Live in Brussels and Barcelona
JOHN BUTCHER: saxophones
JOHN EDWARDS: double bass
"Cocktail Bar" is stunning. There's a restless busyness, a tightly coiled tension as the duo machine-gun their stuttering phrases, micro-textures and even their spontaneous silences, all at a speed that springs from a significant instinctive rapport. They love to snap, to cut up, to cluck, peck and grind with a hearty physicality, always jumping sideways, often shunting without warning into a completely different (and telegraphically agreed) state.
JAZZ REVIEW - Martin Longley.
1 Flowers - 14:58
2 Fogs - 5:11
3 Grottoes - 18:17
4 Acids - 7:19
14 January 2001 (1)
Recorded by Guy Strale
18 July 2002 (2-4)
Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona
Recorded by Pere Pratdesaba
Scene and Recalled
#7 in "The Memory of Live Music"
JOHN BUTCHER: saxophones
JOHN EDWARDS: double bass
1 Ashfall in Oto, part 1 - 7:26
2 Ashfall in Oto, part 2 - 4:45
3 Ashfall in Oto, part 3 - 7:27
4 Ashfall in Oto, part 4 - 5:48
5 The Next Sister, part 1 - 7:30
6 The Next Sister, part 2 12:15
11 February 2009 (1-4)
Café Oto, Dalston
Recorded by Shane Browne on at Café Oto, Dalston, London.
16 May 1999 (5-6)
The Red Rose Club, Finsbury Park
WEIGHT OF WAX - WoW DL10
Hit and Run
John Edwards in duos and trio.
Live at FMP “Total Music Meeting”, Berlin
JOHN EDWARDS: double bass
PAUL DUNMALL: soprano saxophone & bagpipes (1/6)
JOHN BUTCHER: saxophones (2-6)
1 Gaulstones - 35:18
2 Knotted - 16:23
3 Plotted - 9:59
4 Dotted - 5:44
5 Spotted - 4:55
6 Hit and Run - 5:30
5th & 6th November 1999
Total Music Meeting, Podewil, Berlin
Recorded by Holger Scheuermann and Jost Gebers
FMP CD 116
#5 in "The Memory of Live Music"
THURSTON MOORE: guitar
JOHN EDWARDS: double bass
TERRY DAY: drums
JOHN BUTCHER: saxophones
STEVE BERESFORD: piano & electronics
It's as if the musicians' separate sounds entwine around each other, with Butcher's crying, embracing horn, Edwards' luxuriant bass and the growing leaves of Sanders' evergreen drums.
MORNING STAR - Chris Searle.
1 part 1 - 18:42
2 part 2 - 11:03
3 part 3 - 15:06
20 November 2017
Recorded by Jeff Ardron / Saint Austral.
WEIGHT OF WAX - WoW DL08.
CADENCE - Frank Rubolino
Tenor and soprano saxophonist Butcher is a purveyor of undiluted sound. On OPTIC, he and bassist Edwards present five selections from concerts they gave in Belgium and Spain.
The dynamic interfacing of Butcher's raw, sinewy improvisa- tions with Edwards' intricately constructed bass lines develops cohesively at an accelerated pace. The music gathers momentum and strength as each piece unfolds. While Butcher makes occasional use of staccato phrasing, his approach primarily reflects his penchant for long, connected, and rapidly flowing lines of free expression. He regularly introduces trilling and tonguing techniques to produce unusual yet fully musical sounds that establish a sense of normality to this highly unconventional way of communicating.
Edwards moves faultlessly in step with the unpredictable direction of Butcher. He adopts both the arco and pizzicato mode in making emphatic bass statements that fit precisely into the puzzle Butcher builds. High pitched reed tones find a haven with comparable high bass shrieks, only to have the sequence modified as Edwards dives to the bottom of his instrument to present contrasting yet totally complementary scenarios.
