NEW YORK CITY JAZZ REVIEW of Scrutables

Derek Bailey | John Butcher | Gino Robair

English saxophonist John Butcher may be among the world's most influential musicians, operating at the cutting-edge of improvisatory practice since the '80s. While his explorations of multiphonics, continuous breathing and electronics have extended the range of sonic and expressive possibilities for free-improvising saxophonists, he's also served as a model for a host of other instrumentalists.
Whenever an acoustic musician starts to sound like a bank of oscillators, a tropical forest, a brook or an insect factory, Butcher's influence is likely nearby.

Scrutables, recorded in 2000, is a work of classic British free improvisation, if "classic" can be applied to the kind of sonic mayhem practiced regularly by Butcher, the late guitarist Derek Bailey and percussionist Gino Robair, whose instrument here is described as "energized surfaces". The interactive mechanics of every genuine improvisation are unique, an incalculable intersection of habit, synapse, randomness, extrasensory perception and listening that ranges from microscopically detailed to non- existent. At any moment it might sound as if each musician is creating his own continuum or as if each is responding to the infinite nuances of the others. Either way, the lines and sounds continuously interact in a scattershot effect that has a line moving from guitar to drum to saxophone and back again.

One may hear more here by surrendering the idea of instrumental identity, accepting the music as one might the words assigned to the segments - as previously non-existent ("Almosthenics"), rare ("frangible"), or a happy collision ("Cosmetic Halo" or "Teasing Needles").

© Stuart Broomer - NEW YORK CITY JAZZ REVIEW (November 2011)