Last week I listened to some new sax trio albums I received. Although the jazz was more free than mainstream, and the playing was good, it was also clear that they would not rise above the average, and hence I will also not review them. Then I listened to this record, which brings avant-garde saxophonist John Butcher in the company of drummer Gerry Hemingway. The latter has a broader scope of music, from modern jazz to electronics.
Now, the paradox which came to mind when listening to this album is the following: although the music has without a doubt a more limited audience than the sax trios I listened to, it is far more memorable, and may hence reach more people over time than a more accessible album may do today. That's of course also the musician's dilemma: do I push the limit and risk alienating my audience today, because I want to make an artistic statements that might be hard to swallow for many, or do I make concessions, and make sure I have an audience today. But that may also be a false assumption. Because here's the other paradox. In order to come to the critic's attention, you have to make a strong musical statement. If not, you're just part of the pack that remains without reviews, hence without audience. But for those who think that grabbing the critic's attention by making something strong and shocking for the sake of it, don't even try. I tell you, there's lots of those around too. So, what am I trying to say is nothing less than do what you believe in, and do it well.
Now about the album. Both Butcher and Hemingway lead us to some strange aural territories, where sounds and emotion are the only ingredients. The key element is tension. Some moments are beautiful, others are really painful to the ear, but there's no moment of indifference, no moment of boredom, no predictability, only tension, stretching notes, stretching the sound possibilities of the instruments, stretching them so far you think they could snap at any moment, yet it doesn't, the tension remains, and new elements arise, surprisingly, out of the same sounds, but different. Two masters of their instrument, interacting fiercely and with sparks flying around. For those with open ears.
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