Butcher is an expressive artist; he seems able to communicate unerringly through his horns by stating atonal progressions that amazingly are received harmonically. While Butcher injects a certain quantity of britleness into his speech, the totality of his output has calming characteristics. Edwards polishes the edges even further so that the product of this collectively improvised conversation is tully intelligible. They play - one listens - and understands.
BAGATELLEN - Alan Jones
The set is brewing with energy and imagination at every turn, the duo deflecting any tendency to languish in the comfort of drawn patterns or breath-catching plateaus. Butcher's soprano exudes amazing control and confidence - unflappable, immovable. The saxophonist characteristically shuns expected impulses and flies through a self-written encyclopaedia of technique and emphatics. There are no detectable sketches in the numbers, only a 'get up and go' manner of music making. The duo is on target with each other, whether streaming together long lines of swirling improv or quick-firing chunks of short-duration sound. In Plate XI, Butcher mimics a guitar walking through overanxious arpeggios, trilling the mouthpiece as a Spaniard would 'R's. Each of Edward's bowed probings threatens to crack Butcher's tenor like a brittle walnut, with the saxophonist sidestepping and re-evaluating the proceedings. Where there are reflective moments, as in the bowed segment of Grottes 1, in listening to OPTIC, I was left with that euphoria that follows a solid workout. The result is part dance, part sparring bout, but altogether a fluid recording that works probably beyond even the expectations of Butcher and Edwards themselves.
SLEEVE NOTES - Steve Beresford
'Could life, after all, be counter-intuitive?' asks Lesley Hazleton in her book Driving to Detroit. 'I thought of how you handle a spin in the air, pushing the stick forward to keep the nose of the plane down when every instinct in you screams to pull it up.'
John Butcher throws even more reeds away unplayed than most saxophonists, because he needs them to do things most players don't. He's a past master at 'keeping the nose down' when you are sure he will do the opposite. Shake hands with John Edwards and you'll think you touched the bark of an oak tree - a physical sign of his devotion to the music. And whilst on the subject of devotion, J & J seem to inspire just that in the hearts and minds of the hundreds of players and thousands of listeners who know more about this music, this tradition, than any cultural manager.
Counter-intuition in music - doing what the other player doesn't expect. Or double-bluffing and doing exactly what they would expect. Following or not following or interrogating your 'screaming instinct'. Plus, sometimes the reed or string will do the opposite to what you intended, flipping over into the next realm if pushed too hard or not hard enough. Even though, as John B points out, 'Half a lifetime's been spent shut in tiny rooms trying to control these things for when the time comes to play a concert.'
In this music, a sort of alchemy can, like a Joseph Cornell box, turn a plastic jewel from Woolworth's into something infinitely precious. You can end up somewhere you have never been before and find your instrument doing something you never knew it could do. In the group improvisation tradition so assiduously developed in Britain, this sort of stuff can happen to everyone at once. As both player and listener I find that pretty exciting. No, scrub that, it's the most exciting thing in music full stop.
STEVE BERESFORD (2003)
JAZZWORD - Ken Waxman
Hit and Run
Despite equal billing for all three musicians, except for its final five minutes, HIT AND RUN isn't a trio session at all. Instead it features bassist John Edwards doing yeoman service in duets with two of his British countrymen who happen to be some of the most accomplished reedists on the planet: John Butcher and Paul Dunmall.
Each of the meetings, however, is as different as the bearded, heavyset Dunmall and slimmer, clean-shaven Butcher are from one another. Dunmall's "Gaulstones" is a gaudy free-for-all featuring him on two different bagpipes and soprano saxophone; while Butcher's "Rhymes" is divided into four shorter rhymes, with him moving effortlessly from soprano and tenor saxophone and back again. What they share in common is excellence.
