During Butcher's stay in New York last month, on top of a week of matinees at the Whitney's Christian Marclay: Festival and a round robin improvisation at Douglass Street Music Collective, he appeared at Issue Project Room's Floating Points Festival, an annual series curated to spotlight Stephen Moore's overhead sound system: 14 speaker mounts each containing a half-dozen individual speakers and all capable of being individually controlled.
Moore's processing of the saxophone and folding in of Butcher's recordings of creaking piers, wine glasses and a synthesizer track made for an unusual duo comprised of an exploded solo. The amplified detailing of Butcher's utterances made for a taxonomy of his techniques, a glass under the microscope but with the distraction of an apparition of his saxophone swirling around the room, gaining mass and eventually overtaking the flesh and blood at the front of the room.
Butcher was, at first, reserved (even for him) seemingly feeding the sound system, only occasionally stepping away from the microphone to play unaffected. But as the room grew dense with frog ponds and foghorns, Butcher stepped up to the game with a heavy, jazzist tenor. It grew surprisingly loud, a mesh of sounds doing laps and colliding around the space. Moore's choices were intense, restless and quite different than what Butcher is often met with in a playing partner, which made for an unusual session.
It might even have come off as a brutal one, a heavy handed exchange, were it not for the reminder provided by the reissue of Butcher's solo recording Invisible Ear, previously out on a 2003 limited edition from the Italian label Fringes and now available on the artist's own Weight of Wax imprint. It's a powerful CD and a loud one, with Butcher using close-mic'ing, multi-tracking and feedback for an often dense and gruff display. Butcher's associations so often point toward quietude that it's easy to forget he can sometimes grip his tenor and blow.
© Kurt Gottschalk / All About Jazz-New York