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Saturday, November 28, 2015

John Butcher - Nigemizu (Uchimizu, 2015) ****½

By Stef

John Butcher is unique and incomparable. He's is the sculptor of sound on saxophone, whether on tenor or on soprano. The music on this album was performed on two nights in Japan, two years ago, and consists of three tracks.

The first, "Enrai", is played on tenor, and you get a twenty-six minute long discovery of sounds and their gradual evolution, from primary sounds over multiphonics to rhythmic moments, quiet passages and outbursts of constrained power, and despite its length, there is never a dull moment. Butcher takes you along on his own improvisation, which is at the same time as much a musical journey as it is a spiritual and emotional one, and the result is mesmerising. As a listener, you get sucked up in his universe, and wonder at its depth and clarity, you wonder how with some few strokes of sounds, he manages to create a picture that is both simple and profound, that is uplifting and deep.

On "Uchimizu", he switches to soprano, and the tone becomes almost naturally more joyful, with long bouts of circular breathing, more playful, as we know him, trying to emulate the song of blackbirds or other birds who sing their odes to the sun and to life in general, yet then it suddenly evolves into moments of distress and even darkness, with somber whispering sounds chasing away the birds.

The album ends with the shorter "Hamon", yet still more than six minutes, with multiphonic circular breathing starting full force from the very first notes, gradually changing the overall coloring and timbre, often at breakneck speed, and the intensity does not dissipate until the last few notes, which end the piece with a question mark.

Again, Butcher captivates us with his skills and his musical vision, his uncompromising approach, and his talent to maintain tension in three lengthy improvisations, offering listeners both musical and human purity.

Don't miss it!