, The Contest of Pleasures (august 2000), in a trio with French clarinetist Xavier Charles and German trumpeter Axel Doerner, the real highlight of this phase, Tincture (march 2001), with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and percussionist Michael Zerang, Equation (may 2002), with turntablist Mike Hansen and percussionist Tomasz Krakowiak, etc.

John Butcher's Cavern with Nightlife contains the 19-minute Practical Luxury (november 2002), a duet with Toshimaru Nakamura on "no-input mixing board"

Butcher returned to art (as opposed to routine) with his solo Invisible Ear (2002), that focused on studio effects.

The Contest of Pleasures, i.e. the trio with French clarinetist Xavier Charles and German trumpeter Axel Doerner, was revived for Albi Days (april 2005), a rather artificial effort compared with the spontaneity of their debut.

The Geometry of Sentiment (november 2006) collects solo recordings from 2004 to 2006.

Vario-44 (november 2006) featured Roger Turner on percussion, John Russell on guitar, Thomas Lehn on analogue synthesizer, Dorothea Schurch on vocals, Guenter Christmann on cello and trombone performing 20 brief vignettes.

The Contest of Pleasures was a trio with clarinetist Xavier Charles and trumpeter Axel Doerner that debuted on Tempestuous (november 2006).

Resonant Spaces (june 2006) collects solos for saxophones (acoustic, amplified and feedback).

Buffalo Pearl (april 2005) documents live duets with drummer Gerry Hemingway (also on sampler).

Way out Northwest (june 2007) features a trio with Torsten Muller on contrabass and Dylan van der Schyff on drums.

The AMM of Trinity (january 2008) was a trio of Eddie Prevost (drums), John Tilbury (piano) and John Butcher (soprano and tenor saxophone).

Somethingtobesaid (november 2008) documents a live performance by Butcher with Chris Burn (piano), Gino Robair (percussion), John Edwards (bass), Thomas Lehn (synthesizer), Clare Cooper (harp/ghuzeng) and Adam Linson (bass and electronics).

Weightless, the "Italian" quartet formed with Alberto Braida (piano), John Edwards (double bass) and Fabrizio Spera (drums), debuted on A Brush With Dignity (october 2008).

Treader Duos (february 2008) includes a duet between John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxes) and Mark Sanders (drums).

Strokes (april 2006 - Clean Feed, 2010) was a live collaboration with the Sten Sandell Trio (with Sandell on piano, voice, electronics, Johan Berthling on double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums).

Under the Roof (august 2008 - Nuscope, 2010) is a session with pianist Claudia Ulla Binder.

Vortices And Angels, recorded live in 2000, and Carliol (recorded between august 2007 and april 2009) were duets with harpist Rhodri Davies.

Apophenia (october 2009) documents a live collaboration between John Butcher and Gino Robair.

Empire (april 2010) was a collaboration with Portuguese trio RED.

Dusted Machinery (march 2009) was another collaboration between John Butcher and Toshimaru Nakamura.

John Butcher (on tenor and soprano saxes) and percussionist Mark Sanders collaborated on Daylight (may 2010).

Butcher/Prevost/Viltard (august 2011) documents a live performance by John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxes), Guillaume Viltard (double bass) and Eddie Prevost (drums).

At Oto (february 2010) was a live performance by John Butcher and Matthew Shipp: two John Butcher solos a 15-minute Matt Shipp piano solo, and the 30-minute duet Generative Grammar.

Bell Trove Spools (april 2010 and november 2011) documents two solo sessions on tenor and soprano saxes.

The solo Winter Gardens (december 2011) collects experiments like playing with feedback.

Plume (Unsounds, 2013) documents two trios, the 30-minute Fiamme, recorded live in december 2007, and the 40-minute Vellum, studio recorded in april 2011, the former with Magda Maya (piano) and the latter with Burkhard Stangl (guitar).

Exta (june 2012) documents a session of the trio of John Butcher (saxes), Thomas Lehn (synthesizers) and John Tilbury (piano).

Concentric (september 2001) documents a live collaboration with drummer Paa Nilssen-Love.

The Apophonics, who debuted with On Air (may 2012) consisted of Butcher, bassist John Edwards and Gino Robair on energised surfaces & synth.

The 31-minute live performance of Shortening Distance (april 2012) was performed by John Butcher (saxes), Leonel Kaplan (trumpet) and Christof Kurzmann (electronics).

Credited to Forch/Furt, the album Spukhafte Fernwirkung (october 2012), partly live and partly studio, featured an octet with Lori Freedman on clarinets, John Butcher on tenor & soprano saxes, Rhodri Davies on harps, Paul Lovens on percussion, Furt's Richard Barrett & Paul Obermayer on electronics and Phil Minton & Ute Wassermann on vocals.

Belgian reed player Joachim Badenhorst, John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxes) and Paul Lytton (percussion) recorded Nachtigall (march 2013).

Routing Lynn (march 2014) was a collaboration with harp player Rhodri Davies.

John Butcher and Gino Robair (percussion and synthesizer) collaborated on the two lengthy pieces of Bottle Breaking Heart Leap. (may 2012).

Common Objects, formed with harpist Rhodri Davies, recorded Live In Morden Tower and especially the two monumental compositions of Whitewashed With Lines (Another Timbre, 2015): Cup And Ring (march 2014) and Repose And Vertigo (may 2013). Lee Patterson played electronics and Angharad Davies violins.

Experiments With A Leaf (october 2013) documents live improvisations in a cathedral by John Butcher and the Ex' guitarist Andy Moor.

A trio with Burkhard Beins (electronics) and Mark Wastell (percussion) recorded the 39-minute improvisation of Membrane (april 2014).

Contest Of Pleasure's live Ulrichsberg (Confront, 2015) featured Axel Dorner (trumpet), Jean-Leon Pallandre (phonographies, microphones), John Butcher (saxes), Laurent Sassi (phonographies, mixage et diffusion) and the project's founder Xavier Charles (clarinet).

S4, the soprano sax quartet of John Butcher, Christian Kobi, Hans Koch and Urs Leimgruber, released Cold Duck (january 2015).

Nigemizu (may 2013) contains three solo improvisations.

Summer Skyshift (august 2015) was a live collaboration between John Butcher (on tenor and soprano saxes) and the Portuguese RED Trio.

The 44-minute live improvisation of Fjordgata (may 2015) was recorded by the duo of John Butcher and Norvegian contrabassist Michael Francis Duch.

So Beautiful It Starts To Rain (august 2015) documents duets with Norwegian drummer Stale Liavik Solberg.

John Butcher (sax and feedback), Thomas Lehn (analogue synthesiser) and Matthew Shipp (piano) recorded Tangle (february 2014).

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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