Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

6

The Apophonics: On Air

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
In On Air, radical English saxophonist John Butcher combines two favorite pairings into a threesome which explores a fresh take on the traditional sax/bass/drums model. When Californian percussionist Gino Robair first performed with Butcher in a 1997 recording session in Oakland, something clicked and they have toured extensively since, releasing three duo CDs and nine in total including this one. In 2011 they formed The Apophonics by inviting bassist John Edwards, like Butcher an in demand fixture on the London improvising scene, to join them.

Part of the initial attraction must stem from Butcher's aspiration to go beyond saxophone, meshing neatly with Robair's intent to go beyond drums. Indeed the American is routinely credited as playing energized surfaces to reinforce the distinction. At times, the drum becomes the amplifier as Robair moves various motorized objects around the head and shell, seeking unconventional pitches. It means he can create sustained tones without needing to resort to a roll, freeing him up to add other layers of percussion. Whatever isn't attributable to bass or saxophone must be Robair, no matter how unlikely. That squeaky toy? Robair. Bubbling electronics? Likewise.

Over the years, Butcher has systematically studied the possibilities of sound generation on the saxophone. In his hands the horn truly becomes foremost a tube of vibrating air with vents in it, as he fashions an entire vocabulary at the very limits of what is controllable on the instrument, comprising multiphonics, drones, overtones and keypad plosives. Edwards is at his most experimental in this company, exploiting creaks, harmonics, taps and scrapes, as well as being the person most likely to take responsibility for moving the music forward with his swooping bow work or sonorous strum.

At 36-minutes, by far the longest cut on this session originally aired on BBC Radio 3, "Fires Were Set" moves from propulsive interplay into passages of minimalist utterance, at times almost lapsing into silence, before an interlude of extremes contrasting bat-bothering whistles and deep arco soundings. An interchange of percussive textures follows which briefly unfurl into a sort of careening free jazz, only to subside into a more ambient soundscape, before reverting to a final section reminiscent of the opening gambit. A series of gong-like metallic resonances stand central to "Met By Moonlight," circled by saxophone susurrations and bass thumps, while "London Melodies" suggests a city with no ear for a tune, but a hearty appetite for uncompromising timbral exchange.

But of course the real achievement here lies not in the juxtaposition of novel and disparate noises, but that they are assembled, married and executed, via three refined musical sensibilities, into coherent and stimulating expression worthy of repeated listening.

Track Listing: Fires Were Set; Met By Moonlight; London Melodies.

Personnel: John Butcher: saxophones; John Edwards: bass; Gino Robair: energized surfaces, synthesizer.

Title: On Air | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Weight of Wax


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Baby It's Cold Outside CD/LP/Track Review Baby It's Cold Outside
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Wrong Turns And Dead Ends CD/LP/Track Review Wrong Turns And Dead Ends
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Lavaman CD/LP/Track Review Lavaman
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32 CD/LP/Track Review Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32
by Don Phipps
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Bad Hombre CD/LP/Track Review Bad Hombre
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Aladdin's Dream CD/LP/Track Review Aladdin's Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "The Wishing Stones" CD/LP/Track Review The Wishing Stones
by John Kelman
Published: November 28, 2017
Read "Surface of Inscription" CD/LP/Track Review Surface of Inscription
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 21, 2017
Read "Mikrojazz!: Neue Expressionistische Musik" CD/LP/Track Review Mikrojazz!: Neue Expressionistische Musik
by Doug Collette
Published: October 1, 2017
Read "The Treasury Shows, Vol. 24" CD/LP/Track Review The Treasury Shows, Vol. 24
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 21, 2017
Read "Caldera" CD/LP/Track Review Caldera
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 10, 2017
Read "A New Shade Of Blue" CD/LP/Track Review A New Shade Of Blue
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 15, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!