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Drunk on Dreams - DOWNBEAT

Rhodri Davies / John Butcher

The duet setting uniquely tests a musician's resourcefulness. How well do they understand and accommodate another player? Can they make the music strong and keep it growing when there's nowhere to hide? These concerns are no less pertinent when the players' approaches push at the edges of the jazz genre.

Familiarity can be a great facilitator, and John Butcher and Rhodri Davies are well acquainted, having worked together in various settings since the '90s. The former is a life-long London resident who plays soprano and tenor saxophone, the latter a Welsh-born harpist who currently lives in Newcastle upon Tyne. What has cohered after years of playing freely improvised duets and unconventionally scored ensemble pieces is a mercurial dynamic founded upon close listening and mutual trust.
They're at the top of their game on Drunk On Dreams, which was originally recorded for a French radio broadcast, and the vinyl format emphasizes the spatial quality of their interactions.
At some points, the feedback from Butcher's amplified horns and the resonance of Davies' electric harp influence each other like the gravitational pull of orbiting satellites; at others, purring reeds and gamelan-like string tones evoke the mystery of overhearing a ceremony enacted in an unfamiliar tongue, summoning some unnameable emotions.

© Bill Meyer / DOWNBEAT