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It is a pleasure to welcome John Butcher's Invisible Ear back into circulation on his own label. Originally released in 2003 as a limited edition on the Italian label Fringes, it has long been unavailable. For Butcher aficionados or followers of improvised saxophone, the album makes essential listening. Butcher has long been an intrepid explorer of his saxophones, and Invisible Ear is one of his more remarkable sets of explorations as he experiments with close miking, multi-tracking and feedback saxophone. Although credited to John Butcher alone, the listening experience belies the term "solo album." At times it is impossible to tell how many players are in action or if they are actually playing saxophones.
Tellingly, the album opens with a sustained note on soprano sax of such high frequency that is sounds electronic. And Butcher has said this album reflected his experience of working more closely with computer and electronics musicians. The close miking of the straight horn reveals an incredible amount of detail of Butcher's technique, capturing every nuance of breath and embouchure as he strays into frequencies that are close to the threshold of human hearing.
The variety of sounds that Butcher can extract from his saxophones is starkly illustrated by the transitions between the three tracks "Cup Anatomical," "What Remains" and "Streamers." In turn, Butcher employs close miking then multi-tracking then amplified/feedback tenor sax. The stripped-bare starkness of the first is replaced by a rich, slowly-evolving ensemble piece achieved by overlaying five tenor and three soprano saxophones; the planning that must lie behind this track is mind-boggling, as it sounds like eight players interacting with each other in real timeand interacting amazingly well and sensitively. If eight players had played it, is would be an astounding piece, for one alone to have done so is extraordinary. Leaving that behind, we move on to the strangely detached eeriness created by amplified feedback tenor, one of the more unsaxlike sounds here. In concert, it is fascinating to see Butcher produce the sounds, seemingly by magic, without blowing through his horn. On disc, that technique is less important, but as with so much here, the sheer musicality is the most striking feature of the sounds that Butcher produces.
Invisible Ear is a rich treasure trove of innovations which Butcherand doubtless other sax playerswill be exploring for years to come. Luckily, this re-issue is not a limited edition and makes the music available to those who missed it the first time around.
Track Listing: Swan Style; Cup Anatomical; What Remains; Streamers; A Controversial Fix For...; ...Shrilling Reed Freakout; The Importance Of Gossip; Dark Field; Bright Field; Magnetic Bottle; Sprinkler; Atelier.
Personnel: John Butcher: close-miked soprano saxophones (1, 2, 8, 9), five tenor & three soprano saxophones (3), amplified/feedback tenor sax (4, 5, 6, 10), multiple amplified/feedback saxophones & korg synthesiser (7), amplified/feedback soprano sax (11), three soprano saxophones and resonant room (12).
I love jazz because when I was a kid pop music was bland, plain, uneventful until one day I heard a tune on a juke box entitled Jump Red Jump By Tenor Saxophonist Red Prysock brother of Arthur Prysock
I love jazz because when I was a kid pop music was bland, plain, uneventful until one day I heard a tune on a juke box entitled Jump Red Jump By Tenor Saxophonist Red Prysock brother of Arthur Prysock. It was love at first sight . This was when Blues, Soul / Gospel Style Music was becoming popular amongst kids as well as hip adults and featured Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner and The Payola era DJ's such as Alan Freed. Not many people remember that Freed's Rock n Roll Band of the 1950's was The Count Basie Orchestra featuring the Guy Singer Tony Bennett (Anthony DiBenedetto) who grew up in Astoria, NYNY right next to my Home Town Jackson Heights NYNY.
I was first exposed to jazz when I heard Red Prysock, Sam The Man Taylor & groups like the Chord Cats recording of Shaboom! It made the Crew Cuts look LAME! Now Jazz, Blues, Soul, Gospel was pretty much joined at the hip back then and I learned that the tasteful Music was featured on The African American Radio Stations which led me to DJ's Like The Bruce, Jocko Henderson, Tommy Dr. Jive Smalls and eventually Symphony Sid Torin, China Valles and Len Pace. This all took place during my high school years and the following years in NYNY and South Florida. I actually flew to Copenhagen Denmark in 1961 to see Stan Getz, (One of my top 3 heroes in the Music Bird, Pres & Getz not necessarily in that order). Sadly Getz had already left town and snuck back into NYNY where he played Birdland (Undoubtedly without a cabaret card due to smack addiction.) No problem for me as I worked for Pan American Airways at the time and enjoyed a 90% Employee Discount.
I met Thelonious Monk, Stan Kenton, Warne Marsh, Lenny Tristano, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Frank Foster, Dr. Lonnie Smith, among many others over the years.
The best show I ever attended was The Randall's Island Jazz Festival NYNY 1960. Monk & Edward Ellington Kennedy AKA Duke, starred among numerous others. I can not recall the entire Line Up but Monk brought along his Hat Collection which at the time contained I believe he told me 33 or 35 international Hats which he periodically changed often during his Solos. I have been unable to find that roster for that particular festival and since it was long ago I remember mostly Monk & Duke. Paul Gonsalvas played his legendary trademark twenty something chorus solo in between Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue which was outstanding.
The first jazz record I bought was Firstly, my Bro George was / is a Marine and he sent home his wax collection of LP's from Camp Pendleton CA before deploying to Okinawa in 1956 I think. Bird, Getz, Mulligan & Baker, Erroll Garner, Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Jazz at Newport 1956 and many more. I fell in love with Bird, Getz and Jeru & Chet for openers. Pres to my mind takes the all time Tenor Award and Budo, Piano etc.! However I digress Getz Long Island Sound and every other Getz record that I could find that was 1957 by then and I snuck in to Birdland for the First of many times before I was 18 ( Legal drinking age back then) It wasn't until just after my 18th Birthday that I was carded much to the bouncers chagrin as he recognized me as having being an established customer by then.
My advice to new listeners: Listen to the Music and keep it in the forefront not the background. A Local Band Leader whose name escapes me once said to me Jerry you can make time for the chicks later the Music is in the now and is more important than chicks ever will be. He was correct!
Next see live performances and introduce yourself to the Players most of whom will be respectful. Some, however, are unapproachable such as when I saw Miles so many times but his obvious disdain for certain fans was evident and he always walked off the stage after soloing. (Eddie Jefferson sang words to So What that so indicated this)!