All But is the second volume of Matchless' series Meetings with Remarkable Saxophonists, this time spotlighting Butcher alongside percussionist Eddie Prévost and Guillaume Viltard.
Of course Prévost and Butcher are long accustomed to working with each other, the former's singular blend of momentum and texture a marvelous analogue to the saxophonist's own playing. The first part of the three-part suite opens up with tuned toms, and moves quickly into popping, lip-smacking sax and burbling pizzicato, making for a good old free jazz romp for starters. Amidst the nicely heated metal and woody thwacks, you can hear Butcher digging into some of his most audibly saxophonic playing (to call it conventional, even though there are lines and intervals, would be overstating things). But there's also such a sheerly avian quality, at times evolving into a menacing spitfire, that you forget those previous passages altogether as overtones proliferate. There are also some extraordinary moments in the second part, where Butcher seems to reduce the soprano to pure whizzing sound, with no breaks in the sound, only a massive metallic whistle that occasionally boils down into burrs and grumbles.
I have to confess that there are moments when (partly owing to his place in the mix) Viltard sounds a bit inconsequential; and in the hot exchanges to begin "part 3" it's clear that the sympathy between Butcher and Prévost is where the action is. But thankfully the bassist subsequently proves me wrong with a truly sizzling arco solo - bold and confessional at once - midway through the 28-minute closing section.