Butcher has become a top name in the chiefly British variety of minimalist improvisation that can best be described as existing in the wake of the longstanding ensemble AMM and with Sounding Music he steps into the rotating membership of that venerable ensemble.
The disc, in fact, gives a happily resounding reassurance that recent upsets within the group haven't affected its brand marketability. On this occasion, during London's 2009 Freedom of the City festival, they were even joined by composer Christian Wolff (piano, bass guitar and melodica), who had played with the group for a year in the late '60s.
Rounding out the quintet (with core members, drummer Eddie Prévost and pianist John Tilbury, at center) was cellist Ute Kanngiesser. It was, no doubt, a major event in the festival and is an important entry in the group's lengthy discography. But more to the point, it is simply wonderful work. The opening trills of piano (likely Tilbury) set the tone that this will be a very musical moment for the sound-sculpting ensemble and indeed it is for the first half of the single, 51-minute track.
The group dynamic turns slowly, never coming off as an identifiable quintet (in fact never even having the feel of two pianos!). Butcher's saxophones (as always, the tenor and soprano) meld with Kanngiesser's cello and rushes and wheezes ultimately, delicately, take over the whole of the improvisation. It's a fragile and beautiful work.
© Kurt Gottschalk / All About Jazz - New York