Interestingly, enough, the bagpipe ends up being the most sonorous instrument on its title track and only trio outing. A low-caloric desert after the man-sized, more than 35 minute helpings of woodwinds and bass than proceed it, the piece features Dunmall tooting away on pipes, Butcher's warbling split tones and Edwards using guitar fingerings to match them both in fervor. Resolving itself as quickly as the incident it's named for, at the finale the high intensity track almost develops into a wee Scottish reel.
Earlier on, Dunmall suggests what would have happened if circular breathing had been adopted as enthusiastically by traditional Scottish musicians as improvisers. Certainly the instrument's chanter and bag gives him a lot more leeway for the almost infinite technique he had developed for the pipes over the proceeding decade.
To counter this virtuosity, Edwards appears to be calling on not only his playing experience with multiphonics maven Evan Parker, but earlier percussive methodology developed in art-rock bands. Like American William Parker, he seems to prefer the darker, more threatening bass regions, either sawing away with his bow or yanking the string hard enough to create basso overtones.
Not likely to be mistaken for a member of the Black Watch who limits himself to "Amazing Grace", Dunmall often suggests such non-Western instruments as the shehnai and the musette in his playing, creating two melodies at once, the first with the chanter and the second with the drone. Questions sometime arise as to whether a sound originates from this distinctive pipe command or from Edwards' percussive playing.
The bassist does get a section to express himself first arco then pizzicato, but only after the bagpipes have held one tone seemingly ad infinitum. That bull fiddle solo is also a prelude to Dunmall bringing out his soprano, which in this context suddenly sounds so establishment, even though he introduces double-timing, slap-tonguing and liquid sprints up and down the horn.
There's no mistaking that Butcher is playing saxophones on the almost 37 minutes of the next track, but his technical mastery of the soprano and the tenor is such that sometimes you can't pinpoint a pitch to its origin. Dissonant to the point that you're always conscious that he's playing a metal instrument, Butcher completely controls the sound centre, using flutters, reed bites, slap tonguing and even duck quacks to move things along.
These attacks bring out reverberating overtones from Edwards in the bass' highest register, but when Butcher turns to shrill pitches that sound as if they're produced by the mouthpiece alone, Edwards starts to bang away at the bass strings. Thumps and bumps from the instrument, turn it into percussion, while Butcher twins a min foghorn then creates what appear to be ferocious lion snarls, reed kisses and mouthpiece buzzes. Pure release and depletion suggest themselves in equal measures at the end.
FREE JAZZ BLOG - Stuart Broomer
During the Covid-19 pandemic, John Butcher has been releasing a series of recordings on Bandcamp under the general title The Memory of Live Music. Stovelit Lines, the fifth of them, documents a quintet performance from November 20, 2017 at Iklectik in London. The group seems to leap out, a full-blown, one-time band that ought to be legendary, producing music that is filled with mysteries, mysteries of source, direction and meaning that are filled with diverse kinds of resonance.
A 45-minute piece in three segments, the work begins with a suggestion of the uncanny. There is a series of sounds, but they do not immediately suggest or yield their sources. There are strings and percussion, but the strings behave like incidental percussion, the percussion like strings. John Edwards’ bass may be at the centre here, a few heavily struck notes suggesting string tympani. The amplified, high, metallic strings are likely Moore, though more abstract than expected. Day and Beresford are quietly abstracted as well. When Butcher enters briefly, his lower register suggests an organ; the next time it will suggest a primeval reptile. The growing knitwork of Moore’s glassily electric guitar strings and Beresford’s electronics quietly denies origin, conjoining at times with the blur of percussion and bass, a host of random noises that together become a dream-like netherworld until Beresford’s piano sounds actual chords and Butcher plays a densely textured, extended melody.
