In the past half dozen years or so, as saxophonist John Butcher has become more and more recognized in the world of very quiet improv, interest in the early vinyl releases on his Acta label has increased. His 1992 solo disc 13 Friendly Numbers was issued on CD last year by the Dutch Unsounds label, and now Emanem has brought another one of the Acta recordscertainly more talked about than heardto the digital fore.
Butcher began playing in a trio with violinist/electronicist Phil Durrant and guitarist John Russell in 1984; two years later they invited percussionist Paul Lovens and trombonist Radu Malfatti to join them for a tour of England. While the initial trio carried on for a couple more years, the new quintet began to gather momentum. Originally called Quaqua (a term Russell used for ad hoc groupings, Butcher explains in the brief liner notes), they moved beyond the ad hoc and adopted the new moniker.
Their album was recorded and released in 1989 and here includes four extra tracks from the same session. Some seventeen years later, it's surprising to go back in time and hear what these guys were up to. All of themMalfatti and Butcher especiallyhave become known for their use of silence and extremely low volumes. To varying degrees, they've also become associated with the blossoming of AMM-style group playing, subsuming individual voices into an aural object. But this record is more about tension and release, something of the push/pull to be found in Derek Bailey's Company events. Some tracks, like "Sticks and Stones, hint at the future directions, but from the first tracklike the group and the album, called "News from the Shed and throughout much of the disc, it's a surprisingly clangorous affair.
The four added tracks are every bit as good as the original issue and were no doubt left off not for quality but time constraints. Of those, it's interesting to hear "Coracle from the vantage of 2006. While much of the disc sounds like a product of its time, the six minutes of breathy horns, scattered percussion and scraped strings could have been recorded yesterday.
Track Listing: News From The Shed; The Gabdash; Reading The River; Kickshaws; Everything Stops For Tea;
Sticks And Stones; Weaves; Whisstrionics; Mean Time; Pepper's Ghost; The Clipper; Coracle;
Crooke's Dark Space; Inkle.
Personnel: John Butcher: tenor & soprano saxophones; Phil Durrant: violin & electronics; Paul Lovens: selected drums, cymbals & saw; Radu Malfatti: trombone, zither & accessories; John Russell: acoustic guitar.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.