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John Butcher

John Butcher's work ranges through improvisation, his own compositions, multitracked pieces and explorations with feedback and extreme acoustics. Originally a physicist, he left academia in '82, and has since collaborated with hundreds of musicians - Derek Bailey, John Tilbury, John Stevens, The EX, Gerry Hemingway, Akio Suzuki, Polwechsel, Gino Robair, Rhodri Davies, Fred Frith, Okkyung Lee, John Edwards, Keiji Haino, Paul Lovens, Eddie Prevost, Mark Sanders, Butch Morris, Christian Marclay, Otomo Yoshihide, Matthew Shipp, Phil Minton, and Andy Moor - to name a few.

He is well known as a solo performer who attempts to engage with the uniqueness of place. Resonant Spaces is a collection of site-specific performances collected during a tour of unusual locations in Scotland and the Orkney Islands. His first solo album, Thirteen Friendly Numbers, includes compositions for multi- tracked saxophones, whilst later solo CDs focus on live performance, composition, amplification and saxophone-controlled feedback.

HCMF has twice commissioned him to compose for his own large ensembles. Other commissions include for Elision, the Rova & Quasar Saxophone Quartets, reconstructed Futurist Intonarumori, "Tarab Cuts" (based on pre-WWII Arabic recordings, and shortlisted for the 2014 British Composer's Award), "Good Liquor .." for the London Sinfonietta and "Fixations and the Open Road" for CEPRO. In 2011 he received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists.

Recent groupings include The Apophonics (+Gino Robair/John Edwards), Thermal (+Andy Moore/Thomas Lehn), Vellum (+Tony Buck/Magda Mayas) and trios with Okkyung Lee/Mark Sanders and Matt Shipp/Thomas Lehn.


Album Review

John Butcher, Thomas Lehn, John Tilbury: Lights

Read "Lights" reviewed by John Eyles

Lights was recorded live at Cafe Oto, London, on May 26th 2016. It features the trio of John Butcher on saxophones, German-born Thomas Lehn on analogue synthesizer and John Tilbury on piano. If the line-up looks familiar, that may be because the same trio had recorded a studio album Exta at City University Music Studio in June 2012, the album also being released on Fataka. In addition, in February 2016, a trio of Butcher, Lehn and pianist Matthew Shipp recorded ...

Album Review

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

Read "Fathom" reviewed by John Sharpe

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 ...

Album Review

Florian Stoffner, John Butcher, Chris Corsano: Braids

Read "Braids" reviewed by Alberto Bazzurro

Una free impro abbastanza classica (tutto può diventare un classico, anche l'irriverenza), piuttosto ben calibrata e mai sopra le righe, è quanto ci giunge da questi cinquanta minuti scarsi di musica certamente non accomodante (ma del resto, come si sarà capito, nemmeno mai urtante), incisi nel maggio 2022 in quel di Bienna, città svizzera sul lago omonimo, fra Berna e Basilea. Ne sono artefici tre musicisti piuttosto rodati in materia, in special modo il sassofonista inglese John Butcher, che viaggia ...

Album Review

Florian Stoffner, John Butcher, Chris Corsano.: Braids

Read "Braids" reviewed by John Eyles

The trio of Swiss guitarist Florian Stoffer, British saxophonist John Butcher and US drummer Chris Corsano recorded their first album Braids live at Le Singe, in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland, on May 22nd 2022. Stoffer had a previous release on ezz-thetics, Tetratne, a duo with drummer Paul Lovens, released in 2020. Between 1999 and 2009, Butcher was a member of the quartet Polwechsel, appearing on three of the group's albums on hatOLOGY or hat[now]ART; he was also a soloist on Christopher Fox's ...

Album Review

Thermal: Ice In A Hot World

Read "Ice In A Hot World" reviewed by John Sharpe

A group which played their first concert in a disused Brussels train station in the early 2000s shows it still knows how to unsettle on Ice In A Hot World. It is only the second album during this time from saxophonist John Butcher, analog synthesizer player Thomas Lehn and guitarist Andy Moor, who ply their trade under the banner Thermal. Recorded live in Avignon just before the pandemic hit, the five spontaneously crafted cuts showcase a particularly egalitarian trio who ...

Album Review

John Butcher: The Very Fabric

Read "The Very Fabric" reviewed by John Eyles

Recorded in Copenhagen, Denmark, on June 17th 2022, John Butcher's The Very Fabric is welcome and notable for several reasons. Firstly, it is the first release on which he is the sole musician since Nigemizu (Uchimizu Records, 2015), recorded in August 2013. Secondly, at the invitation of Thomas Buhl-Wiggers of the Cejoro festival and label, Butcher recorded The Very Fabric in Copenhagen's Brønshøj Vandtårn, a concrete water tower built about a century ago in the suburbs of the city. Buhl-Wiggers ...

Multiple Reviews

The John Butcher Vinyl Series

Read "The John Butcher Vinyl Series" reviewed by John Sharpe

British saxophonist John Butcher has originated an astounding array of saxophone techniques which he combines in a personal syntax which is instantly recognizable, particularly involving the production of a broad range of multiphonics which vary from juddering growl to chirruping stridulation, but which defies easy description. Novel sounds in themselves of course would only be of passing interest were the way in which he orchestrates on-the-fly, either alone or in consort with others, not so compelling. As a ...

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Performance / Tour

The Apophonics Play Cafe Oto To Launch Their First Album "On Air"

The Apophonics Play Cafe Oto To Launch Their First Album "On Air"

Source: John Eyles

The Apophonics—the trio of saxophonist John Butcher, bassist John Edwards and drummer Gino Robair—will play their first London gig at Café Oto on Wednesday 27th November to celebrate the launch of their debut album On Air. The three first played together in 2008 in the eight-piece Butcher group that recorded somethingtobesaid (Weight of Wax, 2009) at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. The idea of forming a trio came to fruition in 2011 with some concerts in France and Belgium. In ...



The Red Trio Back for Their Second Album: "Empire" with Guest John Butcher

The Red Trio Back for Their Second Album: "Empire" with Guest John Butcher

Source: Gapplegate Music Review by Grego Edwards

When it's a matter of new, outside free-jazz ensembles, not all that many can afford to stay together for a second go-round. The Red Trio have. Their first came out in 2010 on Clean Feed (see review from April 5, 2010). It was quite lively and showed much promise. They return with the vinyl-only release Empire (No Business NBLP 37) in a limited edition of 400. That is a good thing because this is some very well-executed outness. Rodrigo Pinheiro ...



Red Trio + John Butcher - Empire (Nobusiness, 2011)

Red Trio + John Butcher - Empire (Nobusiness, 2011)

Source: Music and More by Tim Niland

The RED Trio is a free-jazz group based in Lisbon, made up of Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano, Hernani Faustino on bass and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums and percussion. For their second album they had the good fortune to welcome a special guest, British saxophonist John Butcher, a revered figure in the European free-improvisation scene. This collaboration works very well, through an album of increasingly lengthy tracks, the group melds its musical minds to collectively explore the far reaches of free-jazz ...

Mark Hanslip
saxophone, tenor



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson


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