BACKto Solo   /    HOME
Fixations (14) - Opprobrium

John Butcher

Writing in Rubberneck magazine in 1998, John Butcher made the telling observation that "as a live performer, improvising usually just feels better [than playing compositions] - with more chance for a little magic." Fixations consists of fourteen solo improvisations recorded around the globe, from Milwaukee to Brussels, Chicago to Madrid, Berkeley to London, between 1997 and 2000. Its 67 minutes of music are some of the distilled magic of those four years of solo playing.
In the popular imagination, improvised saxophone is typified by players such as Evan Parker, Alan Wilkinson or Peter Brotzman, with their gut-busting, hell-for-leather, foot-full-on-the-throttle approach. John Butcher is the antithesis of that approach, demonstrating that creativity does not necessarily require sound and fury. His solo playing is measured, often quiet and reflective, (sometimes barely audible) but constantly exploratory. It is also focussed; only two of these pieces last longer than six minutes.
Some pieces (such as Woodland Drift, or Last Bottle have such a formal sense of order that they sound more composed than improvised. Again, from Rubberneck: "In performance, I'm most likely to work with an ambiguous interaction between, loosely, the 'planned' and the 'free'. Their tensions and blurring bring the music alive (on a good night)."
In other words, Butcher does not play "without memory", but is comfortable to bring some pre-planned pieces to explore. Fixations is testament to the success of this approach to live solo playing.

© John Eyles - Opprobrium