Richard Cook's Sunday Times review of Conceits

John Russell - Phil Durrant - John Butcher


newspaper clipping

Three kings with free-style gifts

At least the LMC has organised what it calls a Christmas Club concert for this Tuesday at London's AIR Gallery. It might, improbably enough, he among the year's most interesting events: a trio performance by guitarist John Russell, saxophonist John Butcher and violinist Phil Durrant.

It's important because their trio album, Conceits (ACTA 1, £6.25), released some months ago, puts to flight almost every other record of improvised music of recent times. The intensity of the playing is taken to extraordinary lengths. As sparse as it is, the music is sometimes astonishingly dark and violent. The discipline of the group never falters: if one of them has nothing to say, he says nothing. Every fragment of music becomes significant.

Most of the pieces are two to four minutes long, each closing down on the first ending that comes up. That alone makes it a rare effort. Butcher and Durrant are both young veterans of this scene, the former a player who breaks open the extremes of free saxophone in order to find a more considered tongue, while the violinist travels restlessly between complete abstraction and a cracked romantic strain. Russell scratches a hobbledehoy line somewhere between them, tying the pieces together. It's a demanding language, but a sharp antidote to the boundless festivity which even jazz feels beholden to at this time of year.

© Richard Cook - Sunday Times