Musicworks review of Winter Gardens

solo

John Butcher

John Butcher is one of the world's most resourceful solo improvisers, a musician who has extended his saxophones in uncanny ways, creating waves of complex continuous sound with overtones arising and disappearing to the accompaniment of sudden percussive explosions.

This LP contains four solos from 2011, two acoustic pieces, from a London church, and two shorter pieces with amplification or feedback from a hall in Milwaukee. Each work develops its material in a distinct way, but there's a consistent concentration on the idea of resonance, certainly in its physical aspect but also with the metaphoric sense of a relationship with the world. Just as the music suggest an authentic interiority, the sounds also interact with the nooks and crannies of the environment, creating a kind of circular music that merges self and world in a continuous, reverberant terrain.

In "Sporangia (high)," played on soprano saxophone, one sound seems to tremble into another. A sustained tone grows in amplitude, then bursts into a trill; a multiphonic batch of tones establishes itself before all its pitches shift; there's a sweeping upward glissando. Each gesture's meaning is magnified by its isolation, both from other sounds and from its own preceding event in the ultimate sequence. As their titles suggest - "Sporangia (low)," "Sea Cone," and "Sea Fret" - each piece is an organism or natural phenomena, an indivisible structure or event that reveals more with each listening.

© Stuart Broomer / MUSICWORKS