Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Last Dream of the Morning - Crucial Anatomy (Trost, 2020) ****½

By Nick Metzger

Following their fantastic 2017 debut, the trio of John Butcher, John Edwards, and Mark Sanders have returned with another terrific release, this time on Trost Records. For Crucial Anatomy the trio have concocted three minutely detailed improvisations of varying intensity, which sounds like pretty much everything else we cover, doesn't it? But just like there are many top-notch chefs that can't make a good consommé, all but a handful of sax trios sound flaccid and amateurish when compared with this one. These boys are veritable titans of English free improvisation, it's their lifeblood, and they've been at it a good long while. That's what struck me about their debut, and that's what strikes me about this latest release. It's comfort food for free jazz heads, the type of album that'll hold up 50 years from now. No gimmicks, no parlor tricks, just a solid 57-ish minutes of the good stuff, served straight up. To cordially run down the lineup for any newcomers, we have Butcher on tenor and soprano saxophones, Edwards on the double bass, and Sanders on percussion. It's as simple as that.

On "Free of Ghosts" the trio builds up a slow steady ascent, finally buckling under the tension and expanding into a meadow of hallucinatory abstraction. Edwards mastery and creativity on the contrabass is bewildering. His rhythmic pizzicato rumbles like the flutter of huge moth wings on a white-hot lightbulb, while his arco is steeped in pig grunts and the diaphonic groans of distant lighthouses. The next track, the album's centerpiece, "Curling Vine" is aptly named. The piece is a prolonged exploration of recondite form and synergistic innovation. It's a mind-boggling course of rapidly manifesting ideas and variations. The trio slithers through junctions seamlessly, repeatedly causing this reviewer to check and see if he was still listening to the same track. Butcher's trilling, percolating tenor and soprano saxophones hew with a ragged, husky tone shaded in multiphonics. His exquisite control of his instruments is on full display, as is his sparkling inventiveness. The last track "Spike Oil" is dominated by Sanders' heaving undercurrents. Every movement of the trio hinges on his robust rhythmic investigations. His constant movement lays a framework for progression via shimmering cymbal work and always busy progressions. He's a poltergeist menacing the property room, rapping doors, scraping walls, and overturning tables as he goes along.

This is a very worthwhile record that I've listened to repeatedly since it's release. If you haven't heard their debut it's also very much worth picking up as well if you enjoy this one. All of the best qualities of the musicians involved are fully demonstrated throughout, never a lag, never a misstep, and never a dull moment. I look forward to more releases from this finely tuned, explosive trio. Really great music, highly recommended.


Captain Hate said...

I've been listening to this for the last couple days and, as you say, it exemplifies what appeals to me in this type of music.

Nick Metzger said...

Just spun it again yesterday, a very satisfying listen.

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