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John Butcher / Pat Thomas / Dominic Lash / Steve Noble: Fathom


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John Butcher / Pat Thomas / Dominic Lash / Steve Noble: Fathom
Finely judged sounds studded in space. Bursts of incipient rhythm. Wafts of fire music energy. Those are just some of the fruitful products of the British foursome of saxophonist John Butcher, pianist Pat Thomas, bassist Dominic Lash and drummer Steve Noble. A spider's web of alliances connects them, notably tangled given their time on the promiscuous UK free scene, so it is all the more surprising that Fathom documents their first meeting as a group, in north London's Cafe Oto in October 2021.

But perhaps due to all those linkages, they present as a unit regardless. And one in which everyone is comfortable erasing the admittedly porous boundary between improv and free jazz. Another thing they are comfortable with is silence. No one feels the need to fill the silence unless they have something to say. As it happens, they have a lot to say, but cannily choose their moments, from the lexicon of isolated scrapes, rattles and bangs that open "Part 1," to the clarion shrieks, swelling chords and drum/bass rumble that crown "Part 2."

Butcher once again demonstrates astonishing control, above all of the abraded multiphonics, which enables him to access what seems like just the right input at just the right time. Thomas' approach is structural and percussive, whether striking the innards or cycling reiterated glissandos. Moreover, his repeated figures often form a tethering thread that grounds the action. Lash shifts easily between timbral interplay, especially with bow in hand (luxuriate in his delicious arco slurs and wheezy groans), and a reverberant thrum. At the same time, Noble proves similarly adept not only at shading and gilding but also assembling unorthodox timbre into cleverly accented rivulets.

As a result there is ongoing fascination with how each piece evolves and the alluring waystations visited on the journey. One of which, the rhythmic snags on which Butcher and Thomas catch and mesh, in particular, adds a welcome visceral element to a mix that thrives on the contrast between pointillist gestures and the quartet in full spate. A superior outing from an outfit which should have a bright future.

Track Listing

Fathom Part 1; Fathom Part 2; Fathom Part 3.


John Butcher
Dominic Lash
bass, acoustic
Additional Instrumentation

John Butcher: soprano, tenor saxophones.

Album information

Title: Fathom | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: 577 Records

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