JOHN BUTCHER – The Geometry Of Sentiment


You own a magnificent Selmer. Have practiced your scales for decades. Bought a Real Book. Learnt a gazillion tunes. Studied all the jazz masters. Feel ready to go. Think again – you still can’t play the saxophone. Instead, John Butcher can – because he VIBRATES – and at least a hint of what can be done with this machine (tenor or soprano, acoustic or electronically enhanced – but are we really convinced that it makes any difference?) should be apprehended by the above mentioned human typologies before they can even attempt to define themselves “good sax players”. Butcher is up there with the Parkers, the Rothenbergs, the Zorns and the Harths, yet his style is inimitable; he has arrived at the top at last, and dominates in a world of bent overtones and multiple subdivisions of a single note. “The geometry of sentiment” – which I perceive as his masterpiece – presents seven tracks recorded at various places between 2004 and 2006, each one with a different kind of resonant space forced by our man to respond in a unique way, at the same time exploring that very response to push the instrument to another level of internal juddering, with decisive consequences for the lucky ones who receive the message. These sounds penetrate the muscle and the bone, ploughing through the opposition field of the auricular membranes which, once subjected to this treatment, may react in bizarre ways. Murderous hoots, perfidious rauco, sensational adjacent movements within a quarter-tone, held notes slightly ruptured by the same bump-in-the-line of an electrocardiogram, toxic chirps in a wall-of-nothingness reverberation. Phrases filling the silence from where they were born and returning there in a five-second span, the hiss and the burble as strengthening elements in a series of concepts that, difficult as they might sound, become acceptable only by lowering the guard protecting a by now useless need of comfort. A crystal-clear sense of obliquely lyrical invention that finds no equals. The refreshing feeling of being able to sustain an invasive assault by the most acute stridencies without becoming deaf, since this music conforms to the cerebral cortex – when a sharp enough brain is present, that is. One of my personal favourites of 2007, requiring incessant listening for decades to come. A quavering orgy. Just great. Oh, and don’t forget to transcribe that Coltrane solo


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