The second part begins in more mystery, with Edwards’ acoustic upper register acting as an additional, repeatedly blurring, seeming hand amidst the higher frequencies of Moore’s amplifier. There are instances of air passing through columns, a sizzle of electronics and resonance that create unknown voices, like messages from vague spirits, to be referenced, annotated, argued over later, then lost. When the full group assembles, there’s an explosion of perfectly coherent free improvisation, perspective and perception notably skewed and time fooled, the music convincingly mapping uncharted space. Eventually Butcher and Moore race through the forcefield of Edwards, Day and Beresford, saxophone and electric guitar becoming so intense that the other instruments become part of them until Butcher’s mad duck cackle and Coltrane-swirl drive through the looming mass of Edwards’ bass and a final rush of Moore’s squall.
There’s a long coda in which Beresford, Moore and Edwards recall all that has been gained and lost in the forty odd minutes preceding, then Butcher re-enters, playing all the moments, lyric and exploratory, of the saxophone tradition as Moore hangs about the others’ structural bearings like a fire in a cathedral. A final tenor explosion rises over that, the impending chaos here so shaped in its structural opposition to form that it might be more convincingly heard in the present year, three years after its making, with all its final burnt-out blips and smears and sudden brusque string strokings more apt now than in the year it originated.
DUSTED - Marc Medwin
What magic there can be in two pitches! What alchemic impulses emerge as those two atomistic notes transform and are transformed in the contexts they absorb and create! The invocation, hanging over that welcoming near-silence that is the birthplace of the creative act, the impulse behind memory, presents the first series of points leading to the vividly etched lines and circles demarking the boundary-blurring events of a fortuitous 2017 performance.
Nothing’s as simple as the sonically beleaguered writer attempts to imply! As John Edward’s gorgeous arco melds seamlessly with John Butcher’s ever-evolving sustains only to disappear, Steve Beresford’s inner-piano workings and Terry Day’s subdued drums-and-cymbal interplay are ringed round with electronics and guitar from Beresford and Thurston Moore, all keeping the sustain going even as it fragments and mutates. The multi-phonic chromatics that are so distinctly Butcher’s domain raise tone and timbre beyond mere color into the realm of structural spread and symbiosis.
The album title is so apt, as much for what it implies as for what it omits. The quintet does weave a sort of counterpoint, but its points are as important as the lines they comprise. The fun is in the hearing, and rehearing, and re-rehearing, as lines become arcs and levels of audition offer shifting points of immersion. The electronics and guitar coalesce into a gently propulsive rhythm five and a half minutes into the first track, just as they do at the third part’s opening and just as Moore’s sonorities bolster Butcher’s shredding soprano a bit later on in the same piece. There, as is so often the case when great improvisers generate the kind of visceral excitement attendant to a certain kind of interaction, Beresford and Butcher exchange musical salutation in jubilant call-and-response, Moore and Edwards tear respective fretboards to pieces, and yet, beneath it all, the intricacies abound as always, the crystalline center of the hurricane.
Then, there’s Terry Day. He is certainly in familiar company, but beyond that, his approach to the drums (how miraculous to be speaking of that!) sums up generations of musical dialogue in gestures pitting expansion against concision. He opens the second piece with a perfect distillation of both, gentle but insistent snare rolling against the delicacy of cymbal bell. Moore and Beresford respond in kind, Moore’s playing a model of sensitivity and restraint. When Beresford begins some beautifully scalar passagework, Day’s cool brushwork places him in yet another historical context, as do his melodic toms as the track approaches its zenith. Tonal and timbral intrigue unify and propel his playing as he alternately supports and initiates, but the beauty and subtle power of his closed high hat ushering out the music is beyond convenient description and category. The oft-cited atomism of the London improv scene is counterbalanced by infinitely complex swing, a hip groove rooted in but expanding the elastic traditions informing it. As with every other musician and the music itself emanating from this shared creative space, he breathes the life of experience into each melting moment, each sound a statement replete with possibility, repudiating the wall of sound even as it’s created. After some five decades of playing, he still works at the heart of conjoining musical and geographic traditions, a vital force in a vital group contributing to the shared energy, now thankfully a captured memory, comprising an evening of inventive comradery.