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),
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.
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,
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.
Japanese Duets (2020) was extracted from a 2004 concert with and Rhodri Davies (lever harp, bows, preparations, and e-bows).
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
(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.
At The Hill Of James Magee (april 2010) documents duets between Joe McPhee (alto sax) and John Butcher (tenor sax).
Winter Gardens (december 2011) collects experiments like playing with
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).
documents a live collaboration with
drummer Paa Nilssen-Love.
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
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).
The live Tangle (february 2014) documents a concert with
Thomas Lehn (analogue synthesizer) and Matthew Shipp (piano).
Last Dream Of The Morning (november 2016),
containing the 18-minute Sand Dance, was performed by the trio with
John Edwards on bass and Mark Sanders on drums.
The Catastrophe Of Minimalism (june 2008) documents a live performance by
a trio with Damon Smith (bass, electronics and field recordings) and Weasel Walter (percussion), notably
the 23-minute An Illusionistic Panic.
Immediate Landscapes (june 2006) coupled Butcher with Akio Suzuki (pebbles, glass & brass plates, wooden screws, voice analapos, brass plate, cardboard box, wood screws, bamboo stick, metal plate, noise whistle, swizzle sticks) and also contain the 27-minute Night Club (recorded in november 2015).
Light Never Bright Enough (july 2016 - Otoroku, 2017) documents a live collaboration between guitarist Keiji Haino and saxophonist John Butcher
Stray (featuring Dominic Lash on bass, John Russell on electric guitar and Stale Liavik Solberg on drums) debuted with the 51-minute piece of Into Darkness (december 2015).
Visionary Fantasies (april 2018), a collaboration with Eddie Prevost (percussion), contains the three-part 35-minute Visionary Fantasies.
A trio with
Canadian reedist Philippe Lauzier
Canadian bassist Eric Normand
recorded the two lengthy improvisations of
How Does This Happen? (april 2018).
John Butcher co-led with fellow saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock
the ensemble GGRIL, formed in 2007,
on the double-disc Facons (october 2018),
containing the 21-minute Organon.
Drunk On Dreams (june 2015) documents a collaboration with Rhodri Davies (harp and electric harp), including the 22-minute Chaos Is The Spectre.
Blasphemious Fragments (july 2017) documents a session with
Phil Minton (voice) and Gino Robair (percussion, electronics and piano).
Raw (january 2015) documents a live collaboration with a European string trio (Swiss bassist Daniel Studer, German violinist Harald Kimmig and Swiss cellist Alfred Zimmerlin).
Old Paradise Airs (may 2019) contains duets between Steve Beresford (piano, objects, electronics) and John Butcher (soprano and tenor saxes) notably the 18-minute Next Up.
Iklectik Live One (november 2016) documents a trio with
Eddie Prevost (drums) and Guillaume Viltard (double bass), and includes
the 22-minute Light.
John Butcher's Last Dream Of The Morning returned
with the live Crucial Anatomy
containing three long pieces,
notably the 34-minute Curling Vine.
The Clawed Stone (october 2017) documents a trio with Thomas Lehn (electronic) and Matthew Shipp (piano).
We Met - And Then (november 2018) was a collaboration with Barre Phillips on contrabass and Stale Liavik Solberg on drums.
John Butcher also contributed to
Frisque Concordance, the project of pianist Georg Gräwe, originally with
Hans Schneider and Martin Blume as documented on
Spelling (october 1992), and then with
Wilbert De Joode on double bass and Mark Sanders on drums for
Distinct Machinery (march 2017), recorded partly live.
The soundtrack Sounds Of Assembly (april 2013) was performed by Jennifer Allum (violin), John Butcher (saxophones), Ute Kanngiesser (cello) and Eddie Prevost (percussion).
Butcher composed and played in his 43-minute six-movement suite Local Fixations, performed (first in april 2018) by the Canadian 16-member improvising ensemble GGRIL (i.e. Grand Groupe Regional D'Improvisation Liberee) and collected on their album Facons (2019).
Mapless Quiet (september 2018) documents a live performance
with Veryan Weston ( piano & prepared piano), Oyvind Storesund (contrabass) and Dag Erik Knedal Andersen (drums).
Induction (june 2019) contains improvisations with Werner Dafeldecker (bass) and Burkhard Beins (percussion) ,
notably the 20-minute Circulation.
Vellum, featuring Magda Mayas (piano) and Tony Buck (percussion), was formed in 2013 but first documented on the 44-minute live improvisation of Glints (november 2019).
Shaped & Chased (november 2019) documents the trio of John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxes), Gino Robair (electronics and percussion) and Thomas Lehn (synthesizer) and contains the 20-minute Dorryng.
The trio of Werner Dafeldecker (double bass), John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxes) and Burkhard Beins (percussion) recorded Induction (june 2019), notably the 20-minute Circulation.
Thermal, a project with
Andy Moor (guitar) and Thomas Lehn (analogue synthesizer), is documented on
Ice In A Hot World (february 2020).